Personal Learning Networks (PLN)

"Personal Learning Networks consist of the people a learner interacts with and derives knowledge from in a Personal Learning Environment. An important part of this concept is the theory of connectivism developed by George Siemens and Stephen Downes. Learners create connections and develop a network that contributes to their professional development and knowledge.[1] The learner does not have to know these people personally or ever meet them in person.[2] The following is an excerpt from Dryden's and Vos' book on learning networks:[3]

"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.""

I really like the idea of Personal Learning Networks and liken them to having an "on demand" conference full of experts in a chosen field who can support one another as well as sharing knowledge, ideas and "best practice".

Watch the following video to learn more:

Personal Learning Networks for Educators
Please click here if you cannot see the video above

How to create a PLN

There is no "right way" to make a PLN as is more 'a state of mind', however in this section I'm going to outline some tools that you can use to get you started, but before we get into the tools you may like to watch the following video:

By now if you've watched the two videos above you may have spotted some common themes about what kind of digital tools you may want to make use of when building a PLN.

Although there are many tools which you can make use of I'm going to list the ones that I think will allow you to get started quickly with the minimum of fuss:

  1. Create a blog - your blog can act as a "home base" or central hub where you can post up your thoughts or interesting articles or anything else that you wish to share with the world.  This way when you make a post you can then share a link to it with the other people in your PLN.

    Please click here to learn more about making a blog.

  2. Connect to people - Once your blog is set up you can then use Social Networking tools to start to connect to other educators.  

    Two of the best ways to do this are via Twitter & LinkedIn.

    If you want to connect with other educators on Twitter then a good place to start is by partipating with the #ukedchat discussions you can also add me to your PLN by following me on twitter here.

    If you want to connect with educators on LinkedIn then you can join my Linked In group by clicking here.

  3. Create a public file store - sometimes you'll want to share documents with members of your PLN.  You can achieve this quickly and easily by making use of either Google Docs or using Dropbox & uploading files into the "public" folder which Dropbox provides.  Each file will then be given it's own unique web address which you can then share with your PLN.

  4. Subscribe to other people's Blogs - If other people in your PLN also have a blog then you can subscribe to their blog using Google Reader.  
    If you wish to subscribe to my E-learning blog then you can do so by clicking here.

These four steps should be enough to get you started, once you are comfortable in making use of them then you will probably wish to integrate more tools into your PLN as it expands.

Good luck!