Sarah Fudin (University of Southern California) is today's guest blogger and she writes on developing your own personal learning network. I personally recommend Twitter as a great way to build your PLN and connect with educators from around the world.
As Sarah notes:
The Personal Learning Network (PLN) is not a new concept on college campuses. Professors who are interested in developing further as educators have long known the benefits of networking with colleagues and students in their academic community. With new modes of technology-enabled communication, that community has expanded to include college and university campuses around the world.
Building a PLN in the digital age requires the acquisition of new skills and some possible changes in attitude. Networking with educators who have a variety of backgrounds, standards and teaching philosophies requires an open mind. Whether you've been teaching for just a few years or for several decades, maintaining a desire to learn about different approaches to the educational process will help you stay active and engaged in your profession. Pedagogical strategies and teaching philosophies continually change, but your PLN can help you stay current.
Building an online PLN usually begins by discovering some educational blogs and websites that strike a chord. Look for web content that informs, instructs and inspires. Most blogs and websites that are updated on a regular basis will allow you to subscribe and have regular updates (or "feeds") sent to you in email. You can also use a tool like Google Reader to aggregate your subscription feeds in one convenient location.
A growing number of educators are discovering the networking power of Twitter. By participating in Twitter conversations and weekly chats related to education, thousands of educators have found ways to expand their PLN by connecting with peers and students from around the world. Here is a sampling of a few of the Twitter chats that higher education professionals may find useful:
- #CollegeBound is a weekly Twitter chat hosted by The CollegeBound Network and offers higher education administrators and teachers a unique chance to connect with potential and incoming college students.
- #lrnchat is a weekly Twitter chat that focuses on all aspects of learning – formal, informal, social and mobile. Professional development for educators and educational technology are frequent subjects of discussion.
- #higheredlive is a live weekly web show about the emerging role of social and digital media in higher education and student affairs.
- #PhDchat is a themed Twitter chat session that meets weekly to discuss issues related to postgraduate research. Discussion topics are suggested and voted on by participants.
The best learning networks depend on two-way communication. As you follow blogs, website discussions and Twitter chats, make an effort to add your voice to the conversation. Comment on blog posts or even start your own blog to share links and other resources. Alternatively, become a mentor by responding to questions in areas where you have expertise.
As you expand your PLN, don't forget that some of your most valuable connections may be closest to home. Students, teachers and administrators in your own academic community are important contacts who are likely to share your concerns. In addition to using technology to develop a global PLN, look for opportunities to connect with people in your local learning environment.
Sarah Fudin currently works in community relations for the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education's online Master's programs, which provide aspiring and current teachers the opportunity to earn a Masters in Teaching and learn how to become a teacher. Outside of work, Sarah enjoys running, reading and Pinkberry frozen yogurt.