Sunday, October 30, 2016

Why Every Leader Needs a PLN

The concept of a Personal Learning Network (PLN) has been around for a couple of years now. Educators who have embraced this concept have experienced firsthand the positive impact on professional practice that being a connected educator brings. The premise is relatively simple. Carve out a little time each day (15 – 30 minutes) and use one of many available free tools to learn. It is less about the specific tool that is used for the foundation of a PLN and more about the relationships, engagement, and new knowledge that result. 


Image credit: Harold Jarche

Leadership is a choice and not one that should be made lightly.  With this choice comes a great deal of responsibility to initiate and sustain change that will lead to a transformed school culture. Learning has been, and always will be, a pivotal component of this process.  With time always being in short demand, leaders must be on the forefront of leading the learning themselves if that is what they expect of others.  Basically, we get what we model.  Outside of instruction there is not a more important leadership quality that successful and effective administrators must focus on. Quite simply the best leaders are always learning. Learning is the fuel of leadership.

With budget crunches and lack of time it is often a challenge to participate consistently in invaluable, formal learning opportunities.  Nothing beats quality, face-to-face professional learning.  It is through these opportunities that time, applicability, and relationships intersect resulting in a powerful experience. However, leaders today now have the means to supplement formal learning opportunities with a PLN.  This is equivalent to a human-generated search engine that never shuts down and is powered by the knowledge of world-renowned experts and practitioners alike. 

PLN’s can be a tough sell at times, especially when they are being pitched to administrators who are either against or not on social media.  I can relate, as this is where I was prior to March 2009. I swore I would never be on social media as I didn’t have the time for it and that it would not help me professionally. Boy was I wrong. Now, like many others, I preach the many benefits connected learning brings to all educators. Administrators though, are at times tough nuts to crack.  Hence I have developed an initial list of reasons why every leader should have a PLN.  
  1. Support and feedback
  2. Work smarter, not harder
  3. Share your work
  4. Remove silos 
  5. 24/7 inspiration
  6. Acquire resources
  7. Collaborate locally and globally
  8. Track conferences/events (#)
  9. Latest innovative ideas
  10. On the go learning
So what would you add to this list? My goal is to come up with 10 solid reasons and then create an infographic. Please share your thoughts below.

22 comments:

  1. Leaders should have a PLN because status quo is not an option. Our students deserve a learning environment that bleeds risk-taking, sharing, and collaboration. The more our classroom, school, and district leaders take risks the more students will take risks as they make sense of their learning. There are different risks for different folks. For example, a teacher might have students compose an essay on Google Docs instead of the traditional pen and paper. Or a teacher could place their desks in pods rather in rows to promote collaboration. A school leader could tell their story by way of a Twitter handle instead of the traditional newsletter that is mailed home with the report card. The more educators share in the digital world by way of a blog, tweet, or pin the more student success will be impacted. Additionally, the more educators connect and get to know each other in the virtual world, the more meaningful those connections will be in the physical world.

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    1. Great thoughts Brad! When looking at the ten items I listed is there anything that you think should be added/deleted? I need some brevity here so I can begin to think about creating an image for this. Thanks!

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  3. PLNs push Risk-Taking. If they can do it in their classroom, school, or district then we can do it as well. All about having a certain sense of confidence and validation.

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  4. Story: I believe people learn best through story. And as we hear others stories of success and failure it helps leaders to lead better.

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  5. I agree with Jon. Stories of success and failure give people hope.

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  6. You can always do self reflections with your PLN. Reflect on best leadership practices and teacher practices. Not only should leaders have PLNs but they should have blogs as well. This will also lead to reflecting and sharing new ideas and practices.

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    1. Reflection sure is a powerful practice as part of a PLN.

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  7. Eric, I most appreciate the marriage between no. 4 and no. 7. Isolation, especially in leadership today, is a choice (and a bad, one, at that). Take that idea and apply it to "collaborate globally; act locally" and you have a formula for a thriving leader in a thriving learning organization.

    What if you combined those and added how we can try something learned in our classrooms/schools tomorrow, as well as let something "marinate" until we can see an opportunity to implement the synthesized idea, as it applies to our relative placement?

    Regardless, thank you for always pushing my thinking...

    ~ Dennis

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    1. That is a very good point in terms of combining those 2 elements. Thanks for the thought Dennis.

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  8. Eric, I have just begun the work to create my very own PLN. Already I can see how easy it has been to collect thoughts and advice from colleagues all over the county. The first two are what I believe drew me to the idea of creating a PLN. I look forward to speaking to you about this when we have the opportunity to Skype with you through our class in a few weeks. Dr. Mark Hoffman required your book as one of our texts and it has been an eye opener for many of us. Thanks for starting the conversation.

    Joe

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  9. Inspiration - PLNs serve as a platform to inspire educators and likewise gain inspiration from other professionals

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  10. Best practices and evidence-based research much needed. How do teachers and administrators remain current?

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  11. Best practices and evidence-based research much needed. How do teachers and administrators remain current?

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  12. Great list. I would want to somehow capture the idea of transparency. This is along the lines of risk-taking, I suppose, but this idea of not being afraid to share the process of learning, formulating ideas, sharing, and reflecting.

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  13. Having a PLN enhances perspective and provides immediate feedback to your learning journey. It sets the tone for you to model risk-taking.

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  14. Having a PLN allows for support and problem solving with a team that could be solutions driven.

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  15. Perspective-It gives professionals various perspectives.
    Free and convenient-Teachers can get professional development on demand.

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  16. Perspective-It gives professionals various perspectives.
    Free and convenient-Teachers can get professional development on demand.

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  17. It encourages self reflection as you read the positive things that others are doing in current time. Many of the things we study are outdated by the time they are published in paper form. A PLN allows us to stay current with where we are going as we reflect from where we have been.

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  18. Time does not stand still! The world of education is moving too fast to wait for new leaders to become effective leaders. Having a PLN allows a shotgun wedding to marry new and effective!

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