Image via CrunchBaseLet's start with the second question, first. What is a PLN? PLN stands for Personal Learning Network. While the acronym itself may be new, the concept has been around education for years, just in different formats. The main idea behind a PLN is to share information and learn from others in your field.
Personal Learning Networks have evolved over the past 30 years. In the 1980's teachers gathered at meetings, in classrooms, before school or after school to share information from books, magazines, conferences, etc. This was before the Internet, so the ability to share information quickly and efficiently was not an easy task. Email came along in the mid-90's and became the way teachers shared information and communicated with one another. They would send links from the web or personal experiences in their own classroom. That brings us to our current environment and how PLNs look now. PLNs are a part of our every day lives in education now with the use of tools like Twitter, Ning, You Tube and Delicious. Teachers are now able to attend meetings, workshops and conferences more often, but for less money. Through the use of video conferencing and other interactive tools, we can share and learn at a higher rate and lower cost.
So back to the first question: Why Do I Need a PLN?
Probably the best summary I have seen regarding this question is from @tomwhitby (who I follow on Twitter) said this about why we need PLNs: "All knowledge development did not stop the day you got your degree. You need to know it to teach it." Tom also created the Educator's PLN, which you can visit here: http://edupln.ning.com/
PLNs are necessary for teachers, administrators and even students. A Personal Learning Network provides us the venue to share knowledge, ideas and questions we have about our field and also allows to learn from those who share similar interests and careers. I am a firm believer that in order to be successful in this business, you have to continue learning daily. I also believe that in order your PLN experience to be a successful one, you must be a sharer of information as well. To sit back and only receive from others, will not result in a positive PLN experience. You must be willing to share your knowledge and experiences with others, in order to receive the same in return.
So go out and find the PLN environment that fits your needs. Be it Twitter, a Ning Group, Facebook or whatever the S/N platform - as long you share with others, your knowledge base will continue to grow.
JDS | CIO