In the 20th century, networks were created locally. When teachers sought professional growth, they may have looked to an experienced colleague on staff, or joined a professional association, undertaken a course, attended a conference, or read from professional journals. Access to such networks and professional support was limited by who you knew, what courses and experts were available locally and the cost and subsequent affordability of any learning opportunities on offer.
In the 21st century networks have become both local AND global. When the Internet reached the Web 2.0 phase, social networks came onto the scene. People started to share ideas via tools such as blogs, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Diigo, Pinterest, Instagram and so on. These new forms of communication allowed people to talk to, and collaborate with, people anywhere, at anytime, about any topic that interested them. These networks are called Personal Learning Networks (PLNs).
But what does this mean for teachers?
With a PLN, teachers can access the professional development they are seeking when they need it and stay up-to-date on best practice for the classroom. No longer reliant on what is on offer in their local area, teachers with a PLN, gain access to instant support from colleagues around the world whom they can learn from, talk to, seek advice and feedback, problem solve with and even work together on collaborative projects. At the same time, these teachers are also modelling the benefits of digital citizenship and lifelong learning to their students.