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Professional Learning Networks for Teachers

 http://franksblog.edublogs.org/2009/01/16/get-connected/
                                            
Many language teachers are more and more comfortable with technology in their daily mundane life though most do not infuse their technology into the classroom context. This is probably due to the fear of taking risks and experimenting in the classroom. Those same teachers log on everyday online and socialize with friends and colleagues. But that’s just about it. With the increase use of web2.0 technology in all aspects of communications, educators around the world can link with each other to share beliefs, ideas, resources, and innovations in education.
In my teaching context teachers log online everyday, for hours, to socialize and check on other people’s news and updates. Social networking has been largely adopted, often with ease, by all educators, whether tech comfy/savvy or not ( e.g. Facebook, MySpace, Hi5, twitter, and others…). If a teacher logs online for educational purposes, he/she acts as a passive participant. Common behaviors include downloading resources such as worksheets, videos, etc…
From social networking software appeared the professional learning network. It is a network of educators who share knowledge together, sometimes in a collaborative mode. The teacher is now able to open up to the wider international educators to enrich his/her and benefit other teachers with this socio-cultural approach.

Professional/Personal Learning Networks

The best professional learning networks are usually social networking environments and  micro blogging.

Social networking environments

ninglogo
To me Ning is at the top of the list here ( though others like Facebook has potentials). Ning is a social environment where like-minded people can share ideas and discuss on what interests them.
Classroom20 is one great PLN ( professional/personal learning network) where educators all around the globe join in for one reason “How to improve education, especially with the use of web2.0.”
The Arcal and Webhead Learning Hub is a network of teachers helping other teachers integrate ICT in their teaching. The eflclassroom is another edu ning network where ELTs collaborate and discuss issues that concerns them as English language teachers and educator. Eflclassoom is abundant with resources for the English teacher. However, that best resource is the discussion that goes on between teachers.
There are also special interest education networks like ning in education ( Best practices on using ning for educational purposes), Technology Integration in Education ( Sharing and discussing best ways on integrating technology in the classroom), The Future of Education ( charting the course of teaching an learning in a networked world)), learncentral ( asynchronous social networking and the ability to store, organize, and find educational resources with the live, online meeting and collaboration provided by Elluminate technology), Games in Education ( use of electronic games in pedagogical context), and IATEFL learning technologies  to name a few …

Microblogging : Twitter


twitter-bird is considered by educators the best PLN as it enables educators to share resources and discuss issues in a 140 character message. When an educator first starts tweeting her/she does not fell the significance of twitter until he/she follow other educators’ updates and those in return follow his/hers.
I have seen educators who wanted to start tweeting but couldn’t find educators to follow Shame on you .
C4lpt provides a directory of learning professionals who have online presence and are active participants. Notice that most professionals have twitter accounts. So this is a place to start. Follow these professionals and read their updates, retweet them, reply to them, and update your status frequently ( at least for the first few months) and you can have a faithful PLN who are willing to answer any questions that concern you.
There are also discussions or chats that educators hold frequently like
#edchat and #edtech where educators focus on one topic to explore.

caveatimage 

As an educator, you should know that working in isolation does not benefit you, your students, or your educational institution. In addition, being a passive educator only observing educators sharing their ideas without stepping in does not help much in your professional development. One can be educated and trained but not developed by someone else. Development comes from within. That is why you as an educator, in order to actively build a community of practice, should be an active participant, whenever you can, in your PLN in order to maximize your benefit.




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