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Bridget Crooks: Being a Connected Learner

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by Bridget Crooks
Expert Educator Columnist, New Zealand

I stumbled upon the above quote last week.

Well, it came up on my facebook feed – shared by a wonderful teacher I know. And it really made me think.

I live in a small town and work closely with one other colleague who teaches the same subject I do. What do I do when the answer isn’t in the room with me? What do I do when I don’t understand a concept? What do I do when I need inspiration?

I turn to my PLN – my Professional or Personal or (my favourite) Personalised Learning Network.

If you are not familiar with the term PLN it is using social media and technology to collect, communicate, collaborate and create with connected colleagues. Or “a system of interpersonal connections and resources that support informal learning” (Trust, 2012).

There are two main tools for building your PLN.

Information Aggregation

The information aggregation tools are used to collect and organize information from various sources (websites, podcasts, blogs). These are your RSS feeds and social bookmarking sites like Diigo or Delicious.

Social Media Connection

The social media tools provide a space for educators to connect with a global audience with shared interests. My PLN covers Twitter, Yammer, Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook.

Being a Connected Educator has so many bonuses. It is flexible and personalised. I can access it when I need to; I don’t have to wait for a certain date or time.

I can ask questions and enjoy the collective brains of my PLN.

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I can even search my PLN quickly and effectively.

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Through the use of Office 365 I can collaborate on documents with teachers on the other side of the world. I can share my work – and can have work shared with me.

With Skype and MS Lync we can communicate face to face, as can our students, and now with Skype Translator even language is not a barrier to our learning.

Lifelong learning does require effort – and you do have to build your PLN. Be brave, start interacting, collaborating and sharing – support the Connected Educator culture. Start small, try Twitter – it will then direct you to many other sources. Search the hashtag #MIEExpert15. See what amazing things are being done by the incredible Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts this year. You can even follow me @bridgetcrooks and see how my PLN is the driving force behind a Drama Production in two different countries.

It really is a small world out there – technology has removed the barriers of time and space and we can now work anywhere and anytime (although not everywhere and not all the time!)

So get connected – and encourage your students to get connected too. See outside of your classroom and grow exponentially as an educator.

Trust, T. (2012). Professional Learning Networks Designed for Teacher LearningJournal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, 28(4), 133-138.

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