A PLN (Personal Learning Network) is a network of people linked together with the purpose of sharing thoughts and ideas to improve as educators. A PLN can share lesson plans, teaching strategies, form support groups for new teachers, or just give someone a place to go who has a specific need or question. To build my PLN, I use Twitter, Diigo, and I have joined a message board called The Educator's PLN. These tools are invaluable for me as a teacher, because they give me a good place to discover the knowledge gathered by experienced teachers who have come before me. As a new teacher, I am limited in the resources available, but if I build a strong PLN, then the knowledge available to me increases greatly.
A great place to start building your PLN is on Twitter. There are plenty of people on there for the sole purpose to help out in a variety of ways. I followed some great people who spend their free time making sure they pass on their knowledge. These people include Tom Whitby and David Wees from #edchat, and Lisa Dabbs, Joan Young, and Jerry Blumengarten from #ntchat. I was pleasantly surprised on the amount of time and hard work they put into these chats. On March 28 at 5:00 PM I joined #ntchat, seeing as I am a soon to be new teacher and this might help me. The topic was "How is Coaching & Mentoring Helpful?" They set up four questions and opened up chat for participants to answer. I contributed what little I could to the chat on my opinions of mentoring, and I received great insight as to what others think of coaching and mentoring new teachers. I learned that this topic is a bit of a controversy in some schools, and that some schools just don't offer coaching for new teachers. This chat got me to thinking how much I would gain from having a mentor, or even a coach when I start teaching. It made me think how much more comfortable I would be in a school that embraces me as a new teacher, and offers me assistance. When I choose a school to start my career, if I have the choice between two schools, one with mentoring and one without, I will definitely choose the one with mentoring.
Many of us have utilized bookmarks in our browsers, but these just give us a link to a site. This link loses it's meaning to us over time, and we can't share it if we wanted to. Diigo changes bookmarking for the better. It allows us not only to tag our bookmarks for our own recollection, but it allows us to describe the bookmark, highlight important parts, and to share out our links to other link-minded people. Diigo takes bookmarking, and turns it into another tool to enhance our PLN. It becomes another tool in our social network much like Twitter. It allows us to follow who we think are interesting, and provides a place to search for these people. I found some people to follow on Diigo by searching for the term PLN. I found a resource that had a list of blogs created by educators for educators. One of these blogs was about the use of technology in the classroom. The other two blogs I bookmarked were specifically about using technology in a history classroom, which was neat for me since that is the topic I want to teach. I found these blogs through a single post on Diigo, and I followed the person who linked the site. I then went into her profile and followed some of the people she had followed. You can see how this creates a network that is easily to navigate. I would have never found these blogs and these people to follow if not for Diigo.
I signed up for an educational discussion forum called Educator's PLN. On this site there are various kinds of resources. There is the classic style discussion forum where you can ask questions, voice opinions, and share resources. Then there are sections which you can share videos, events, and blogs. It is all organized so that it is easy to use and that you won't get lost or run into dead ends. I glanced over the videos and I found one in particular that interested me. It was an animation by Sir Ken Robinson entitled "School Kills Creativity." In this video Ken draws and animates along as he talks about the current state of education. He states very strongly that the way we are teaching our kids today is based on an old technique that is no longer relevant. We no longer teach our kids to be successful in the world we live in today. A college education used to mean immediate access into a good job, and this no longer is the case. In a way I agree that we are teaching our kids like we are still in the enlightenment. Grades and standardized testing marginalize the kids who are not deemed "smart" and stifle creativity. We are so focused on the core subjects and the testing, that we cut things from the curriculum that could help kids after they graduate from high school. This one video on Educator's PLN video library brought all this thought to my head. I started to internally challenge the way I want to teach. This is a valuable resource to educators and is a great way to expand your own PLN.