Your PLN is your Professional Learning Network, your PLN is also your Personal Learning Network. The two terms are often used interchangeably. After a professional conversation recently I am now considering never doing that again.
The discussion centered around the future of professional learning. Our state Department of Education recently ended the requirement for teachers to earn a set number of re-certification credits every so many years. There were so many interesting conversations around this, but one thing that everyone acknowledged was that educators continue to pursue learning in their areas of passion regardless of what is or is not required of them by an employer or a certification agency.
This leads me to wonder if that seemingly trivial Professional versus Personal lurking behind that letter P is really so benign.
My Personal PLN is stronger than my Professional PLN has ever been. That is not to say that both are not valuable, but the informal learning channels and connection I maintain serve me better than any structured, pre-planned, formal learning ever has. I think it is several components which make the Personal PLN more important to me. The distribution of learning is almost entirely controlled by me. I decide when I login to social media, I decide when to seek out a person for advice, I decide what I am going to pursue, and I decide when it is not the right time for learning. That last one is so important because it not everyone is ready Wednesday afternoons between 4-5 PM.
It was so obvious that those in the room, at that professional gathering were very invested in the existence of an ordained path through which professional learning flowed. I have rarely felt so helpless to advocate for the autonomy of the individual teacher. So if the win was not in convert those in that room, where could an impact be achieved?
I thought back to an ISTE session from the summer, Susie Gronseth had shared a great BYOD session on strategies for managing professional learning information which I remember thinking would be helpful to new/newer administers and all teachers.
This was a well packaged presentation, important for those in the classroom, and since it could benefit almost any educator I wondered if I could repackage it for the next opportunity my work group had to share with our colleagues.
I combined it with Edublogs Building your PLN Challenge and set about inserting this in to my next work group’s presentation.
It happened that our next presentation was to the new teachers in our district. We had some district technology initiatives which were important, but I wanted to work the PLN into the presentation as well. I reviewed the content of the edublogs PLN challenge with some example apps which my team used. I added an experience piece for those in the audience not familiar with social media by modifying Shelly Terrell‘s Back to School Selfie Adventure for your Student’s for a New Teacher event.
This was a great end to (what I remember as a) sit and get-fest in that it had teacher up and moving, talking to each other, and laughing. I hope it exposed them to the idea of a parallel and or independent way to professionally pursue and develop their career. Remembering the overwhelming feeling of starting teaching, I feel comfortable saying it might be in the back of their mind right now, but maybe soon it will manifest itself!
Here was our presentation, we started talking about PLN around slide 13. This is the excerpt which specifically addressed the PLN:
The value of the Personal Learning Network is almost entirely dependent on active participation. What do you think about this approach? Have you done something similar, better, crazier? I would love to hear from you – an important part of my PLN.