After listening to a webinar today on PLNs, I realized that I often speak about various facets of personal learning networks but haven’t addressed them head on. I’m a big advocate of PLNs because of their power to network with peers locally and globally. Additionally, I work from home, so I don’t have the more familiar hangout time with colleagues during breaks or at lunchtime when you would normally spend time discussing various topics. Instead, I’m more likely to attend a Google+Hangout or webinar to interact with peers in my field. Nowadays, I only see my peers face-to-face (F2F) at conferences. I just went back to school for my doctorate this spring, so now I’ll actually meet peers F2f but only during class on Monday nights!
First, allow me to make my own distinction between these two terms: PLEs and PLNs. Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) are formed to provide a depository or “online treasure chest” of great ideas and tech tools that you or your peers discover. You can have a shared PLE or an individual one. Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) are formed to guide our independent or group learning goals and professional development needs within a dynamic flow of information from our peers’ discoveries or that of our own. In my opinion, PLEs are more controlled by the individual or group and therefore static, while PLNs are more dynamic with input and output occurring from a networked community of learners.
Secondly, I’d like to share my own PLN because I think it’s critical to provide real examples and not just theory. Are you familiar with Paper.li? It’s a Twitter app that allows you to aggregate your twitter followers’ tweets into an e-newspaper. The possibilities are endless! I noticed that besides compiling your twitter feed and hashtags (#), it also will siphon your Facebook feed . . . that is, if you want it to! “Feed” in this context refers to your followers or friends comments, articles, photos, and links. Paper.li could be the next best thing for social networking for learning communities. Imagine what you could do with it for your school or project! Watch my video demonstration on how to use Paper.li to set up your own PLN: http://www.screenr.com/embed/92Ss
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Twitter, you don’t have to have an account to follow the tweets. Anyhow, I’d like to share some alternative platforms. One example is the use of wikis. I used PBWorks.com to create my first PLE for online English language learning resources: http://mypersonallearningenvironment.pbworks.com/w/page/25570751/FrontPage. Learn how to create a PLE on a wiki from this screencast: http://teacherrogers.wordpress.com/2011/11/22/how-to-create-a-ple-on-a-wiki/. Another idea is to use social bookmarking sites like Diigo.com, if you prefer not to collect resources on a wiki. For instance, Dr. Elizabeth Hanson-Smith is curating a Diigo site for TESOL with great resources in all English language teaching and training topics. Here is TESOL’s computer-assisted language learning-interest section (CALL-IS) Virtual Software List that she set up: http://www.diigo.com/user/call_is_vsl
I invite you to subscribe to my e-newspaper, The Online Educator, to become part of my PLN. I follow the EFL/ESL and tech leaders from around the world. Since this paper publishes weekly, it forces me to read about the latest technology tools and how they might be integrated into the classroom. For instance, I’m following the tweets of the Presidents of TESOL France and Chile, as well as IATEFL. Here’s the link: http://paper.li/teacherrogers/1301595898#. Check out these other twitter e-newspapers on similar topics:
1. This one is by another EVO Moderator, Barbara Sakamoto: http://paper.li/barbsaka/starter-pln
4. This one is created by another EVO Moderator, Jose Antonio Silva for this hashtag, #EdTech: http://paper.li/joseantoniook
Lastly, take a look at these large-scale, professional PLNs to connect with your peers and advance your knowledge:
1. The Educator’s PLN: http://edupln.ning.com/
2. aPLaNet: http://aplanet-project.org/
3. ELT Teachers’ Network: http://celt-athens.grou.ps/home
4. EFL Classroom 2.0: http://community.eflclassroom.com/index.php
P. S. You can also find me on the The Educator’s PLN!