Personal Learning Networks (PLNs)

In the world of education, PLN stands for a personal learning network; some may also refer it to a professional learning network. This is a personalized network of educators and education resources that one develops for personal learning and professional development.

There are so many advantages to building a PLN as can be easily visualized in the picture below:

Therefore, PLNs can be of tremendous help to 21st-century educators. With the advancement of technology, teacher seminars–now known as professional learning communities (PLCs) have moved online and, consequently, PLNs are created online.

My PLN Experience

Personally, I have been building PLNs throughout my career without knowing it or knowing exactly that these connections are called PLNs. However, my studies at UMUC have enabled me to cap the ideas of PLNs and realize how important PLNs have been to my personal and professional growth. Thus, in my infographic below, UMUC is at the peak of the pyramid to indicate this.

As far as I know, there are many PLCs operating on LMS platforms like Edmodo and Schoology. Many of these PLCs focus on specific topics such as Flipped classroom. Being a part of some of these PLC has helped enrich my instruction in immeasurable ways. 

My PLN Experience at UMUC

In my 17+ years as a teacher, I have certainly taken part in many Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) albeit unbeknownst to me what new appellations are attributed to them. I remember around 2001 when I had just begun my teaching career, we would have quarterly physics and mathematics teacher gatherings –something we called in those days “professional seminars”–when all physics and mathematics teachers in my province (the Northwest province of Cameroon) would come together and share ideas about strategies to better teach the subject. Now, when I think about it, those were the first Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) I ever attended. 

Since I took this course, I have come to find that there is always more to learn and always better ways to learn in the professional environment. One of the most important values I have learned is that distance is not a barrier to conducting PLCs; while there may be some obstacles in conducting global PLCs, much more experiences can be shared, especially when all participants are committed. Besides, even physical PLCs are not without barriers and all we need is to know is how to overcome the barriers (Ullman, 2009).

Another important value I have learned is that personal/professional learning is not hindered but is rather enhance by the advancement of technology. Although we would lack the kind of social interactions that we used to get from our seminars, we gain another kind of social presence that comes with the internet. 

From the start of this course, I have had the chance to broaden my PLN experience. I have added more networks to my social media list. For instance, I keep track of new Edutopia and Education Week articles on Twitter. And, I am not only a passive reader of the content but I have also engaged in the active process of commenting on the articles. Sometimes, I am able to pull content from Twitter and share on another PLN that I have created on another social media platform called Wechat. Wechat is widely used in China for communication and the Wechat Moments is a platform for sharing content such as photos, videos, links, and many other things with friends. Friends can then write comments to the content shared. During the past seven weeks of this course, I have posted articles, quotes, PLC photos on my Wechat Moments and got some pretty interesting comments from colleagues and students.

With all the learning that I have experienced so far in this course, I can definitely conclude that my quest for knowledge, will not end with the course.

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Dr. Vincent P. Techo
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