There has been some discussion lately about the precise meaning of the term PLN. I’m not sure why it matters actually. Like any other word in the dictionary (!), it has more than one definition and might mean different things to different people…
My PLN is my ‘personal learning network’. It comprises the people I learn with and from, some face-to-face and others online, around the globe. They challenge me and make me think. They share with me, support me and collaborate with me. They argue with me, question me and force me to clarify my ideas. Wherever they are, whether I have met them in person or not, these people are part of my PLN.
As teachers begin to let go of ‘the old way’, to relinquish control and allow kids to take responsibility for their own learning, students too need to develop a PLN. As teachers begin to step down from the position of ‘boss of learning’, students need the skills and opportunities to learn from and with a wider network of people. How do we help students develop their own PLN’s? I think generally when people ask this question, they mean an online virtual network. Kids are clearly great at developing such networks themselves! What educators need to do though, is teach kids how to learn with others.
10 ways to support students in developing a PLN…
1. Arrange the tables in groups.
Provide opportunities for students to engage with their in-class PLN. Encourage conversation. Encourage cooperation. Encourage collaboration. Set tasks that allow students to construct meaning together with their PLN.
2. Let them talk.
Don’t do all the talking. Don’t be the filter. Allow them to respond directly to each other. Even if it’s a frontal lesson where you need to explain new material, allow 5 minutes here and there for them to talk it through amongst themselves. Use thinking routines like ‘Think, pair, share’.
3. Be part of their PLN.
Model what good learning looks like and sounds like. Share your own learning. Learn with and from your students. Don’t pretend to know all the answers. Discover and uncover new things together. Don’t overplan. Explore and investigate with your students.
4. Promote an out-of-class PLN.
Let them work with students from other classes. Provide cross level opportunities. Arrange electives that allow collaboration across grade levels. Organize learning experiences that involve other teachers.
5. Flatten classroom walls.
Create global connections. Collaborate with kids in other countries. Set up a Voicethread so kids all over the world can respond. Find classes learning about the same issues to debate with on Skype.
6. Learn from experts.
Invite speakers from your local community. Bring in people from anywhere in the world via Skype. Encourage students to pursue their interests by finding people they can learn from outside of school and online.
7. Encourage conversation with family.
Invite parents to share in the learning, in person, or by commenting on class blogs and wikis. Set tasks that involve parents, grandparents and siblings. Send student questions and wonderings that haven’t been addressed in class, home for discussion.
8. Learn through blogging.
Start a class blog. Write for an authentic audience. Ask teachers from other schools and in other countries to get their students to comment. Get your kids to read and comment on other class blogs. Develop a conversation. Develop a relationship.
8. Focus on communication.
Whoever’s in your PLN, you need to know how to communicate. Listening is just as important as speaking. Teach them that it isn’t always about you. Model consideration and mutual respect within a PLN.
9. Define the student’s PLN.
Increase awareness that learning doesn’t belong only at school. Ask them to think about who they learn from and with. Get them to create a mind-map showing their personal learning network. Keep adding to it as the network grows.
10. This one’s yours!
How can we support our students in building a personal learning network?
Series of posts on ’10 Ways …’ #7