Friday, December 18, 2015

Personal Learning Networks

Here at The Yellin Center, in addition to our work with K-12 students, we also work with college-level and professional learners. We also provide professional development for organizations and schools looking to integrate our neurodevelopmental model into their practices. We know that adult learners, similar to young students, benefit from a diversified, personalized learning experience.

We also understand that teaching adults can differ in several ways from how we typically instruct children. The theories that underpin andragogy, the method by which we teach adults, explicitly states the importance of fostering a deep rooted motivation to learn, utilizing hands-on learning experiences and offering learners a choice in what to learn. Therefore, when working with mature learners one wants to promote an environment of self-determination where learners are finding answers to real world problems they face in their everyday lives. Instead of teaching adults what to learn, the goal is to teach them how to learn, as well as how to seek out answers to their own personal needs. As such, it is vital to provide mature learners with materials, resources and strategies that can help promote learning after the workshop or initial learning has occurred.

One way to promote learning after the initial experience is to connect learners to personal learning networks (PNL), which are communities of learners who are looking to build a shared skill set. PNL’s promote collaboration and a sharing of skills among eager learners. They spark conversation and connect learners to experts in the area in which they want to grow. 

In the truly global and digital society we live in today there are several ways to connect learners to established learning communities. Social Media is a great place to start. PNL’s covering a range of topics exist on platforms such as Facebook, Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn. The best way to get plugged in is to search key words associated with what you want to learn about, using LinkedIn or Twitter search. Explore the results and beginning following people who are discussing your interests. When you are ready, you can start sharing your own ideas, tweets and resources with the communities you become a part of. If you are interested in creating your own professional learning network, there are sites such as Ning, which allow you to create your own, personal social network.

There are also several communities, both online and in the real world, in which adult learners can participate. For example, anyone working in education often finds Edutopia’s community an incredibly valuable resource. Alternatively, for educators looking to boost tech skills, ISTE’s forums are a great place to start.  IT professionals will find a great community at Cisco Learning Network. Professionals across disciplines will be able to find a group and resources at Reddit or MeetUp. Professional development isn’t just about building functional skills for workers. As a leader of professional development, you want to inspire curiosity, and motivate professionals to discover new ways to learn and seek out how to integrate new ideas into their professional practice.

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