A Personal Learning Network (PLN) is the learning theory of digital era; it tries to explain complex learning methods within a rapidly changing digital social network.
In their world famous book on learning networks introduced by Stephen Downes and George Siemens posit that “For the first time in history, we know now how to store virtually all humanity's most important information and make it available, almost instantly, in almost any form, to almost anyone on earth. We also know how to do that in great new ways so that people can interact with it, and learn from it.” The previous conceptualizations draw on the theory of connectivism, which integrates principles from chaos, network and complexity and self-organisation theories.
Nowadays, these informal learning networks are popular among the educators all around the world. Basically, Personal Learning Networks aim for educators to benefit by extending their knowledge and experience beyond their schools, as well as their geographical boundaries. To achieve the latter, Personal Learning Networks are forming connections and making personal relationships with educators, subject specialists, teachers, university professors and experts all over the world.
How it Works
It doesn’t matter where you come from or where you live, you can always be in the network and get connected with the people available, share your experiences, and discuss with them about relevant subject matters and the class room. Mainly, the educator chooses whom to get connected with on these networks and how often to be involved.
Within a PLN, educators have distinct goals, interests, needs and matters that are often expressed to the group they include in their network. Other than that, the educator will work together and connect with various members, beginning to develop strong relationships with some people and have a low level of interactions with some other members. Not all crossings will be equally treated. There are several pre-existing Personal Learning Networks, which are highly famous among the educators globally.
Examples of PLNs Around the World
‘Powerful Learning Practice’ is one of the professional development programs for liberal minded learners. It’s a year round program of studies which provides groups of educators with new ideas and practical experience in order to support their technical knowledge and talents, revising classroom activities and making them applicable for today’s classroom, finding other educators with same ideas and plans, and creating their own interactive learning tools. Unfortunately, this Personal Learning Network costs $1,500 per person for a year of professional development in a school and $1,000 per district team individual. Moreover, teachers can get education credits for their participation in this network.
EdChat is another popular Personal Learning Network, which started as a Twitter conversation for learners and now has been expanded to a PBworks wiki that inspire the ideas made on Twitter that interpret in to practical advice. To participate in the EdChat on Twitter, you just have to click the hashtag #edchat and then you can join in the EdChat conversation. EdChat members can also go through the success stories of the network, joining in two live conversations each Tuesday, and join the EdChat group at the Educator’s Personal Learning Networks.
The Educator’s PLN is a Ning website which is an online platform for creating one’s own social network that makes interactions between educators around the globe. It is enriched with an impressive collection of resources like downloadable audio files with education chives such as invited speakers, discussion panels with specific topics like experimenting the Bernoulli’s theory in the classroom, and descriptions of relevant blogs, documents, and lists of resources, videos and events.
edWeb.net is a newly introduced online social network that is freely available and it allows educators to connect with their colleagues and to work together on their work plans and projects based on their own professional learning groups, mentor each other and practice using a variety of new methods. Particular strategies inside the network follow a game-module learning assembly that brings together teachers and the game developers to discover the best practices and conduct further discussions relevant to their field.
Classroom 2.0 is another Personal Learning Network designed for the ones who are interested in sharing ideas and methods on using Web 2.0 and latest media in education practice. This is a meaningful and accessible way of connecting with associates, and organizing events, merging different groups, participating Webinars each Saturday and mainly discussing everything about online projects.
Leading a PLN
Many early believers in Personal Learning Networks have now become major leaders of this approach in educational systems. Not surprisingly, most Personal Learning Networks seem to advocate a great amount of collaboration and reflection. Activities within Personal Learning Networks facilitate self-expression, chatting, blogging and referring e- books. Other than that, many existing educating leaders proceed to upgrade Personal Learning Networks to maintain relevant contents, spread the good ideas and encourage discussions and resources. Personal Learning Networks always accept educators for their ideas and not for their titles.
Numerous books, blogs, newspapers, journals, magazine articles and research papers maintain the continuous development and active use of Personal Learning Networks as a tool for learning. This ongoing process of evolutionary practice is benefiting educators both professionally and personally in many ways.
However, educators need to remember that life-long learning needs continues effort. Similarly educators expect this dedication from students. Personal Learning Networks are always in the form of collaborations. Collaboration is a method of educating which has been among us from the beginning of modern education system. Nevertheless, it was mostly constricted to confronting interactions within classrooms, divisional areas or, in some instances, conferences, only if educators get a chance to participate in one. This is the way educators collaborated and connected and through the time. Some may think that we don't need internet to be connected as educators. However, internet technology is the most prominent way of removing barriers of the time and geographical location and connects people.
Based on the above, it would be meaningful therefore to engage in learning via Personal Learning Networks, since schoolchildren exchange several information on cultural studies, history and many other studies with other students around the world. Educators also share methods, work plans and strategies. Resources are readily accessible when they are on internet. The popular social media application, Twitter is the pillar for most Personal Learning Networks. Interestingly, that view of Personal Learning Networks will continue to change along with evolution of the technology.
Overall, it could be claimed that it is worthwhile to proceed and engage in Personal Learning Networks as these hold a prominent place in the future of education. Nevertheless, like any trend arising, it should be adapted based on the needs of the particular institution and people.
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