Personal Learning Networks
My current PLN’s are extensive, they are something I have been using since well before I became an educator, and in the many fields where my interests lie. They encompass online, print and in person formats.
Many of my original PLN’s involved technologies which have now fallen from use, bulletin boards (prior to the internet), newsgroups (prior to email lists and social media), and many learning groups that once upon a time occurred in person.
Geeks is one PLN I use to gain access to a wide range of study. One of a series of websites dedicated to sharing information in various forms of media and through discussion forums. It is a members only site where I have been able to access a wide range of information on theology, philosophy, education, history and social sciences. From a simple chat on a specific subject tot he ability to access university lectures in video or audio format, this is the place I go to find the things I cannot locate on Google Scholar.
I have been using Yahoo Groups since before it wore that name. When I first used this service it was called eGroups, it then changed hands to become OneList before being purchased by Yahoo!. This service provides free hosting for interest groups of any sort. Its primary service is as an email list, but it also offers file and image sharing, member polls, message archiving and database tools. I operate several groups here, including one of the largest online English language Interfaith forums in the world and several others related to esoteric and theological study. While email groups like this have suffered with the advent of social media, they still exist and can be active an interesting at times.
Linked In has become a very good tool in recent years. It also incorporates interest groups that are wide and varied, but is more business related than most other online PLN tools. This means I can (and have) join groups related specifically to my fields of study in my location, such as the Australian Radio Communications Industry Association and Innovation in Vocational Education and Training. These allow me to have a greater input and discover more information of local relevance than many other PLN’s.
Facebook also provides the ability to create groups. Being social media, I use this less is a business sense and more in other fields of interest however it is still of note as part of my collection of PLN’s. Facebook works well in a ‘push marketing’ style where it is possible to produce memes or posts and receive feedback from personal contacts through this site.
Twitter also works as ‘push marketing’, though I have found it quite limited at this stage. It allows microblogging of 140 text characters which I find insufficient to express an idea thoroughly, however I do use it on occasion to announce a link to blog posts that are located elsewhere. Twitter is a bit like SMS when it first arrived, abrupt and almost always insufficient in content. Needless to say I am not yet a fan.
I also use this blog, and my blog at the Interfaith Church to distribute information that I have gleaned from my own research.
irl – or ‘in real life’ I have been published in a couple of journals (magazines really) which are dedicated to social sciences. As they are unrelated to education, I won’t provide the links here, but they have served to increase my standing and thereby my involvement in those areas of study.
At work we also regularly share our own findings from study and experience. Our lunch table conversations and irregular meetings have been one of the greatest forms of learning for me in the field of education. It is not uncommon for me to return to my desk to find an interesting article on education or my teaching field of electronics, or for me to share something similar with my colleagues this way. This usually engenders some form of discussion and group learning.
Being involved in our industries Technical Advisory Committee provides yet another PLN for me where I can discuss current topics about education in our field and have an impact on the learning of others on a wide scale.
Outside of the education field I have often been involved in weekend conferences and usually attend a few of these each year. This provides me with the ability to pass on information through workshops and/or lectures as well as receiving new information as a participant in the workshops/ lectures of others. The next such conference is a Peace Education Forum in Toowoomba.
Of course, this is not all of it. I have teachers who are friends too, most of who work in very different fields, and other educators that may not specifically identify as teachers (Priests, technical specialists, etc.). My students also teach me a lot and are a very necessary part of my overall PLN, as are many of my friends who are willing to sit around until the wee small hours in philosophical discussion.
I hope this provides some idea of what a PLN is to me, and maybe provides you with some new ideas.
Post Script: I forgot to mention the University of Southern Queensland, the University of Edinburgh and The Great Courses (formerly The Teaching Company) who all provide me with great learning opportunities and add to my PLN.