Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) are a way for individuals to create their own network of people, resources, and organizations to help them achieve their own learning goals. Researchers like Dr. Mark Wagner argue that “all educators (and learners) can benefit from extending their own personal learning network online – beyond the walls of their schools, the boundaries of their districts, and the limits of their experience.” (2012) I agree that the development of a Personal Learning Network allows people to extend their scope of resources and people to collaborate with and learn from. In the video, Personal Learning Networks, Will Richardson notes that with the addition of Personal Learning Networks in education, physical space doesn’t matter as much; what matters is that we can connect with others anywhere and share ideas.
Richardson notes that a certain literacy is required to build these networks of trusted sources and admits that they can be difficult to navigate and build. I have established a small PLN over the past few years without really recognizing it as such. I have trusted colleagues and a network of people that I am in touch with from my personal and professional life. I have a Pinterest account full of boards to give me inspiration, instruction, and support. However, as I began read more about the development and benefits of Personal Learning Networks in my Instructional Technology and Digital Media Literacy classes, I realized that there were many more ways for me to develop my PLN.
In the article, Personal Learning Networks for Educators, Dr. Wagner suggest Ten tips for building a Professional Learning Network that I found very helpful when broadening my network. The Steps are to connect, contribute, request, blog, tweet, join Classroom 2.0, use Google, be patient, and be authentic (2012). After spending more time in the IT&DML Program and considering these suggestions, I was able to develop my network by adding Twitter, and Google+ to my PLN. I also reached out to other bloggers in hopes to connect and contribute.
I decided to try a tool that I have never used before to represent my PLN as it stands now. I wanted to create a visual representation of my Personal Learning Network, and mind mapping seemed like a fun way to try it! The process of mind mapping helped me to organize my thoughts and brainstorm all of the benefits of my Personal Learning Network. It seemed like every time I added a branch to my map, I thought of another part of my PLN to consider, and more legs to create off of it.
Mind mapping was the perfect tool to represent a Personal Learning Network- the ever expanding nature of a mind map mirrors constantly expanding and developing nature of a PLN. The components of my Personal Learning Network that I chose to include are Pinterest, Twitter, Google+, colleagues from graduate school at The University of Connecticut and The University of New Haven, colleagues from every district that I’ve worked, and Marshall Memo (a digital weekly newsletter of education related publications and articles.) I added some extra arms to my map to show my most recent learning experiences (Reading Workshop, Responsive Classroom, and EESmarts) that have provided me with more professional contacts.
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As Wagner and Richardson explain, a Personal Learning Network is a constantly developing and changing entity. I expect my PLN to grow and change over time as I develop into a more connected and technologically literate educator.