Professional Learning Networks – #saskedchat February 11th, 2016

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What is a Professional Learning Network?
 – n. – the entire collection of people with whom you engage and exchange information, online and facetoface.
I’ve had a professional learning network before I knew that I had a PLN! Many of us have been networking and connecting with others far before the internet and social media made it easier to share with others.
Jeff Utrecht‘s  graphic of PLN adoption shows how some people experience the development of a PLN. Jeff discusses his own development of a PLN and the stages he went through.
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As Jeff points out,
I also do not believe you have to go through all these stages. Some people jump from stage 2 to stage 5 or do not become so immersed into their PLN that they ever reach stage 3, that sense of having to “know it all.”
As I have been involved in many developing my own network(s), I know how overwhelming it can seem when one begins. There are a number of good resources for anyone starting out to develop a Professional Learning Network. As you begin, a few things to remember:
1. It takes time to develop – you can fast-track certain aspects of your PLN – joining twitter, LinkedIn, Ning groups can bring you into contact with a number of other people very quickly. There is an opportunity to get involved in a number of groups and become engaged in the discussions. However, it still takes time to develop relationships. Many people make connections/find followers but developing beyond the surface relationships takes time. Expect this and enjoy meeting new people.
2. Look for diversity – Many times we surround ourselves with people who think like us and are similar to ourselves. I encourage you to look for people who also push your thinking and challenge you to think deeply. The greater the diversity, the greater the depth of learning that you have access, hopefully!
3. Develop multiple input sources – by this I refer to different types of networks. Social media – twitter, LinkedIn, FB offer direct interactions but I also encourage people to read blogs and curate material using Flipboard and Pearltrees. You can also join book groups and other interest groups to expand your network. I would encourage teachers to reach out beyond just education to make connections.
4. In my PLN I also include the different newsletters I receive from groups like Edutopia, EdWeek, ASCD, Smartblogs,  Edudemic and other publications. There are delivered right to my inbox and it takes a moment to skim the titles, open the links and decide whether I will add them to my reading list or not. The big thing is not to get overwhelmed by subscribing to too many and limit when they are delivered to your inbox.
5. Face-to-face is important – too often when the discussion roles around to PLN’s, the importance of face-to-face relationships isn’t discussed. Although the people we see each day may have different ideas and thoughts about learning and teaching, it’s still important to listen to them and engage them in discussions – and build relationships with them. Yes, online relationships can be important if one feels isolated and alone. I have found this to be personally true but I also know that I am guilty of isolating myself at times because I wasn’t socially mature enough to be open to what others were saying. I wasn’t able to listen without judging which then caused friction. Instead of being a liberator I was limiting. I was not aggressively listen but, instead, almost dismissing what they had to say as I was thinking of what to say.
I have had the opportunity to work in a number of different schools and each has been an opportunity to connect with new people and build new relationships. Unfortunately, I wasn’t always mature enough to understand the importance of relationship. Over time, through my mistakes, I have come to understand the importance of building relationships, developing trust and focusing on supporting and helping others grow. I look to my PLN to push and challenge my understanding of the world around me, to push me to grow and stretch my thinking, and to support me as I learn and grow.
 Archive for the February 11th #saskedchat on Professional Learning Networks.
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I am a husband, father, son.... I am currently working on my PhD in Education - Curriculum and Instruction. My focus is teacher professional development and social media integration. I have a beautiful, supportive wife who has been my partner for 28 years. We have 8 wonderful children who are amazing individuals. Together, we are exploring the world around us, sharing our stories, and enjoying the journey!