In this blog reflection I shall discuss the perceived values and benefits of a Personal Learning Network (aka PLN). I shall endeavour to identify my level of interest in this new approach to learning, its potential value in the teaching context of my selected teaching areas, and the potential benefit of PLNs to my future students. I shall also include in my reflection the envisaged potential value of a PLN in my professional life, and how it may have the potential to support my future teaching career as I endeavour to develop my knowledge and pedagogy. I shall attempt to identify the potential contribution of PLNs to the teaching and learning of other educators, and identify what I possess in the way of knowledge, skills and experience that may be unique.
What exactly is a Personal Learning Network, or PLN, then? According to our Topics 8 and 9 coursework materials (2017a), PLNs are described as global, potentially infinite professional development opportunities available twenty four hours a day, 365 days a year, originated from the connectivism theory, and have the real potential to support personal and professional growth. These networks are largely influenced by social media, and consequently the foundations of a PLN consist of the following foundational elements: (i) following the blogs of others, (ii) commenting on their blogs, and (iii) inviting and encouraging them to comment on your own blogs (CQU Moodle, 2017a).
PLN and social media
I realise that globalism is a fact of life for contemporary generations, and that it is the way of the future, particularly relevant in an educational context where the sharing of information and knowledge is paramount to the learning of others. There is no doubt that optimum teaching and learning is facilitated through global collaboration, sharing of information and resources, and exchange of knowledge and experiences. That means that teaching and learning are no longer confined to the classroom or schoolyard only, and that there are no time constraints either, allowing infinite inter-continental exchanges of digital information, resources and knowledge. With respect to the students, that equally means that their learning is potentially enhanced by the unlimited, perpetual availability of information and knowledge.
As I stated in my Reflective Synopsis (Swanepoel, 2017) earlier in this course, I have always regarded myself as a largely reserved user of ICT, and that information communication technologies were traditionally mostly used for the sharing of information within a confined context through local digital networks and electronic mail. In addition, I have never been a regular user of social media networks either, however after viewing the Personal Learning Network and Collaboration video as part f our Topics 8 and 9 coursework materials (2017a), I can certainly identify and acknowledge the value of PLNs in a pedagogical context and the promising beneficial value to the learning of students.
To demonstrate a real willingness to explore this very unfamiliar territory, I have now created both a Twitter and Scoop.it account to start building up my very own PLN, Twitter resource by Twitter resource, Scoop.it curation by Scoop.it curation, and Weebly blog by Weebly blog. Hopefully over time I shall be able to build up an effective globally available digital resource collection that will be of use to me for my future teaching purposes, but also for the sharing of knowledge and resources with other professionals and learners.
A unique attribute that I am convinced to possess - which is envisaged to be a huge boost to my pedagogy - is my 22-year industry experience as a civil/structural engineer, and as such I have already identified a large number of opportunities in the classroom to introduce that real-world experience and relevance beneficially towards the promising learning outcomes of students. I also believe that if I can manage to combine my industry experience with an effective, global PLN, that I should be able to use it even more beneficially for my own pedagogy and the development and learning of students. I firmly believe that if one can demonstrate to someone else through real-world examples why they have to acquire a certain portion of knowledge, a significant part of the teaching and learning battle has been won through relevance of learning content alone.
I acknowledge that I cannot argue the immense benefits and endless possibilities of ICTs, focused social media networks, and PLNs towards global learning and information-sharing, despite my own apprehensive, fearful and negative attitudes towards digital technologies at times. I also realise that there are a large number of practicing teachers out there in the world that may have the same unfavourable attitudes, fears and uncertainties towards, and limited experience with ICT, however I hope that I can overcome those attitudes and fears over time to subsequently have a positive attitude-changing effect on other like-minded educators, and maybe even students at times.
CQU Moodle. (2017a). Professional networks. Retrieved from https://moodle.cqu.edu.au/mod/book/view.php?id=418578&chapterid=29441
Swanepoel, J. (2017). EDED20491 - ICT's for Learning Design: Reflective synopsis.