One of the best things about being a member of a PLC or PLN is that as an individual I can draw on the wisdom of the group. Any question I have is answered (usually within hours) by someone in my online community who knows more than me. For example yesterday I got really frustrated with TweetDeck which crashed constantly. Fortunately I received 2 suggestions for other apps that would work well (Tweetbot for the iPhone, Hootsuite for the iPad) from my PLN (one suggestion was from someone who does actually know me as I used to work with her at a previous school, another is from someone whom I have never met as she lives in Australia). Everyone is happy to help - it's free to share the passion.
Advantages of having a PLN/PLC:
- No cost (except time)
- Learning how to learn together - the focus is shifted from what you teach to what you learn
- The focus can be on improving what you are already doing rather than adding on something new
- Valuable peer review for your new ideas - before you try them out at school
- Professional development - you want to learn something new, someone can always help you
- Your professional life becomes more satisfying - even if you are working in a place that doesn't value change you can be part of the change that is happening elsewhere. You (and your ideas) don't have to stand still.
- Your PLN can improve your self-esteem and support you during tough times when it might be hard for one of your face-to-face colleagues to go "out on a limb" for you.
- The joy of sharing the passion.
Now, if we see how many advantages can come from being part of a PLN/PLC ourselves as teachers, surely we can see the same advantages of students being part of such a group. Suzie Boss and Jane Krauss write, "A project-based learning collaboration among students is a lot like a professional learning community among teachers." If we are passionate about learning and collaborating with our peers, it's a sure bet that our students will be too.
Photo Credit: Sharing by Josh Harper