The importance of a Personal Learning Network

About a year ago I started on a personal journey toward Web 2.0 literacy in hopes that I could use what I learned to improve learning and library service for the students and teachers at my K-8 school. As the school’s media specialist, I knew I was in a unique position to share information and resources and serve as an instructional leader, and I felt compelled to bring the best information and most current emerging tools to the school, but I wasn’t quite sure how to do that. I needed to know more about emerging technologies, about Web 2.0, about what other libraries were doing and how other people were teaching and learning in the 21st century… I needed a personal learning network.

Then, one day I got an email alert from School Library Journal about an online course being offered through their website. The course was called All Together Now: A 2.0 Learning Experience and was being facilitated by Michael Stephens. I signed up, and for the next six weeks I explored 12 Things (blogs, RSS, wikis, and more). I participated at my own pace, but I shared my successes and failures and questions through the collaborative community of other librarians who were also engaged in the course. I was learning a lot – and with new people whom I’d never met face to face. I was excited.

I started a blog for my school. I set up an RSS aggregator and subscribed to several library blogs. I began to watch for trends. And I got more excited about what I saw happening in other schools and libraries around the country.

Then a friend of mine, Lee LeBlanc, accepted a job as Emerging Technologies Coordinator for the Southwest Florida Library Network (SWFLN). Now, I also had a personal connection with someone who was on the leading edge of learning and emerging tech. I connected with Lee and he fed me new information about other Web 2.0 tools and shared workshops and websites to check out. Through him I discovered Twitter.

Twitter has changed everything about how I learn. Once on Twitter, I connected quickly to other librarians, teachers, technology coordinators, futurists, school superintendents, new organizations, business folks, and more. My access to information and ideas increased exponentially. When I send out a question or request through Twitter, I get responses from Australia, England, Germany, India and all over the US. I am still fascinated that one tweet can lead me to a blog post that connects me to another person who suggests a new book to read or another website to check out. That then leads to another blog or tweet or social media tool to help me learn even more.

I discovered Classroom 2.0 founded by Steve Hargadon, and through that social network I found Classroom 2.0 Live! I participate almost every week now in Classroom 2.0 Live’s online webinars. that’s where I “met” Angela Maiers who helped me learn how to manage this explosion of information from all my social networks.

I’ve connected with my social network colleagues at workshops and conferences to make the learning even more meaningful. Thanks to the folks in my Personal Learning Network (PLN), I’ve even been able to attend conferences without actually being there – like NECC 2009 this week! I’ve improved the services to my students and teachers in a way that I might never have done without the help of my personal learning network.  My PLN has enabled me to read more books, articles, and blogs, share my stories, implement new strategies, and get feedback – and encouragement – on my work from colleagues all over the world. And I feel more connected to what’s going on around the world than ever before.

I have learned more about my profession and the world in general during the past year than in the previous five years thanks to my PLN. I’m more energized about my profession and my personal learning than I’ve ever been in my life. I love the way Caroline O’Bannon shows how her PLN describes what their PLNs mean to them via this wordle

pln wordle

And now, because of all I’ve learned, I am able to share it with my colleagues here in my school and District. I have just finished a fascinating week of professional development training with a group of media specialists in my District. They are now beginning their own journeys – establishing their PLNs and connecting and learning with people all over the world. It is exciting to be a part of the process.

If you were helping someone start a PLN, what advice would you give them?

What is the most important benefit of your PLN?

What three tools are most useful to you in your PLN?

Please share…


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