What’s a PLN and why do you need it?

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Ever heard of Personal Learning Networks or PLNs? In recent years, and because of the rise of the use of digital technology to supplement learning, the term “PLN” has become a buzzword in teaching and other professional fields.

What is a PLN?

Simply put, a Personal (or Professional) Learning Network is a group of people you link with to learn from or share resources with about specific topics or areas of interest. It is all about sharing ideas and expertise, collaborating and learning. Marc-Andre Lalandre explains it better in this video:

Neat, eh? You may notice that many articles online about PLNs are directed to those in the field of education and written by teachers. However, those in other professions (even students) have latched on to the idea because it is a solid model for professional development in whatever field you may be.

It is not required to have an online PLN, but social media tools, such as Twitter, Google +, and even Facebook, have made it incredibly easy to build and more efficient to sustain. More importantly, it enables you to have a global reach, even including experts who are otherwise inaccessible.

So if you don’t have your own PLN yet, what’s stopping you? Allow us to convince you why you need it:

It keeps you up-to-date

When you come to Canada to practice your profession, you may need to bring yourself up to speed on the trends, issues, best practices or other aspects about your career that you may not have practiced or heard about in your home country. A PLN is the fastest way that you can read up on new things and be updated.

It’s free and easily accessible

To start your PLN, all you need to do is open an account in social media channels (maybe start with Twitter). Sharing and connecting are free. If you are new to Twitter, you can observe and “lurk” around first or search for your topic of interest by using a hashtag (#). This edublog on Using Twitter to Build your PLN from Teacher Challenge Edublogs.org can get you started.

It’s flexible

You don’t have to be always online for your PLN. You can share and connect during your free time or only whenever it’s convenient for you. Although, once you get the hang of it, collaborating constantly online is so easy because of the mobile nature of social media. Also, the more you actively participate, the more you get out of the network.

It motivates and inspires you

The beauty of being a part of an online learning group or a community of practice is that you get to share and encourage each other to learn, much like being in a face-to-face class or peer group. You can also directly ask questions and opinions online and share your views as well. Some get inspired when experts in the field interact with them through tweets, and you do get a boost when your post is retweeted and favourited.

Spurs continuous learning

Having a PLN is equivalent to having access to a wealth of relevant information at your fingertips. You can always stay on top of the latest trends in your field and be informed of other learning opportunities. Latest events, such as seminars and lectures (online and face-to-face) are usually shared online by peers. It is virtually free, accessible, and flexible, which makes it the perfect tool for continuous learning.

Ready for a PLN? Check out the links below to help you start your own.

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Community Resources

Read more about Personal Learning Environments and how to build your own Personal Language Learning Environment (PLLN). You will find great examples on this link too.

Here are 10 Great guides for a better professional learning network from Educators Technology.com to help you start your PLN. You can also read its A Simple Comprehensive Guide on the Use of Personal Learning Networks in Education which will help you through videos. Moreover, its Webliography has great links to resources that go beyond the field of education.

While you’re at it learn the 5 simple rules of proper netiquette to help you maximize your online presence.

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What’s a PLN and why do I need it?

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