I have been working diligently on growing my PLN. I'm so dedicated to the idea, in fact, that I did a short presentation about personal learning networks at a recent faculty meeting to get my colleagues pumped up about them. Here's the Zoho slideshow (short and sweet):
I'm obviously not the first teacher to create her own PLN. People have been doing it for years now. But I hadn't. Frankly, I'd never even heard of a personal learning network until a few months ago when I started to plunge wide-eyed into technology like a newbie SCUBA diver in the Caymans.
You should be doing this.
There is no keynote speaker, break out session, or multi-day conference that can provide you with the kind of professional development that a PLN can provide every day. This is about real, practical learning and complex theoretical learning and the passionate interchange of ideas. There are plenty of people out there who are interested in the same things that you're interested in, who are devoted to educating themselves and teaching others. The experts are out there, in the cloud (I term I both loathe and love simultaneously), discussing the future of education, innovations, and visions. How can you not want to take advantage of that?
Am I getting you pumped up?
My PLN is still pretty narrow, but I'm out there every day looking to expand. Here's how I started to shape my personal learning network:
1. I joined a few nings that speak to my specific interests. I belong to Classroom 2.0, the Independent School Educators ning, and English Companion. Within each, I joined groups that promote discussions that seem tailor-made for me: the Teaching With Technology group on English Companion, the 7th grade teachers group on ISEnet. The nings are places for the free exchange of ideas and helpful advice from educators who are working every day to make their classrooms and schools better places for kids, just like you.
2. I found a number of blogs that I read regularly. These include A Year of Reading, Weblogg-ed, the Fischbowl, Thinking in Mind, and many others. The posts always contain gems of wisdom from people who are in the trenches and at the forefront of education. Get to know these people. And, of course, these blogs will lead you to other blogs and websites and resources. It's like the opening sequence of Get Smart (the old TV show, not the silly movie): different doors will just continue to open in front of you as you go deeper and deeper into the virtual vault. If you're reading this, chances are you probably visit a number of blogs already. Keep it up.
3. I started utilizing diigo and Delicious. Not only do I bookmark sites I love, but I can see who else is interested in these sites and connect with them. With diigo, I can highlight and save just the information that I want from an article or post, and I can read and respond to comments posted on public sticky notes all over the web.
4. I created this blog. It's the best thing I've ever done for myself professionally. Because of Some Novel Ideas, I am now part of a community of bloggers, teachers, and learners who continually challenge me, help me, and understand me. I've expanded my network of colleagues, friends, and collaborators.
I have yet to get into Facebook and Twitter, though my school has finally embraced social networking and joined up on these two sites. I know, I know- they're really valuable and can open me up to even more professional possibilities. I'd have to say that for the time being, I've got all that I can handle. After all, as much as I love, love, love my PLN, I do still have a life offline. For now, for me, that's where the books are.