Last night I made my professional writing students think about professional learning networks and begin the process of building their own. Even though it was a night class and I was exhausted, my head was so full of ideas I just had to come home and write about it – because writing and thinking are connected.
I was inspired even before class because I based my PLN assignment on Howard Rheingold’s eight steps for cultivating a personal learning network (relying heavily on the presentations of this process by Chuck Frey and Alex Howard), but I was also excited because I just love my PLN so much and I believe strongly that my PLN helps me to do more and be more. Simply talking with my students about all the awesome ways that my PLN has improved my life made me want to cry, but it also reminded me (again) how lucky we are to be connected educators today.
I was reminded of the scene in Terminator 2: Judgment Day when Sarah Connor realizes that a machine makes the perfect “father” for her son. Of course the great difference for us, is that our PLNs are not actual machines – it is our connection that is supported by the machine – but in truth a robust PLN is always there for you because it never sleeps – one or more members is likely to be online and available during your hour of need and it is constantly working for you even when you ignore it (because you need to do things like eat, sleep, teach).
I want my students, whatever career they choose and wherever their professional path takes them, to understand what a powerful impact a PLN can have on that career path. I want my students to have the tools to develop and sustain (I do like Howard’s word “cultivate”) a PLN not just for my class, but for the rest of their lives. So I charged them to begin that process using Howard’s eight steps and pursing one or more of these avenues of investigation while also allowing room for serendipity:
- Find professional organizations and events
- Find possible employers
- Build a social media profile and begin building a professional network
- Collect a list of bloggers to inform and inspire you
- Find one or more role models/mentors you can study
How do you visualize your PLN? What avenues of investigation would you suggest in addition to those suggested here?