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Student Centered PLN’s

August 17, 2011

I was thinking the other day just how much I have been able to learn from my Personal Learning Network (PLN) and how I have been able to take the information that I get from it and share it with my colleagues. The information that I have received from some of the most respected names in educational technology, as well as teachers in the “trenches,” has been priceless. I primarily use Blogs, Twitter, Facebook and a variety of Ning’s to aggregate and share information. As professionals we need to develop the skill of choosing these tools, as well as who to follow, what hashtags to use on Twitter, and how to “mine” for the information that we are looking for to achieve our desired result.

But, what about our students? In our 21st century learning environments it would be an injustice if we didn’t teach them how to develop a PLN. If they can realize the value of the information that they can receive and share with others, as well as the collaboration that can take place, they will have a tool that will help them throughout their lives.

So, how do we do this and still accomplish our curricular goals and satisfy the requirements for standardized tests? Well, I have to say that I definitely don’t have all the answers but, if we use the power of this PLN and collaborate then maybe we can all benefit. So here are some of my ideas:

  1. Be A Model – Show your students your PLN and have a conversation with them about how you went about developing it. Let them know the work you had to put in at first and, if your like me, how it just got easier as you made those connections and learned about more resources. Remember, once they get the concept, and see the value, they are going to start to get more and more ideas.
  2. Start with an inside out approach – Start in your classroom. Develop a PLN amongst you and your students. It’s an easy thing to do with Web 2.0 technologies such as blogs and wikis. Start a class blog for discussion and collaboration or maybe a wiki for students to share resources or brainstorming ideas. There are a whole host of other tools out there, just think about how you can use them to start a class/course PLN. From there encourage your students to invite other teachers, administrators, or even parents to your PLN. You may be surprised at the response you get.
  3. Social Networking – Of course, there is Twitter and Facebook and Ning’s, and now Google+. But, depending on the grade level that you teach, they may not be feasible. Facebook has a policy that you have to be thirteen years old to be a member, so that disqualifies most of the younger students. Some Ning’s may not be appropriate for students and Google+ isn’t widely available yet.
    Twitter is valuable if you use it appropriately. One idea is to teach your students about hashtags or create lists for them to follow on Twitter. It’s important for them to see social networking as a tool for learning.
OK, so there are three of my ideas. You may think that they are pretty obvious but if you are innovative enough, and listen to your students ideas, then you will reap the benefits of your hard work. If you can get your students to buy in to the value of PLN’s, and allow them to explore a bit, they will do much of the innovation for you. Heck, you may even learn something!
One of the goals of this post, as all blog posts should do, is to get your opinion and collaborate. So, please comment and post your ideas or resources for developing student PLN’s here for others to see. Also, why not post to Twitter. Use the hashtag #studentpln and let’s get the ideas “flowing.” Remember, we are the examples!!
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