Long gone are the times when we still knew the names of our neighbours, had a small circle of friends that we grew up with and belonged to the local soccer league. The social lives of our students look so much different today. Their backyards consist of connections of endless networks across the entire world.
Whether you buy a Garmin device, play online video games, online gambling games, shop online, join health clubs, join food networks, look for jobs, there are networks available for all aspects of our lives.
Because these multidimensional networks are present in every aspect of our students’ lives, I believe that we need to teach students how to stay safe and how to use them effectively.
Just like we teach students how to behave in a class setting, how to interact with one another, students need to learn the ‘social rules’ of networking. They need to learn how to recognize predators or criminals, how to recognize bullying and how to be a good digital citizen themselves, treat others with respect and how to leverage their participation.
Personal Learning Networks are special kinds of networks that use 2.O technology that allows members to collaborate and share information. These networks are dynamic by nature and display user-generated content. They are usually a group of people that share a common interest or an area of expertise. Members join the network in order to learn from each other and to share knowledge and expertise about a specific topic.
Because our students play an integrated part in these learning networks, we not only need to teach the students how to leverage their participation but also how to express ideas in professional ways. Quite often PLNs are used as a valuable support system, an opportunity to expand one’s understanding.
Teachers need to model the correct behaviour and can act as a role model. They need to build their own networks so that they understand how they work and how it impacts learning. A good way for teachers is to start their own PLN is for instance by connecting to other educators via a twitter account, start blogging, create Social Media groups or take advantage of build-in community groups.