My dad is the type of guy who loves to talk to anyone. We could be anywhere, literally anywhere, and it never fails that someone will come up to him and start a conversation. Sometimes these people don’t know my dad, but they love commenting on his height. My dad likes to tell people he’s five feet twenty inches tall. But more often than not, they know him from his professional career. My dad has been in education for more than twenty years, and he has met a myriad of people along the way. In addition, my dad loves twitter. More so than me, that is for sure. He’s had his account for years. Naturally, he doesn’t use it to re-tweet memes (although he is a big fan of the Faux-Pelini account) but instead uses it to interact, observe, and collaborate with his professional peers. I didn’t know it until this week, but my dad constantly takes advantage of a cultivated personal learning network.
In order to better understand what a personal learning network is, let’s break it down. According to Michael Graffin, co-author of this learning series on building a PLN, it all comes down to the name itself. “Personal” is about making connections with others. This one is hard for me. I’m not the type of person who feels the need to interact with a ton of people. I much prefer to make close bonds with only a handful of those who are closest to me. Introverts, unite! All joking aside, it is good to leave my comfort zone at times. Creating a personal learning network can help me get outside of myself a little, and enjoy the intellectual presence of others. “Learning” stands for taking advantage of all the knowledge others are willing to give. There are so many people on all corners of the internet posting content and experiences that others can adapt and use themselves. All one has to do is be willing to look for it. “Network” represents the idea that these people might not be from the same state as you, or even the same country, but all over the world. Not everyone does everything the same way, and getting international perspectives helps to grow the mind. Beneath these three umbrella areas, there are many uses to be had. Some are listed in this informational (and cute) tweet by Katlyn Paslawski located below that I found under the hashtag PLN on Twitter. Personal learning networks are a truly profound resource.
— Katlyn Paslawski (@MissPaslawski) September 11, 2016
They are not only for professionals, however. Anyone, anywhere can seek out people with the same interests in order to learn more. As someone who wants to be both a future high school English teacher and a church youth leader, I am currently in the midst of growing personal learning networks in the areas of secondary education, English language arts education, and my Christian faith. At first I was setting my complete focus on seeking these types of people out on twitter, since that is what is required of me for this class, but as I was looking up accounts to follow I realized that I already had a personal learning network started on Pinterest. I frequently save many pins from fellow English educators, homeschool moms, and people who work with youth in churches. It gave me heart. Personal learning networks don’t always look the same for everyone, and that is perfectly okay. Thus far from both resources I have found that there is a nearly endless supply of innovative ideas being constantly posted. It’s incredible how much information is right at my fingertips. Equally incredible is the fact that I have my own ideas I can now share with others as well.
While I have my dad’s personal learning network as an example, I am excited to keep growing my own. I feel as though I’ve already found a ton of people to learn from, but I know that I have only scratched the tip of the iceberg. I will be able to interact, observe and collaborate with plenty of folks down the road. Who knows? Even though I’m only five feet seven (and one quarter) inches tall, perhaps I’ll be the one talking to people everywhere I go one day.
P.S. Shout out to all my fellow Supernatural fans with the title. 😉