So you’ve heard of a PLN and maybe you’ve established your own. If you haven’t established one maybe you’re just wondering what exactly is a PLN? Is it Private Language Notices? Pretty Loud Neighbors? Or maybe even Party Late Night!?
Although these all sound exciting, a PLN (in this context) isn’t any of those things. The PLN I’m referring to is a Personal Learning Network, which like some of those mentioned examples can actually be exciting as well. A Personal Learning Network, or PLN, is simply a network of people that you interact with and learn from. I suppose one could say your classroom is in effect a PLN, both for your students and even for yourself. If you don’t have a personal learning network in place lets explore some of the many benefits in doing so.
You Can Save Time
When you are looking for a lesson plan that covers a specific series of topics, maybe something you’ve never covered before, you may find that it’s far better to solicit input from others than to scour the far reaches of the web. It can often save you time and if nothing else you can also get a perspective of the subject that you had not yet considered or maybe a means of covering the topic that would really engage your class. Why start from scratch.. leverage what you can where you can. Of course tweak it to your own needs, but you’ll find this can be a real life saver.
You Can Save Your Sanity
This may be a slight exaggeration (is it though?) but when you’ve exhausted your normal resources turning to a PLN may pleasantly surprise you.
With all of the resources available today often times you may find a query results in information almost immediately. And knowing this may be the case well, may just put your mind at ease even just a tiny bit. Now how to make it through that last hour of school.
A resource from your PLN may be a fact, a website URL or even more. You never know who or how they can really help your research.
You Can Gain A Fresh Perspective
Although this benefit isn’t immediately evident, as mentioned above with saving time, getting a different perspective from others can definitely shed a new light on any topic. Heck it may even be more fun for you and your students with some new information provided by another resource!
As much as we would all love to think that all teachers know all things, well the truth of the matter is that it’s just not true. Granted, many teachers know a great deal, and contrary to popular belief I believe many are actually Superman(woman), but for those who want to refine their background on a given topic where do they turn? To their peers? Local workshops or service days? These are all a good start but there are some far larger venues where you can tap not just the smarts from your local colleagues, but those from around the world.
Discovering Resources from Others
Here are a handful of resources that, if you haven’t already, can get you well on your way to establishing a go-to destination for discovering that last minute resource for tomorrows discussion in class.
- Twitter: This is a must for teachers, administrators, even librarians. There is so much here to put it into a few words won’t do it justice. By searching for search terms such as #elemchat or #edchat you will just scratch the surface of individuals you should follow. Nice thing about Twitter is that participation isn’t required (though strongly encouraged, after all a PLN is all about engagement!). You can simply watch the resources and exchange of information fly by and chime in when you feel.
- Facebook: I’m not advocating connecting with students, but rather reaching out to your peers who may also be using the social tool. This is a quick and easy way to shout out for a request for resources, etc. You may find your school district limits access so you may need to access it via their secure URL of https://www.facebook.com or access it outside of your school network.
- Edmodo: Much like Facebook, Edmodo provides members with easy access to updates and posts from one another. Depending on the age of your students this may also provide interesting uses for them as well such as turning in homework assignments, etc.
- BetterLesson: This service provides a constantly growing repository of lesson plans for all grades. You can connect with other teachers and leverage the resources that they’ve posted for sharing which often include printables and more.
- 19Pencils: Although I am the Founder of this service, I do want to mention it for no other reason than it being one more resource for quickly searching and sharing resources. Members can join and when you save a resource it’s able to be discovered by others immediately. Students can access your content, from home or school, without requiring an account.
One more nice thing about establishing your PLN with any of the above is that each are completely free services. Discovering new resources and building a network should be a free service and each of these tools help to grow and share your resources.
Whether you experiment with one or none of the above the goal for any teacher should be to continue to broaden their pool of resources from which they can continue to learn. Doing so not only can help you in the classroom but sets a great example for your students to do the same!