After reading the article by Chuck Frey, titled “How to cultivate a personal learning network: Tips from Howard Rheingold,” I was struck by how simple reminders of how relationships of all kinds were addressed. You wouldn’t think that we’d have to be reminded to “be the kind of co-learner you’d like to encounter,” but indeed we do.
There are many ways to feed your own professional learning network. Add the people you already know and respect to your own professional network. These may be current co-workers or past co-workers. They could be past employers. They could be people you struck up conversations with at a recent training you attended. Keep your eyes open for people who help stimulate your creative juices. People that you get into interesting conversations with about all sorts of school-related topics are great people to add to your professional learning network. Then it’s time to get outside our physical world and into the “World Wide Web.” You may want to join reputable organizations that support teachers. You may want to search for bloggers or websites that help you get excited about your role in education.
Networking is about sharing, not just finding. So it’s great that you find all of these wonderful resources. Keep your eyes and ears open for things that might interest others. Share this information through your blog or on Twitter. It’s important to share what we learn. By sharing important information, you are providing value to the others in your professional learning network. Just like in our everyday life, one-sided relationships don’t go very far. Provide something of value to the members of your professional learning network. This could include ways you solved a specific problem in your classroom or the review of a book that they were thinking about using in one of their classes. It could also mean sharing the resources you created to teach the above mentioned book.
The major challenge I see to “feeding” my PLN is time! Everyone is so busy, that taking the time to review and respond to multiple tweets and responses to blogs each day may be difficult. In addition, taking the time to evaluate the relationship with those in your PLN will be another difficult thing. Just like pruning plants is important, it’s important to make sure those that are in your Professional Learning Network are contributing in some manner, if not, it may not be worth your time to have them be a part of it.