Sunday, June 3, 2012

What is a PLN?

A PLN is an acronym for a personal learning network.  I was first introduced to this concept by David Warlick when he came to San Diego to work with the San Diego County Office of Education's Juvenile Court and Community Schools in 2008.  There are many definitions offered but if you take a look at it simply by starting with the terms individually, it should make sense.  I'll work backward (with my folk understanding of these concepts):
Network is a a group of people from whom you associate with.  This could be either in person or online.  A person can be a member of your network who you have never met face-to-face, and obviously, close friends and coworkers can be a part of your network.
Learning shouldn't be narrowly defined.  Learning can occur at any time in any place.  It is not confined to a classroom, nor a place of business.  You can learn from others and with others, collaboratively or individually.  I see learning as a dynamic process that occurs for me continuously.  The only requirement is desire.
Personal is something that relates to you.  I have seen PLN defined as professional learning network, but I prefer the term personal for various reasons.  The networks in which I participate and the learning that I do is, for me, deeply personal.  As an educator, the networks and learning are also professional.  As someone who loves what he does, I often struggle to separate the personal from the professional, but I see this as more serendipitous than troubling.  

A personal learning network is the network of people with whom you connect, both in person and online, to learn from and share information with to facilitate learning and personal/professional growth for you in whatever passion you follow. In terms of a PLN, your value to others is often what you share, both original ideas and content as well as passing on what you have learned from others.

As a technology resource teacher and a professor of educational technology, I will focus on how the Internet, and multiple tools available online, can help you establish, maintain, and cultivate a PLN. I will also use this blog to share some other tools that you might use to enhance the way you can collaborate and share information digitally.  If you are one of my students, this is probably a requirement of some course I am teaching.  One of the most important aspects of a PLN is that it is authentic for the individual participating in it.  Being forced to create a PLN is really not ideal, but I hope that the weeks or months that you are compelled to participate will be enough to make your PLN authentic.

I will use this blog to introduce some of the important concepts and tools of creating and maintaining a PLN online. I have created some guidelines around how to cultivate a PLN.  Using the major categories from the guidelines, I will offer some further explanation into the individual tools or concepts related to the guideline categories.  Each tab on this blog will contain ideas and tools for how you might create your own PLN as well as other ideas for using technology to grow as an educator.  See your specific course requirements if this is for one of my classes.  As always, I am available either in person, or online to answer any questions you might have.