Not going to lie. In education there are a lot of buzzwords. I bet you know the ones I'm thinking of. Take a minute, let them sink in. Now ask yourself, how much do they impact you personally, professionally, or even in your every day life? Do any of them affect you? Or are they just passing phases meant to spring life back into education. I'm new to education, no doubt. However, it should mean something to you when a novice teacher already knows about the reputation of the buzzword.
It should equally mean something when a novice teacher finds something that actually changes their pedagogy and outlook for the better. Welcome to the PLN (Personal Learning Network). A PLN is defined as an informal learning network which consists of people, tools, and agencies which share educational resources. Now before you click or tap away from this page, let me tell you why I think that this abbreviation is not a buzzword, but rather a concept to truly adapt to.
1) It connects you. Education has changed immensely in the past 10 years. Even more so in the past 5. I know this to be true due to all of the reading I do about education; via Twitter, Facebook, discussion posts and blogs. The ways people connect is changing, for better or for worse. Educators should feel the pressure to keep up with the times and adapt for their students, if not for themselves. Rather than begrudgingly whine about this new way of thinking, why not use it as a tool? Why not take advantage of every resource you have to be a great teacher? Why not connect with other educators, borrow ideas, and collaborate with like-minded individuals who also want to be great? I'm sure most teachers already do this within the walls of their school with co-workers or even within the district. Why stop there? This is the beauty and basis of the PLN. You can connect to others, for any number of reasons, and use it as a tool to improve your own skill set.
2) It's a simple resource. Let's say you want to get some new lesson ideas. What about teaching the classic elements of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. You could look into a curriculum book, or ask a coworker. Both are novel ideas. OR. You could also go to twitter and search #tokillamockingbird and connect to other teachers who are teaching from this book all over the world. You could also reach out to actors and directors who are working on theater adaptations of this classic and try to arrange a class Skype interview. You could go to Youtube or Teachertube and search for videos of class adaptations and ideas, or even create a livestream or your own using Periscope. There are unlimited resources available to you, it's just a matter of using these tools.
3) It helps others. Let's say you don't need any help. Your a skilled teacher who knows everything. Know someone like this? If you have great lessons, enthusiasm, and tricks for the classroom, why not share your wealth of knowledge? You could start blogging, tweeting, posting, and sharing your adventures in the classroom and truly help others. You could even help by flipping aspects of your classroom so that other teachers could use your lectures in their classroom. I think this would be very humbling. Don't be an Island! Even if you have nothing to learn, you certainly have something to share.
4) It makes you a stronger resource for your students. I'm a health teacher. Not a nurse, not a personal trainer, and not certainly the smartest guy in my school. Please don't tell this to my students, but I don't always have the answers. I rely on my tools and connections to give my students the best answers I can. It would be dishonest to do anything less. This doesn't just apply to my discipline. All academic areas are prone to change. Students also learn in various ways and sometimes the way you teach isn't whats best for those who need the information the most. Use your PLN to get the answers you couldn't otherwise.
5) It's fun. Imagine having an open space full of people that you could label as friends, coworkers, mentors, inspirations, or just people you want to surround yourself with. When you build a PLN, you can select all of these people to learn from, even if you don't know them personally. Your connections can be nearly unlimited, or whittled down to the pristine bunch that you rely on the most. You can bounce ideas back and forth on tough lessons, or even share pictures of family with these people. The PLN is what you make of it!
I am a Health and Physical Education Teacher at Byron High School in Byron, Minnesota.