Personal learning networks (PLNs) and education

15 Jul

Peter DeWitt has written an interesting Education Week piece about personal learning networks (PLNs), Do Our Students Have PLN’s?

Teachers need to make sure that they are fostering strong PLN’s in the classroom because as much as it is important to learn from a teacher, we also understand that the conversations students have with one another can be invaluable as well.

Through social media and other venues there is a lot of talk about personal learning networks (PLN). A PLN consists of all of the places where you get your information and its how educators tap into educational conversations with colleagues near and far. It’s a fantastic way to stay current in our practice as educators. As a principal, I believe it’s highly important to be connected so I can bring the most current and best resources to staff and in return they share their best resources with me…

Students do have personal learning networks and they have to decide, much like we do, whether that PLN is a good one or a bad one. Their PLN begins with their parents. We have all learned a great deal from our parents and at a very young age they helped shape our thinking before we ever stepped foot into a school building. Our parents taught us how to talk, read (in some cases), walk and how to ride a bike. If you haven’t thanked your parents lately for being the first member of your PLN, perhaps you should.

Secondly, our students learn from their teachers. In some cases it may be a self-contained teacher that they spend their days with in the classroom. Other times they may switch classes and learn from a variety of teachers. Some teachers and the ones they truly connect with and others they just learn from.

Thirdly, students learn from one another. In some cases their peer groups are their strongest PLN. They may work in groups or by just listening to answers that other students give when teachers ask questions. Teachers need to make sure that they are fostering strong PLN’s in the classroom because as much as it is important to learn from a teacher, we also understand that the conversations students have with one another can be invaluable as well.

Lastly, in my opinion (you may have more) students have PLN’s that are on-line. These PLN’s, depending on the age of the student, need to be monitored because they can have positive or negative impacts and consequences. However, connected teachers and principals know that students can learn from the likes of Twitter. There have been countless conversations between classes of students and other educators.

For an excellent example of how to create a PLN, see 10 simple steps to creating a free online Personal English Learning Network:

So, how do you find your English speaking friends and create your own Personal English Out There Learning Network? Just follow the process below and you will soon have unlimited English speaking opportunities for free whenever you want them:

  1. Join an international social network like Facebook and a free online web phone like Skype, then make some online friends by joining groups that promote friendship, use the search tool to find groups under ‘meet new people’ or ‘make friends’
  2. Contact people using the words “Hi, I am using a new system called English Out There can I practise English with you, it will only take a few minutes each time”, in the text chat system and using the special pre-written EOT message in our ‘Social Media Tool Kit
  3. Make as many English speaking friends as you can, preferably in different time zones and with different accents, 15 to 20 should be enough
  4. The more practice partners you have the more likely you will be able to practice 24/7 and be able to hear global English
  5. Do the lesson and prepare the Out There Task questions
  6. See who is online and text them to see if they can talk
  7. Call those who say ‘yes’ and use the language from the lesson to break the ice and get going
  8. Talk for about five or six minutes and then say “Goodbye”.
  9. Text another friend in your network and ask the same questions again.
  10. Repeat four or five times with different people in your network.

REMEMBER:  Ask your questions, have a quick chat and then GO! You will be amazed with the results.

In Children’s sensory overload from technology, moi said:

Like it or not, technology is a part of life. The key is to use technology for YOUR advantage and to not let technology control you. Parents must monitor their children’s use of technology. Caroline Knorr has an excellent article at Common Sense Media, How Rude! Manners For the Digital Age Parents must talk with their children about the responsible use of social media and the Internet. Common Sense Media has some great discussion points in the article, Rules of the Road for Kids


5 Things You Can Do to Begin Developing Your Personal Learning Network                                                        

Personal Learning Networks for Educators: 10 Tips                                            

Building a Learning Network for Students                                                                  

23 Resources about Personal Learning Networks (PLNs)                                 


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