Personal Learning Networks - PLN - Keys to the Virtual World - Computers - Your Personal Learning Network

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Science Experiments

Beyond 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 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.

In a 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.

“So Adrian… how do I access the world of which you speak?” I hear you ask.

Well 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.

Ok, let’s put our toes in the water.

Pageflakes – 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.

I’ve 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.

Feel free to visit my shared page and if you like what you see get your own account.

Twitter – 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.

The 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 you’ll be taking part in the conversations.

Skype – 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.

I use Skype in a variety of ways. I’ve given a presentation in Hong Kong & New York using it. I plan professional development days with it. I’ve 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.

On to Personal Learning Network page 2