Why Every South Australian Educator Needs A PLN

I wrote a post on my blog this weekend.

Nothing too unusual about that – for me. I also attended a Professional Development day earlier in the week along with about 140 other educators from at least four local schools. We were there attending a great day with Mark Treadwell, traveling scholar, author and education consultant for the New Zealand education system. Mark is an acknowledged expert in the field of 21st Century Learning, brain research and curriculum design and therefore had a lot to offer us regular educators sitting there soaking in his message. He challenged us with plenty of thought provoking information – and many people were ready to apply his words to their practice, quoting his work as a form of pedagogical gospel.

Now I really, really liked what Treadwell had to say. In fact, it was the second time I’ve heard him speak. But unlike the vast, vast majority of his Monday audience, I don’t have to accept his words as total, unchangeable gospel just because he is in the well-known role of expert. Because I am an online educator, because I am connected, I am “Googleable”, because I have a PLN (Professional/Personal Learning Network) I have advantages over many of my colleagues. I can pose half formed thoughts around one of his propositions in written form, share them in a public forum (like this blog) and gain valuable pushback from colleagues all around the world. I get to filter my initial ideas back through my network to moderate, balance and mould an emerging viewpoint that may differ to the advice offered by the expert.

I’m not discounting the role of the expert. We need them. But through the use of a PLN, a self selected collection of colleagues in various systems, sectors, countries, stages of career using a selection of social media tools (blogs, wikis, twitter, podcasts, videos, bookmarking) can offer me greater counsel in tapping into the collective wisdom of many, many experts. After all, we all have expertise. and we have something that many experts don’t have (or only have a second hand experience of) and that is grassroots experience. That is the grey area where the expert’s boundaries intersect with our experience. It is true that we need critical skills to make this work in the “publish then filter” era but technology can be utilised knowingly to filter any ideas around education and learning.

No one person holds the key to learning success – not any more and for me, that is the true shift of the new Internet Based Education Paradigm that Mark referred to on Monday.

Image: Sue Waters http://aquaculturepda.edublogs.org/files/2008/12/plntool.jpg

3 thoughts on “Why Every South Australian Educator Needs A PLN

  1. What were the main ingredients of Mark’s ‘internet based Education Paradigm’?
    What grassroots examples do you know of that fit it?

    On the notion of a PLN and that you obviously have a very wide and populous one, is it now too late for the lay web2.0 teacher to do likewise? Have the novices missed the PLN boat?
    There is some suggestion that microblogging is taking over, in terms of importance to blogging. For me, spending an hour on Twitter provides me with more ideas and communication with my PLN than spending the equivalent amount of time on a blog (and not just because I’m a fairly recent blogger).

  2. Colin, I’m sorry it has taken me so long to get back to your comment here. The best way to check out the ingredients of Mark Treadwell’s Internet Based Paradigm is have a good look through his website – in particular, this particular page.
    Yes, the PLN notion is an interesting one – while I strongly believe all progressive educators should cultivate and maintain one, how it should be created and grown is an individual choice. I see nothing wrong with someone using Twitter as a platform for creating these links with fellow educators – it is extremely economical time wise and if you know how to search for topics, it can be a manageable river of information and insights. I can’t explain my own PLN success apart from timing, good luck and the fact that an activity like blogging feeds an obsessive interest that others may find hard to maintain at a similar level. I think that being diverse in the choices one makes in connections means that a wider net is cast – I don’t always read and communicate with the “popular” or “well known” edubloggers – which leads me to another point that I will expand on when I tackle John’s next post here shortly. I think to be a good blogger means enjoying the writing process, being willing to write as much about your failures and doubts as much as your successes and honestly, be prepared to comment as much as possible. You can’t expect feedback without giving some out as well! I suppose that’s where Twitter can be a low effort alternative and where the whole network concept can work – you don’t need reciprocal connections but just a savvy feeling for who the movers and shakers are.

  3. As an educator and a professional writer, I think there are many drawbacks to PLN from how I understand it. Isn’t it true that this PLN can actually cause you to lose a lot of your original ideas and also might lead to others taking your ideas?

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