Monday, July 23, 2012

Journal 7: My Personal Learning Network.

Below, I research and blog about the topic of a personal learning network and my efforts to cultivate and manage that network.

           A Personal Learning Network (PLN) is a group of individuals with common interests who join to help one another gather and share information. In the past, this network probably consisted of people in close proximity, such as other teachers on a campus or friends. Now however with a few tools that network can be expanded on to a global scale. Using tools such as Twitter, a social networking site, Diigo a social bookmarking site, and by visiting forums on sites such as Classroom 2.0, I have been able to create a PLN, which will be indispensable as I begin my teaching career. By using a PLN, I have access to thousands of teachers who can help answer any question that I might have about my profession. They can offer me advice, share lesson plans, and help me to keep my classroom one-step ahead of the technological curve.

            When I first learned about using Twitter as a PLN, I was a little skeptical. I added people in my technology class, and my professor thinking it would be a great start. It was not until I participated in an educational chat in Twitter however, that I really began to grow my PLN in earnest. On July 24, at 9am I joined a discussion called #Edchat which so happened to be about PLN’s. The topic that day was “Has the idea of a PLN made a significant difference for you or is it a fad that will fade away.” The discussion lasted for more than an hour as passionate educators chimed in with discussions of how their own PLN’s have helped them with their teaching. As people tweeted, I instantly started searching through tweets that seemed to connect with me. I found myself exploring blogs and posts from people I did not know and sometimes finding it so interesting that I would follow them on Twitter. During the chat, I even asked the whole group a simple question about having too many PLN’s and instantly I was given advice on how to manage different sites, and about free tools to make my twitter life more manageable.

            If twitter is a way for me to get instant information from my PLN, than Diigo is a way for me to store, explore, and share that information. Much like Twitter, Diigo offers a wealth of information by simply typing in keywords called tags. It allows you to share information with your PLN as well as explore other resources that people have already found useful. Not only that, but like twitter it allows you to follow people who are tagging items that you find useful adding those people to your growing PLN. Each day that I searched for something, I seemed to find more people that I could follow. Currently everyone I follow is a teacher or will be a teacher that seems to be actively searching and tagging new and interesting sites. These people all seem to be actively contributing to learning and exploring teaching. Not only do I read what others have found however, I have also started bookmarking my own sites such as “web 2.0” and “edutopia” because they are great resources in learning how to cultivate and grow my PLN network.
            One of my PLN sites, ClassRoom 2.0, uses the ability to explore its forums in order to meet people, post, and explore topics. One of the topics I found interesting was by a teacher who was wondering if they should make time in their classroom to teach cursive handwriting. She felt it was an out dated art and was wondering if she could not make better use of her class time. That teacher got a multitude of answers from both the pro and the con sides. I do not believe she got a clear answer, but I was able to learn a great deal about the standard and as to why it is still included in most curriculums. If nothing else, I am sure she got more information to help her make an better educated choice about her class time. This forum offers me yet another place to get help by posting questions and maybe even offer some advice as well.
          These are just some of the many new tools teachers can use to help grow and start a PLN. While teachers were once limited to their schools or districts for information, they can now reach each other across the globe. Instantly, information can now be transmitted and put into practice with an ease and speed unimaginable just a few years ago. By using a PLN, professions such as teaching, which were once considered solitary and lonely practices, can now expand to be dynamic collaborative efforts.

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