Have you ever caught yourself in a situation that you felt completely lost in? Have you ever had a question that was seriously bugging you, but you felt as if you had no one to ask? Maybe you felt as if it was something that your friends couldn’t help you with. Maybe it was related to your career or profession. Did you feel completely puzzled?
I think these feelings are common, especially for an educator. From time to time, I catch myself having questions on things that only certain people would really understand and be able to help me on (flashback to Grammar and Linguistics anyone?). During those times, I felt confused, angry, and flustered. How could I get answers to my questions quickly and painlessly? Now, looking back, the answer to that question seems glaringly obvious: a PLN.
Yes, a PLN, or personal learning network. This week for class, we were asked to research what exactly a PLN is and why we should create one. Edutopia defines a PLN in their post titled How Do I Get a PLN? by stating that it “is a tool that uses social media and technology to collect, communicate, collaborate, and create with connected colleagues anywhere at any time.” A PLN is a network of professionals or co-learners within a subject or topic area that are willing to answer questions and provide resources to help you out. According to TeachHub, personal learning networks can be found in real-life relationships (special thanks to you G&L folks who helped keep me sane) as well as online. We have the ability to tap into a plethora of resources at any given time. From blogs to Twitter chats, the knowledge is vast. But why would future educators need this?
(Photo CC: Pixabay.com)
After my research, the answer to the question of ‘why’ is obvious. Teachers need to have a PLN. PLNs keep us connected with other professionals and provide motivational and inspirational thoughts. A teacher can personalize their PLN to exactly what they want it to be, whether that is integrating technology or organizing a classroom. This allows for the experience to be incredibly personal, meaning you aren’t just getting online to read a bunch of stuff you don’t care about. These things matter to you. PLNs allow users the ability to broaden their skill set and knowledge about numerous things from the comfort their our classroom (or maybe even couch). Personally, I built my PLN around the topic of education with some emphasis in YA literature/books. I did this because I know that when I begin teaching, I’m going to have questions regarding what in the world I’m doing as well as how I can get my students reading. I know that I’m going to need all of the resources I can get. Why wouldn’t you want to join a network of professionals working towards the same goal of being the best teacher possible?
I truly believe that a connected teacher will be the best teacher. An educator that is willing to dive into resources and ask questions is one that is trying their hardest to have the best learning environment possible. PLNs allow teachers the ability to ask questions in an environment that supports learning and education in general. Teaching students is hard enough; why not have a community behind you while you do it?