How to Create Your Own Personalized Learning Network
Going to Google and searching for answers to your education-related questions is not the same thing as carefully constructing a deep network of resources customized to your professional endeavors.
There are several ways to approach building a system, and we’re breaking down how to create a personalized path to PLN success.
Know who you’re connecting with before you connect.
Everyone in your network should have personal or professional experience with your topic or field. They should also have credentials visible on their online profiles or verified by mutual connections.
On that note, it’s important not to create an “echo-chamber” when you’re building a network. Having an online community with varying and, sometimes conflicting, ideas and perspectives about your topic will help shape your ideas and further your understanding.
If you’re looking for a group of people who all think and act the same way, you’re not honestly looking for an educational experience. Sometimes it takes individuals with the opposite outlook to really make a difference in your classroom and your life.
Hitting connect with someone on LinkedIn or following them on social media isn’t enough to create a successful PLN. Reach out to professionals and explain why you believe it would be beneficial to connect.
And before you even press send, figure out what steps you would like to take with someone post-connection. In your initial message, help them understand how their credentials might help you, and what you can provide for them in return. Then break down your plans for starting a network.
Whatever you say to a potential connect, make sure you know your intention so that you can accurately express your intention and ultimately live your intention.
Start on Social Media
If you’re lost as to where to begin, start on social media sites like Twitter or Instagram. It may seem counterproductive, but some of the most productive connections and conversations take place via social media.
Create a Twitter or Google Plus account and follow influencers in your field. We suggest starting with 20. You’ll be amazed at the content and conversations you’ll watch play out if you limit your followers to individuals who share your passion for the same educational issues. Social media sites are also great ways to stay up-to-date on the latest education-related news and breakthrough innovations. You’ll be bombarded with retweets of relevant articles and see commentary unfold between journalists, researchers, and educators alike.
After you’ve followed a select few, begin to direct message influences, share your resources, and comment on existing conversations. You’re guaranteed to receive back interesting and relevant information.
Social sites are a great place to continuously learn and watch a nonstop stream of information work its way through one online influencer at a time. One day, that influencer may be you.
If you’ve stumbled upon a blog or online profile that interests you, read what they have to say and ask questions. People with excellent credentials and an existing network are great resources to help narrow your education-related questions and point you in the right direction. They’ll provide recommendations of who to connect with, resources for additional research and ways to relate your personal or professional needs to an existing network. Who knows, maybe the exact circle you’ve been searching for already exists!
Create Your Own Content
If you’ve got ideas, you’re dying to share about a hot topic issue, write a blog post, share it with as many people as possible, and the network will come to you.
Having content to share with others is also a great way to introduce yourself and prove to potential connects that you’re legitimate and will add value to any PLN conversation. Think about what you look for in potential connects, and make sure your online presence mirrors those requirements.
We also recommend commenting on other influencers’ blog posts, photos, and research papers. See how people are innovating, then interact with them and ask questions. React to their ideas, provide original ideas of your own, and do everything possible to add value! Thoughtful commentary, whatever it may be, will instantly grab the attention of those you wish to connect with most.
When you’re communicating with other professionals, give people credit for their ideas and contributions. Everyone likes to be acknowledged and thanked personally, and the more amiable of an atmosphere you create within your network, the more productive work will arise from conversations.
It’s also important that your network trust you with their thoughts. If they’re concerned you’ll steal their ideas or leave their hard work unacknowledged, they’ll be hesitant to share anything else and may end up leaving your PLN.
Remember the WHY
You’re connecting with others to improve yourself as an educator and solve issues in the education world.
Every great conversation you have online helps the students you work for every day and improves the quality of your classroom. Every milestone you reach in your PLN is one step closer to finding solutions that you can advocate for to policy-makers who often have the final say in the structure of your school.
Remind yourself why you’re making an effort to connect and stay motivated throughout your PLN endeavors.
At the end of the day, becoming a vessel in the improvement of tomorrow’s classroom is an invaluable position. Become that vessel and add value to your community with the help of a successful personal learning network that’s custom built and thoughtfully constructed.