Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Growing My Own Professional Learning Network

I remember a line in an old nursery rhyme – “Mary Mary quite contrary, how does your garden grow?” What if we took out garden and put “professional learning network”?

Liz Davis talks about Ten Tips for Growing Your Learning Network in her blog post and it made me think about whether I do these things and if I had any others to add. I think the main point I got from her tips are that in order to grow a learning network, you have to be actively engaged in doing so. You can’t sit around hoping that it will come to you. Here are things I did to grow my learning network and if you have some you would like to add, please add them in your comments. I love learning new things to build up my network.

I read blogs about education by other people. I tried to pay attention to what I liked or didn’t like about the blog. I try to see any similarities in the blogs that I read. What made me keep coming back?

I signed up for a Google Alert for education topics that is sent to my email each day. I then read articles that were thought provoking. This saves time so I don’t have to search individual articles myself.

I began my own blog to clarify my thoughts, discuss the articles and blog posts that I read, and to share my ideas with other. Blogging takes time and energy but it is well worth it. I have met new people through blogging and I have enjoyed ideas that other people have shared with me about the topic. It is a lot of fun to get comments too. Not all people will agree with what I’ve written but it is nice to hear encouragement from the ones who do agree.

I joined Twitter and Plurk. I met other educators that I could interact with. The discussions really help me to stay on top of current issues. I also learn so many new things from my friends. Links to useful resources abound in the conversations and I love exploring these new territories. Any problems I have are usually easily solved by my network because someone out there has encountered the same problem at one time. If you do join, I suggest you stick with it for at least 2 weeks before you decide if you like it or not.

I attend some conferences. It can be online or face to face but this is very important. I attend the state and national Council for Exceptional Children conferences each year. I also attended my district’s Technology Conference. After joining Twitter and Plurk, I have been able to attend many free professional development sessions/conferences. You have to experience it yourself in order to really see how the power of your network can help you and actually experience it as it grows.

I use delicious and diigo to bookmark many useful resources. I also add others to my network on these pages so I can see what other people are bookmarking. It really saves a lot of time and when people add tags to their bookmarks, it is easier to find resources that you might need.

I use Google Reader in order to aggregate all the blogs I read. Then I don’t miss any updates of my favorite bloggers. I look forward each day to seeing what has been written. Sometimes if the topic doesn’t interest me, I can skim right over it. By aggregating my blogs into one place, I’m able to save time instead of constantly going to individual blogs to see if they have updated.
I listen to education podcasts. The discussion helps me see different sides to different issues. It helps me decide on what I think is important to me. People recommend podcasts that they listen and I like to check them out. I love to hear about projects that people are involved with, the process they are going through and how to get involved if I want to.

I join in the conversation. For a long while I just lurked in the background. I realized that to get the most out of my network, I had to add to the conversation. I had to be able to share my thoughts and opinions because what I put into this is what I would get out of it. If I just sat around waiting for everything to come to me, I would be sadly disappointed. I think that is why some people have trouble with networking. They are willing to put time and energy into its development and then wonder why it isn’t happening.

I feel these things have helped me develop a successful network and I hope that some of these things will help you. I think the most important thing to remember is to get out there and join in the conversations! See you there.


Penny Ryder said...

I'm enjoying growing my professional learning network too. Yours was the first blog that caught my eye and I have been watching you for tips and ideas. It's great how we can learn from one another. :)

Warrick said...

A nice description of the journey; more and more I've been thinking that the most powerful networks of the future will be self-directed ones like yours

Caroline OBannon said...

I will be presenting next month at a state conference on this very topic and would love to use you as a source, with attribution of course. I think you hit on a very crucial point with growing a professional learning network with this statement "I had to be able to share my thoughts and opinions because what I put into this is what I would get out of it. If I just sat around waiting for everything to come to me, I would be sadly disappointed." Participation in the conversation and willingness to share is so important. A PLN isn't a one-way street. It's a share and share alike relationship in my view. Great post!

scarter said...

Great post, you are exactly right on having to be active. It took a full month for me to see the professional value of plurk but can't imagine life without it now. I used to phone friends for advise. Now I just plurk to get the advise i need.

loonyhiker said...

Penny: I enjoy reading your blog too and seeing the activities you are doing with your class.

loonyhiker said...

warrick: I really think we have to take the initiative or we will be left far behind. Thanks for reading!

loonyhiker said...

caroline: You are more than welcome to use whatever I say in your presentation. Thanks for stopping by and reading!

loonyhiker said...

scarter: And I enjoy seeing and reading what you plurk too! Glad you finding it has value.