George Lucas Educational Foundation

Personal Learning Networks: Where do I Begin?

Personal Learning Networks: Where do I Begin?

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I teach a seminar class that is, well... whatever I really want it to be. This year I am going to have kids develop personal learning networks. Kids do not know how to access the world around them for things other than tweeting selfies. I am however at a loss about where to begin. Even though I am capable and semi-aware of how to get access to information and resources I need/want, I don't blog, I don't tweet (even though I have an account), so the learning curve for me is huge.

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Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal, Author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, Director of the Antioch Critical Skills Program; Elementary Library Media Specialist

Start by building your own PLN! Take some time to get to know Twitter- follow some good lists or start by checking out Edutopia is following. You could also throw out the question to the students to start with. What is a PLN? Why would you want one? What could it do for you? How could you go about building one? Are you comfortable being a facilitator with that kind of open-ended plan?

Alex Shevrin's picture
Alex Shevrin
Teacher/leader & techie at independent, alternative, therapeutic high school

Start with getting yourself a Twitter account - just google "Twitter 101 for Educators" and a zillion resources will pop up! Read some tutorials and then hop on there. Start checking out some education hashtags like #edchat, #edtechchat, and the hashtag for your state (again, just Google it!). Read others' blogs to get an idea of the conversations going on out there. It may seem overwhelming at first but you'll get out of your personal learning network what you put into it!

It's pretty important to get comfortable with these resources for yourself first so you can model and support your students to use them in healthy, positive ways. can challenge students to teach YOU how to do so!

Alex Shevrin's picture
Alex Shevrin
Teacher/leader & techie at independent, alternative, therapeutic high school

Oh also one more thing - I would really challenge yourself to look at what your students are doing online beyond "tweeting selfies." Most students are more resourceful than you might think - start with assessing what they DO know before assuming that they don't!

cwenbass's picture

I understand what you are saying Alex about assessing what students know, and I am sure they know more than taking selfies. I was using hyperbole to express that although they have access to technology, they seldom use it for useful or productive endeavors. I take an inventory and discuss what the kids are looking at and using every year. It is mostly instagram.

Gaetan Pappalardo's picture
Gaetan Pappalardo
Teacher, Author, Guitar––Word.

Just a few Thoughts:

I would access the knowledge of my students first. What do they like? Interests, people, bands, whatever... then have them start following these interests on twitter and instagram to lessen the gap between just "liking" to "interacting" with the interests. Also, they need to focus on a purpose. Why are they interacting? Do they want to learn something --Just facts for writing a biography? How to cast a fishing rod? How to fix a lawnmower engine? Each interest becomes a personal learning network. For example, my twitter account is a three way PLN: Education, Writing, and Music (with some dribs and drabs of hockey and skateboarding)


Dan Callahan's picture
Dan Callahan
Professional Learning Specialist, Edcamper, Graduate Professor

Completely in agreement with many of the comments posted here, but the primary one is what Laura points out right up top, that you need to jump in and experience it yourself if you're going to ask your students to do it. If you're not actively participating in these networks online, your students are going to see that you really don't value them yourself, which will of course make them wonder why they should in turn.

cwenbass's picture

I agree with all the help/comments shared. I am concerned about finding a good place to start that does not result in my students spending all of their time online. I read a book a few years ago, The Dumbest Generation by Mark Bauerlein, that discusses alarming statistics about all the time kids spent using technology that is not focused on academics or learning about areas of interest. I just need to think smaller.

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