I must say that I am very excited about being able to talk about my PLN.  They are amazing and a very important part of my life!  I can say without question that I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.  Their support and knowledge has helped make me the educator and technology geek I am today!  Below is an image of my Personal Learning Network.

My first experience with networking was while I was working on my Master’s Degree.  We had an on-line community that allowed us to communicate with those in our classes, but also those in our program and the other programs in the School of Business and Education.  This was invaluable!!!  We were able to get questions answered that we might not have wanted to ask the professor.  We also had more resources to ask questions to other than just the professor.  But the thing that got me hooked, was the idea sharing!  We were no longer on our own little islands where we had to fend for ourselves, we had a wealth of resources from people who were in similar situations at our fingertips.

In my job as Education Technology Facilitator, I was able to join a new learning community, the Discovery Educator Network since we were a Discovery Streaming school.  This was an amazing group and still is.  We were just building back then, but being able to come together and share ideas and knowledge was amazing!  We all had something to gain from each other that we could take back to help our students.  Since then, through mainly the people in this group, my PLN has grown and so has what I have learned.  These groups that you will see on my mindmap have been an integral part of my education.

I will admit that the first source I go to when I am looking for information quickly or when I am having a bad day is Plurk.  I find this much easier than Twittering since the posts are threaded.  You can see how quickly answers come in and you don’t have to search through pages to follow conversations like you do on Twitter.  I also use my aggregator heavily to follow the conversations on several of the Nings that I am a member.  It’s much easier than trying to sort through all of the information that comes in to those groups.  I use other tools as well, but these are my primary resources and the places that I get the best information either by request or  by the sharing that happens here.

Metaphors of Educators

In his paper, George Siemens (2008) discusses four different metaphors of educators.  Each one is very different from the typical “sage on the stage” model that many teachers still use in most of their teaching.  These methaphors that he discusses all center on the learning of the students with the teachers being there to support the learning of the students.

In the Educator as Network Administrator metaphor, the teacher focuses on helping students create learning networks.  The students then are encouraged to evaluate their sources for reliability.  Any gaps in learning are then filled in by the teacher and the student.  This has value in today’s society because we focus so much on communication, particularly on-line.  Teachers create personal learning networks to share information with others in the field through networks like Nings, Twitter, Plurk, and others.  I see this model as doing the same with students, allowing them to communicate with other students who share the same interests and are learning the same information regardless of where they are in the world.  Project examples for this type of metaphor would be Julie Lindsay and Vickie Davis’s Flat Classroom Projects.

In the Educator as Concierge metaphor, the teacher shares information with the students that they might not have otherwise found.  Educators as Concierges may at times lecture when they are sharing information that the entire class may benefit from.  However, most of their time is spent observing what learning is going on and supporting it whenever possible with information that they might not otherwise find.

Educators as Curators perform two roles.  These two roles are experts with additional knowledge and guides that encourage exploration.  These educators create and map the students learning while giving them freedom to learn.  The teachers in this metaphor understand that given too much freedom causes students to be confused and overwhelmed, so they create activities that guide them along their way.

The last metaphor, Educator as Master Artist, allows students to branch out and learn not just what the teacher is an expert in, but are guided in their learning.  The Master Artist should be giving students information that changes the way they think about the world around them and what they are learning.

I feel that a mixture of these metaphors is what instructors should be to their students.  Although a mixture of all of them, would best benefit today’s students.  I think creating learning networks is incredibly important as well as being able to determine if the sources and people you are connecting with are reliable.  I also believe that it is important for teachers to be able to lead students to other information like the concierge does.  I also feel that the role curators play is important.  Guiding students’ learning instead of giving them total freedom over their learning provides them with some structure in their learning.  A blend of these three would be my ideal instructor, especially if they stay away from the sage on the stage model of teaching and focus on guiding their students.