About two years ago, I was introduced to the idea of a Professional Learning Network (PLN) through an online e-Pd course offered by the Calgary Board of Education (CBE) to its staff.  Completing the course required me to construct a mind map of my current PLN, which I kept to build upon later…

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My Initial PLN

… Who would have known where that PLN would grow to? Who would have thought this PLN would become such an integral component to my career and professional learning?  Well, I am sure the University of Calgary and Dr. Eugene Kowch knew the answer to this, but I never would have expected how drastic the impact would be!

During my first Summer Institute of my Master’s degree (Summer 2012), part of my course work was to do the following:

  • sign up to Twitter and follow all of my peers
  • create a LinkedIn account, connect with all of my peers, and join five groups
  • create a Word Press blog and write at least five posts about course materials

As a result of this requirement, my PLN has substantially grown, which has had a significantly positive impact for me both professionally and personally.  Professionally, I have been able to connect with colleagues who share the same passions and interests as me.  When I have questions or need assistance, Twitter has been instrumental in finding people who have ideas.  In addition, Twiter has “introduced” me to colleagues, who I have been subsequently been able to meet and work with.  Also, it has enabled me to keep in touch with colleagues I am unable to see on a regular basis.  Personally, I have been able to connect with people who share similar research interests, particularly regarding the flipped classroom.  People have connected me to others with interest in this field and have led to me valuable research papers and resources I otherwise would not have been able to find.  Also, while about 85% of my connections of Twitter are professional, personally friendships have grown – and I am attending my first “tweetup” to end off the school year!

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LinkedIn has helped develop my online presence, establishing my place in this professional context.  I have developed a great initial introduction to potential employers, and have made it an excellent platform to find other ways to connect with me.

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Word Press – this blog – has become my lifeline, and is turning into not only a grad school project, but also a place to share my expertise and experiences with others while also showcasing my competencies.  In fact, this could almost be my new resume and professional portfolio.  The best part about this blog is that I actually enjoy updating it and writing posts!

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Key to the success of this PLN is keeping these components of my online presence professional – there is a time and place for everything, and my career occupies these spaces.  As I move into my last Summer Institute, I am excited to see what is in store for further building my PLN.  When I look back to the photo above, I now realize the potential impact time and commitment can have in helping establish you professional identity.  As we speak of 21st century competencies and the need to prepare learners for the “real world”, I strongly believe that learning how to network and collaborate online both synchronously and asynchronously are key competencies that need to be developed.

From a career perspective, if you haven’t already began to develop your PLN, I highly recommend you give it a try!

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