top tips for building a professional learning network

category: collaboration
Imagine a world limited by a lack of information, where you’re unable to find out the answers to your burning questions or stopped from sharing your own expertise.

Swing back a hundred years and feeling empowered to share ideas, ask questions and seek knowledge was something frequently limited by distance, money and social barriers – but our reality couldn’t be any more different today.

Particularly in the West, no matter gender, social position or political affiliation, the 20th Century saw children given free education to provide them with the skills needed to secure and maintain a job throughout life.

But it didn’t stop there and, as we stepped into the next era, the world expanded again – thanks to the creation of the Internet.

A few decades on and it has become an almost unfathomable global network of information, communication and innovation, ever-changing the landscape of social interaction and understanding as we know it.

Which is why it is one of the most exciting things to ever happen to world of learning – particularly when it comes to the rise of social media.

No longer do we simply rely on books, which were once hard to fact-check – now, we can ask the researchers direct questions themselves and share new ideas with people from all over the world.

You might even stumble into a Twitter conversation about the latest advancements in 3D-printing human skin (just one example but it’s all out there).

However, for those of us working in learning and development, one of the ways we can make the most of it is by creating our very own Professional Learning Network (PLN) – a place where people can ask questions, follow thought leaders or start their own discussion groups.

And these are our top tips for doing it right…

ask questions

Whether you’re using Twitter, LinkedIn or your own forum, asking questions is an amazing conversation starter – even if you do consider yourself the expert. Never underestimate what you can learn from other people (even your own students).

join online conversations

By joining online conversations that are already happening (look out for certain hashtags, such as #LDInsight), you’ll not only make new connections like never before, but you may also be able to share valuable insight with others in your field.

follow thought leaders

It might seem fairly obvious – but keep up with what leaders in your field are doing. If they’re willing to share their thoughts and ideas with rest of the world, you should absolutely be making the most of it.

start your own group

Got a speciality or a particular interest in one area? Or maybe you want to know about something you haven’t read much about before? Start your own group – whether online or in person. It might be via creating a group on LinkedIn, or perhaps you’ve picked your favourite coffee shop as a monthly pit-stop for meeting others working or interested in the subject. It all works.

it’s all about attitude

One of the key things to remember is that it’s all about attitude – be curious and interested when speaking with others and never, ever make anyone feel the fool for particular ideas or understandings. The key is to speak kindly, listen carefully and, if possible, give helpful feedback.

be open-minded

Not everyone is going to have the same approach or opinion as you – so, why not actively seek these people out? This is a great way to broaden your horizons and learn something that you may never have expected – or spark an idea with some new inspiration.

No matter the route you take with your PLN, just remember it’s not just about networking – it’s also about bringing education to life in a way that inspires and helps, not just yourself, but others too.