Lifelong learning is important for any career, but sometimes opportunities for professional development are limited. Because of this limitation, it is important for every individual to develop a personalized learning network.
What is a PLN?
According to Tom Whitby in Edutopia, a PLN is “a tool that uses social media and technology to collect, communicate, collaborate and create with connected colleagues anywhere at any time. Participating educators, worldwide, make requests and share resources.” Just remember that your PLN is not limited to online interactions, but it is the online, global interaction that makes it unique.
How do you create a PLN?
The basic premise of a PLN is to learn and share with others. Networking, or the ability to share, is a wonderful way to learn, but it should not be limited to formal meetings or to random encounters with other professionals. Technology allows for a global learning experience that will occur 24/7.
Begin by connecting with people who have an interest in career and technology education. This group may primarily include family, friends, educators and experts, but it should also include people you meet at conferences and meetings or any other place where face-to-face meetings have occurred.
How do you add peers into your PLN?
- Twitter: Create a Twitter account that focuses on CareerTech educators and leaders. For many, Twitter is the foundation for establishing a PLN. Use popular CTE hashtags, g., #careerteched, #CTE or #Vision18, to locate and connect to others. Consider using a Twitter aggregator like Hootsuite to provide organization and simplify your Twitter life.
- RSS feeds: Use RSS feeds to stay connected to your favorite education and CTE websites, blogs and publications. Instead of visiting websites on a daily basis, you can use the RSS feeds to gather headlines from those sites and feed them directly to your computer.
- Get started by downloading an RSS reader. There are several free and commercial readers, extensions and apps available online.
- Visit your favorite websites and look for the RSS link.
- Click on the RSS icon or copy the URL to the RSS feed for the site.
- Paste the RSS URL into your RSS reader.
- Repeat these steps with all your favorite sites.
- Social bookmarking sites: Diigo, Delicious, Pinterest, Reddit and Google Reader are just a few sites that allow you to tag a webpage so it can be easily accessed at a later time. The advantage to a social bookmarking site is that you are saving these sites to a web-based tool so you can log into your account on any device and review your saved articles/web pages from remote locations.
- Facebook: Create a Facebook account, add your interests and like Facebook pages in which you have a professional interest. Then comment on and share pages.
- Google+: This is an online social networking site that allows the user to organize peers into groups called “Circles” and then filter the information you share by group. You can also search for existing educational communities and simply join them and begin to learn and share your own knowledge and experiences.
Create a goal for your PLN
Spend 20 minutes a day sharing and learning. It’s a great way to start your day or a welcome alternative to watching commercials during your favorite TV show. A PLN will take effort — to add peers and sites to your technology devices, but also to add to the conversation. It’s a wonderful feeling when people begin to follow you and ask you to share your knowledge and experiences.
Resource: How do you know which educational hashtags to search by?