Overhaul Your Education with Personal Learning Networks

In its simplest form, a Personal Learning Network (PLN) could be an uncle helping to find his nephew a job in the family business. Thanks to technology, PLNs have become global networks, enabling educators and students to link to experts anywhere in the world. Learn how more and more students and teachers are utilizing PLNs to help with career advice, professional support and even mentoring. Schools offering Cisco Network Systems degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

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Using Personal Learning Networks to Find the 'Best Teachers'

Teachers and individual schools can only do so much. In some cases, limited resources and program cuts due to budget shortfalls can leave students feeling unfulfilled when researching specific career interests. But with the Internet and social media sites, students now have a wealth of vital information at their fingertips.

Take Iowa high school student Julia Albaugh. With help from her school librarian, Albaugh used Twitter to put her in touch with California author and marketing consultant Liz H. Kelly, who was able to provide her with valuable information about a career in marketing and public relations. Kelly was even available to speak with Albaugh's entire class via Skype video!

Twitter is a popular PLN tool. It allows students to 'follow' professionals working in or associated with a field in which they are interested. Ning, LinkedIn, Facebook and blogs are other ways for students to communicate with experts and learn more than they might through the confines of their classroom walls. For instance, PLNs have been most utilized in schools in rural areas where there tends to be less of a chance to find teachers with expertise in specific areas.

The best way to create a PLN, many suggest, is to use an RSS reader. Google Reader, Bloglines and iGoogle are examples of RSS readers that can be used to begin building a PLN. Media sites, blogs, RSS feeds and social media networks can be added with just the click of an RSS button as teachers and students begin to gather information for their PLNs. By clicking the RSS button, available on most blog, media and wiki sites, individuals can often subscribe to information updates for free.

Managing PLNs can be a somewhat overwhelming experience, but that's where teachers, guidance counselors and other school personnel come into play. These individuals can help students, as Albaugh's librarian did, link to the right people and find the information most helpful to meet their needs. And while PLNs are great for professional development, they can also be used for students to meet other students with similar goals and interests, and even for teachers to connect to other teachers.

At a Massachusetts high school, 1,100 students will receive iPads to help them develop their own PLNs. This and similar practices are expected to become more common in the foreseeable future as schools realize the value of these networks. As Will Richardson, co-author of the 2011 book Personal Learning Networks: Using the Power of Connections to Transform Education, told USA Today in August: 'I really believe the best teachers. . .are going to be the ones (students) find.'

Technology is helping people find careers: check out mobile apps that help job seekers find out who's hiring and even how to prepare for interviews.

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