Monday, December 29, 2014

What a PLN is to me

The acronym PLN, or Professional Learning Network, is growing in popularity among educators and is now seen as a must for all those wanting to be a part of 21st-century learning. The P in PLN is sometimes defined as Personal; to make the distinction between more institutional or work-based connections and contacts made to pursue individual learning goals, e.g. creating a group of contacts to take up an activity not directly related to work. The furor around the term is understandable and fitting, considering the connected nature of all areas of today's society.

A lot of definitions have been made about the term, but I would like to share my take on the issue thanks to the microblogging tool Twitter. Social media magnifies what we do naturally with friends and acquaintances - we connect with people with whom we share interests, goals or plans - by making it possible to go beyond geographical borders. Come to think of it, a PLN is probably not a PLN without social media.

To me, a PLN is an investment in lifelong learning. Based on what I have said so far, this web of contacts is made up more of people we meet virtually than we do face to face. It can be both. What really matters is the people that form part of this web share professional interests or goals. Connecting with like-minded educators often leads to collaborative projects, learning from each other and growing together.

Twitter answers the basic question most educators ask: how do I find people to connect with? Educational chats are the gateway. Chats are identified by a hashtag and a name like #edchat or #nt2t and happen weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly at a scheduled time. Anyone using the hashtag can follow and participate in the discussion. This frank get-together works like the socializing that goes on during breaks at conferences. The talk spins around a specific topic; allowing participants to engage in conversations that can go on after the chats are finished. Users follow each other to straighten ties. Some use the list feature of Twitter to organize the people they follow. Here are mine.

One thing I believe that makes a PLN different from a regular list of contacts is that it fosters a two-way relationship: it's not just about finding people who can bring you professional gain, it's about funding people who value the power of collaboration and who revel in the success of their peers.

Getting back to the main aim of the text, a PLN is an investment. Short, middle or long term, each has its time to yield fruits. That is probably why it is common to hear professionals talk about building a network. It takes time and commitment. If Rome wasn't built in a day, a PLN is no different.

So who's on my PLN, you might be asking? Basically, the people that attend Twitter chats like #nt2t, #whatisschool, #BFC530, #RuralEdChat and #profchat. But like my colleague @shyj said above, it takes time, so the network is constantly being updated. 

Note: The people I quoted here are some of those I follow on Twitter. Their tweets were taken from the #nt2t chat held on December 20th, 2014. Check the archive here.

How to grow your PLN using Twitter

Nt2t can't stop

How can Nt2t help you with Twitter?