PLNs are the rage, lately, among Teachers Who Like to Learn. If you haven't guessed already, that's definitely me.
I have always been a voracious reader, out to learn all I can about virtually everything (though some things--such as birds...I'm truly sorry, birds...and fire trucks--don't interest me much. I also hate morning talk shows or Spoiled, Stupid, Surgically-Enhanced Hausfraus on TV. Those programs are my idea of torture).
So what is a PLN? It's just a handy way of saying how you get information.
What are your sources? What do you read? Who mentors you? Where/how do you have intellectual discussions and perfect your profession or craft?
I personally have many sources. First, I listen to NPR (yes, I am the NPR type). I read BBC news. I scan CNN. I change the channel in disgust when FOX is on. It's just a poor news source, in my opinion. I think I know--reasonably well--how good reporting and writing is done, and crackers, that surely ain't it.
Then I check Twitter for interesting links and discussions. I chime in on #edchat and #litchat and Gifted and Talented--that's my thing!--(#gifted) tweet-fests. In case it's new to you, and don't be embarrassed as we all have to learn at some point, the # symbols denote hashtags--ways to find topical discussions on Twitter.
I meet (virtually speaking) new and interesting people that way. I read their blogs. They read mine. We send each other messages about what we're learning and doing.
I am also part of several NINGs, both for AP teachers and educators in general (The Educator's PLN). On the NINGs, I can read discussions, add my thoughts, or ask questions that other members answer. I might answer someone else's question (I once gave a fellow teacher tons of info about teaching poetry).
What I like about all of these sources besides TV news (which is passive) is the fact that they are interactive if you want them to be. You choose to tune in; you choose to read; you choose to pose questions or raise points. Other people respond to you or spread what you're saying and you gain--exponentially--much more insight and feedback.
Now that we have so many fabulous ways to learn almost everything we ever wanted to know--THANK YOU, INTERNET!--I can't even remember how we coped before.
Remember the world of phones attached to curly cords, of pencils and paper and file cabinets and ditto machines? Wow--seems like ancient history.
The truth is, though, that like-minded people will always find each other and always find ways to connect and share knowledge.
As E.M. Forster, one of my very favorite writers, once said, "Only connect."