Saturday, November 16, 2013

Personal and Professional Growth Through a Personal Learning Network

If you asked a group of people whether teaching and learning go hand-in-hand, most would say "of course!"  You could also expect to hear "not always" or "it depends" from some in the group.  This prompt may lead to discussions about the quality of the teaching and the motivation (or lack of it) of the learner.  But, in general (and in a perfect world), most would say teaching and learning go hand-in-hand....or at least they should.  

Now, to borrow from the old "chicken and egg" conundrum, which comes first teaching or learning? Be careful how you answer!  As an educator your first reaction might be that without quality teaching there cannot be quality learning.  You're right, of course....BUT....where does the quality teaching come from?  It comes from the quality learning you have done (and continue to do) in preparation for teaching.  Educators are life-long learners so that we can be life-long teachers. 
It's a beautiful cycle when implemented effectively.  We learn.  We teach.  We learn. We teach. 
In addition, those we teach shall learn, then teach. They become empowered to share their knowledge with others! 

So, think about your learning.  You had your "formal" schooling and perhaps you continue to grow your knowledge through enrollment in an institution of higher learning.  You participate in professional development.  You read.  You research.  You seek to find the information/skills you need to become a better educator.  And, yes, sometimes you are overwhelmed.  Sometimes you are underwhelmed because you invest your time, energy and often money into an activity to improve as an educator and you end up thinking "well, that was a waste of my time" or "that PD had NOTHING for me."  

So, how can you construct a method, or build an avenue, for learning that is tailored specifically for you?  You can create your own Personal Learning Network (PLN).  Think about that label....

Personal - yours, designed just for you BY you.
Learning - opportunities to assimilate the information/skills you need
Network - you're CONNECTED to others who share your areas of interest and who have more (or less) knowledge about topics than you....and they are willing to share and eager to learn

My participation in, and understanding of, PLNs has evolved over time.  Before our abundance of technology my PLNs were typically educators in my subject area, on my hall, in my building, in my system.....and maybe if I really pushed it...across my state.  But, with the boom in social networking platforms, my opportunities for building a PLN have exploded.  Facebook, Twitter, blogs, wikis, podcasting, YouTube and more bring a worldwide personal learning network into easy reach.  
With the number of opportunities and avenues available for us to create a PLN, we need to be deliberate and focused in our purpose.  Time is valuable.  We need to use the PLN tool(s) that allow us to share and learn in the most effective way.  

I hope to share with you examples of my PLN in upcoming blogs.  As you read about my PLNs keep your eyes open for where yours could begin to grow....or where they might be developing already. Feel free to share YOUR methods for developing a PLN and the tool(s) you have used to cultivate it.  

If you would like to begin building or refining your PLN, please let me know.  I will be glad to share with you some ideas and tips for creating a PLN that ensures that you remain a quality teacher, a life-long learner and a powerful contributor knowledge to other educators. 

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