Personal Learning Network Thoughts…

Just a few days ago, Andrea Hernandez (edtechworkshop) and I had a  conversation about our Personal Learning Network.

A “working definition” by David Warlick says that a Personal or Professional Learning Network:

involves an individual’s topic oriented goal, a set of practices or techniques aimed at attracting or organizing a variety of relevant content sources, selected for their value, to help the owner accomplish a professional goal or personal interest.

As I am working on various projects at school (A Worldwide Audience for Six Year Olds? and Jewish History Fair), where the presence of my PLN played a mayor role, I can’t help but wonder, if using and “showing off” these connections to students and other teachers, does not shed a “false” light on “reality”.

In order to disseminate student work, like

and get them an audience for

you have to have an active PLN to work for and with you.

As Steve Dembo (Teach42) points out in one of his recent posts If you tweet, will anybody hear?

In the effort of attempting to demonstrate how wonderful, simple, powerful and dynamic it is, we make it seem much more effortless than it really is.
the fact that it takes TIME and EFFORT to gain a few hundred followers. And without having a critical mass of people to message out to, your odds of getting a response from a general tweet are VERY small.

Steve is absolutely right. It takes time and effort to blog, tweet, share and disseminate. Are we making newbies or others who we want to introduce to the value of a PLN look through rose colored glasses?

Seeing the World through Rose Colored Glasses

Some of us are expanding and growing our PLN through blogging, twittering, skyping and speaking at local, state, national and international conferences. In consequence, we are able to create projects, collaborate with global participants solicited through PLN contacts and disseminate results to get feedback through our globally read blogs. I would not be able to do a lot of these above mentioned projects, at least not to the same extend nor with such a far reaching response/audience), without the always willing participant of my PLN.

Will Richardson even compares creating, maintaining, growing and working with and through Personal Learning Networks to a literacy.

… the literacy becomes how do you build these [Personal Learning] Networks?  How do you flourish within these networks? How do you find trusted sources within that context?


You have to be able to engage in those conversations. You have to be able to find those other people who are producing content or who are engaging in their own kind of conversations that you are interested in.

It takes time… it takes dedication to build a network… it takes perseverance to not give up when no one responds to your  first (second or third) shoutout.

Building and Maintaining a Personal Learning Network

The conversation, Andrea and I had started, about PLNs took a turn by asking, if we could expect every educator to dedicate that time and effort into building  AND maintaining such a PLN?

Is it realistic to expect every teacher to create, be part of AND nourish a PLN? A network that consists of contacts that would allow them to expose their students and their work to a global audience, experts and collaborators? A network that models for students the possibilities of connected and collaborative learning?

I wonder if every school should have a a position that is dedicated to search for, find, grow, nurture and provide a far reaching network of contacts to bridge that gap? The person in that position would be connecting teachers,   scout curriculum related projects from around the world to get involved in, find communication and collaboration partners  and put them in contact with their colleagues and students.

A Learning Network- A Give and Take

That person would be responsible for creating a SLN (School Learning Network). I don’t mean a Learning Network among people who work at the same school. I am thinking of someone in charge of nourishing a Learning Network  for all classes, teachers and students at a school, with their interests in mind.

Such a person could be in charge of sharing resources, growing potential collaboration partners, being available to help others via video conferencing, survey participation or collaborative assessment and in return be able to solicit expert advice, receive authentic feedback and harvest resources to distribute among colleagues and students.

A Learning Network is built on a give and take. You get out of it what you put in. What if that becomes the responsibility of one person or a small group of people at one school in order to benefit the learning experience of everyone?

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