the school gate exists an awe-inspiring virtual place where
a person can take almost complete control of their own professional
development. It is a place devoid of filters that allow
you to purchase a Russian bride but block the evils of lego.com.
A place where staff politics, ill conceived arguments and
small mindedness fall by the wayside to the pursuit of evidence
based best practice. A world inhabited by passionate
educators & switched on learning communities.
The world I speak of is that of the modern digital Personal
Learning Network or PLN.
nutshell PLNs are the connections and communications you
make with people and information in order to learn. As social
beings we have always learnt from those around us but with
the coming of the digital age, those around us
has grown exponentially to include almost anyone on the
planet with an Internet connection. This coupled with the
coming of the Read / Write Web (or Web 2.) the tools available
to enhance this connection are free, easily accessible,
receptive and productive.
how do I access the world of which you speak?
I hear you ask.
it is actually quite simple. You just find a tool from the
list below that you think sounds interesting and then start
experimenting. Be warned though, this is quite an addictive
way to learn. You may even find that turning on your computer
becomes a thing of joy rather than a chore as you never
quite know what gems await you.
lets put our toes in the water.
Technically these types of websites are called aggregators
but jargon aside, the metaphor that clarified this type
of tool for me is that of a paperboy. Each time I visit
my Pageflakes account the paperboy quickly ducks
out to the Internet and brings me back all the information
I have expressed interest in.
set Pageflakes up as my homepage so when I start the Internet
I can browse newspapers headlines, the latest posts from
some of my favourite educational bloggers, newly developed
websites and software, comics, popular videos from Youtube
and much, much more. The best part of these tools is that
you can set them up to deliver whatever you want.
free to visit my shared page and if you like what you see
get your own account.
These tools put you in direct real time contact with
anyone you wish follow. Personally I follow
about fifty educators, writers & consultants from all
over the world. These people ask questions of their network,
they announce when their latest articles are online, they
joke, they state their opinions, they argue, recommend software
and websites of note, they request resources and through
this interaction you gain some insight into what they are
like as people. You can also pick up heaps of ideas and
resources for you to transfer straight into your own classroom.
easiest way to get into these tools is to visit an account
like mine and just lurk until you feel comfortable
to participate. Hang around in the background, read the
stuff people recommend, begin to follow the people that
sound interesting and before you know it youll be
taking part in the conversations.
Skype is a program that allows phone calls to be
made over the Internet for free. It has the ability to do
video conferencing as well as group chats. All you need
is a cheap headset, microphone and a webcam if you want
to do video.
Skype in a variety of ways. Ive given a presentation
in Hong Kong & New
York using it. I plan professional development days
with it. Ive given interviews, solved technical problems
with people from all over the world, console, teach, learn
and keep in touch with family and friends. You can even
use it to play games with your friends. This is an amazing
free tool and before too long you will be chatting with
the people you meet in your PLN.