What is the Importance of a Personal Learning Network?
As discussed in a previous post, a personal learning network (PLN) is a customized social media platform for educators. But instead of sharing pictures, status updates, and liking each other’s filtered profile pictures, educators can learn from people and resources around the globe to improve their teaching methods, stay up-to-date on the latest edtech trends, and receive endless outside support.
Today we’re listing a few key reasons why you should invest in a personal learning network, for the good of yourself and the students you’re responsible for.
So, why PLNs?
No one knows which areas you struggle with as an educator more than you do. Nothing can tell you exactly what’s going on inside your classroom aside from the memories you relive every day. So, it’s your job to seek out a select number of experts and fellow teachers who specialize in or have experienced the same difficulties.
The great thing about a PLN is that it doesn’t limit you. Combine in-person and online resources, wade through several websites, speak with educators and tech professionals and cognitive psychologists. Chat online or skype or meet for coffee. The resources are endless and there are endless ways to customize your experience.
A lot of educators shape their PLNs with a question. How does the classroom adapt to a tech-driven world? How can we personalize education for every student? How do we keep girls interested in STEM courses?
A PLN means people from all around the world with a variety of different specialties are collaborating to answer one question. With that equation, it’s almost impossible for a solution not to arise. If you’re experiencing a problem, the PLN you build is your personalized team combining their knowledge to help solve that particular issue.
A solution to your educational struggle is on the horizon.
A PLN is not necessarily a group of like-minded individuals. If that were the case, you wouldn’t be seeking out other opinions in the first place because it’s likely you already have a group of people in your life who feel and think exactly the same way as you.
PLNs provide you with people who have different viewpoints on hot topic issues and, if they’ve been vetted beforehand, have a wealth of knowledge, credentials, and research to back up their arguments.
As educators, sometimes we haven’t fixed the problem because we keep using the same method to solve it. A student is struggling with math and we send them to the same tutor, or explain it the same way, or use the same software. Sometimes we need someone to come in and point us in the opposite direction before a solution is found.
Get Out of Your Own Head
In the same vein, the solution to our problem is often right in front of us. We just need someone with fresh eyes to stand before us and point it out.
How do you know you’re in the dark about the latest edtech tool if you’ve never heard of the software to begin with?
If your lesson strategy feels stale or something isn’t clicking between you and your students, get out of your rut and ask the outside community for advice. It’s guaranteed that someone in the education community has experienced the same problem and found a solution they’re desperate to share.
Share What You Know
PLNs aren’t just about taking, they’re about giving back to your network by sharing your own knowledge, ideas, and reflections.
If you have a groundbreaking idea about preparing your classroom for a tech-centered, universally connected world, share it with others and receive feedback, research partners, and ways to develop and execute the concept.
Your unique ideas help others in the education community grow, and if you’re in the development stage, having a sounding board to bounce ideas off of is invaluable to the growth of any project.
Find a Support System
Being a teacher is an emotionally grueling job that people outside of the education world can’t always understand.
Having an online or in-person group of teachers to share stories with helps you cope with and release emotions building within. Is your classroom underfunded? Vent to fellow teachers sharing the same struggle. Are you feeling exhausted by your profession rather than inspired? Talk it through with educators who’ve been exactly where you’ve been.
Don’t just think of PLNs as a professional resource; think of it as a form of virtual therapy.
Support Your Students
Don’t limit the kids in your classroom to your own educational preferences and methods of teaching. Interacting with other educators allows you to bring different opinions and ideas directly to your students, so they can also be exposed to a variety of opinions and new ways of thinking.
Education is moving away from the institution and towards the individual. Presenting students with other resources helps them personalize their own educational experience.
Every website, journal, Twitter feed, and individual person is a resource. With an infinite number of resources in the universe, now widely available through social platforms and internet access, you have the power to hand-pick which ones will contribute to your personal and professional growth.
Create your own personal learning network, if not for yourself, for the people you make daily decisions for – your students.