The Educator's PLN

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I tell myself that I’ll whip up a blog after every #edchat, but, alas, leave every session with my head spinning too wildly with ideas to think about or implement, that I can barely center myself enough to jot down the resources I want to check out. This week, I couldn’t keep myself from mulling over one possible #edchat topic in particular.

Should teachers have students write blogs, develop class websites/wikis, student PLN's?

When I first saw this posted as an option on the #edchat poll for Tuesday's discussion, I immediately thought, "well, duh, of course we should!". However, if there is one thing I've learned traveling around
the country meeting other educators over the past few years, it is that what I take for granted to be a "typical" teacher viewpoint may be anything but universal. Are there still teachers who see no value in
having students blog their ideas or contribute to group / community workspaces such as websites and wikis? This is, of course, a separate issue from those who are still not comfortable with the process of
introducing these skills in their classroom.

What got me thinking, though, was the idea of student PLN's (Personal / Professional Learning Networks). It seems a natural fit for college students and perhaps even high school students to begin the process of developing a network of others with similar interests. (See The Networked Student
highlighted in Patrick Larkin (@bhsprincipal) and Superintendent Eric Conti's recent blogs) They already do this through Facebook and other social media.

But what about my fifth-graders? Can they start to develop PLN's around their interests in the pursuit of academics? Could Jason, who is wild about baseball, reach out to other like-minded elementary students to share websites and other resources through, say, a social bookmarking site, in order to do a research project or story? Could he brainstorm ideas and peer edit work with students in other
districts or even other countries as he writes persuasively of his ideas on how the game could be improved or how he believes it has impacted our lives?

I'm not at a point yet in my own learning to know how this could be effectively implemented with students so young, but if we expect students to reach out beyond the classroom to create their own
educational opportunities and to take the initiative for pursuing those who can be mentors or co-learners, can we really wait until high school to introduce the concept?

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