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How your Personal Learning Network (PLN) can move you forward

Updated: Aug 11, 2023

I was asked the other day "How do you find all the information you share?". This initially surprised me as keeping informed about the world around me, especially in relation to school libraries, has just become something that I do. How I do it on the other hand is harder to answer. I thought if I shared how I create my own Personal Learning Network (PLN) it might be helpful to others.

  1. Organisations

I think the best place to start is the easy ones. I have always been a member of the School Library Association (SLA), CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) and more recently AIIP (Association of Independent Information Professionals). Just by being part of these organisations, I am able to access a lot of information coming from the expertise shared within these communities. I read and share what I think is useful to others.

2. Social Media

Beyond that, I have built up my professional network on social media. I am on Twitter (X), LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook. I follow librarians across the profession not just school librarians as I want to make sure I am learning outside my bubble. I follow teachers, senior education leaders, business people and anyone I find who is sharing useful content. I don't restrict this to school libraries only. This helps me explore what others are talking about. What their concerns are and what solutions they coming up with. This has become even more important with the introduction of AI in education.

3. Interaction

I try to read and understand what they are saying especially by interacting with them. Learning is more than just reading. It is important to share your thoughts even if you don't get it right all the time. I find I learn a lot by joining in conversations. It helps me clarify my own understanding but also helps me to share my expertise too. We all feel that others know more than we do but that really is not the case.

4. Newsletters

I have a few newsletters that I am signed up for. These come straight to my inbox and I am very careful not to let them distract me too much. I look once a day and collect anything that I think will be of value to read when I have time. Some of them I skim and delete but I keep them as occasionally there is something really useful I would not have found any other way.

5. How it works for me

Having built up this network I do now rely on others to share their knowledge with me. There is no need for me to go on a random search for something unless I plan to look into it further of course. I am not talking about my own research for a specific topic I am talking about finding information that is useful to what I do. Something that will help move forward and engage with the movers and shakers.

I didn't start with this large network, I have worked on it over the years. Yes, it takes time and effort but I have found that doing this has given me the opportunity to move forward in my career. I am able to see a good idea and share it, I am able to enhance and share others' ideas but most of all I have found that in sharing what I am learning others can learn too. This is not a 'give and take' or I give you this so you give it back, it is a circle... I may never get back from the person who has learnt from me but if they share their learning with others that's great and what it is all about.

6. How to get started

I do this because it keeps me interested. I do this because it helps me professionally develop and I do believe that it is unhealthy for you to live in your little bubble and you should be finding time to do some of this yourselves. Start by creating something like a Wakelet or Notion and save what you find useful. Add your thoughts to it. Why did this article/blog/podcast interest you? As it grows put things into different categories. You will find that some are more obvious than others. This will help you identify what you are most interested in and will give you ideas of what to look out for.

7. Join me on this journey

Join a forum and share your ideas in a safe friendly environment. Take a look at my free forum. A place where I share what I find and invite others to discuss.

My weekly 'Three thoughts for your week' could give you a starting point. I find and share useful articles/podcast/blogs every week.

There is a world of learning out there so go and find what interests you and share it with others. I would love to hear what your personal learning journey is like. Where do you find what interests you? How do you move forward? Comments are welcome below.

This article was first published on LinkedIn and can be found here

Update 11/08/2023

Dr Kay Oddone shared her blog with me on LinkedIn after reading mine. She tells me her PhD thesis was based on this so this linked post is extremely useful to anyone thinking about how to get started on their PLN.

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