How mainstream are PLNs anyways?

Reflection

I have been building my personal learning network over the last couple of years with a more rigorous engagement in the last few months, and I have recently been asking myself a few questions about how widespread the idea of developing a personal learning network may be. I am planning on presenting on how teachers (ESL specifically) can use social media to network and build support networks outside of their immediate networks after graduate school at a local conference in April, and I’m wondering how obvious my ideas will be to those in attendance. Will everyone leave my talk shaking their heads, wishing they had gone to another concurrent session? My own insecurities aside, how mainstream is the idea of PLNs and using social media tools like Twitter and RSS feeds to facilitate continuing education really? I have only touched on the topic with a few other teachers in my program, and none of them seemed familiar with the idea. However, I am constantly receiving notifications via Twitter and Google Reader that new blog posts have been written about building your PLN and using social media for self-driven professional development. I’m inclined to think that the topic feels like a mainstream, paramount topic of discussion in the field because it interests me and I have built my online network around using technology and self-directed professional development. Perhaps it’s time to broaden my personal learning network to include voices that do not make PLNs their primary concern.

 

Thoughts on: A study about novice teachers and their social support networks

Reflection, Teacher Support

I have begun my examination of novice teachers and their personal learning networks by reading a study published in TESOL Quarterly (2012) called Novice ESOL teachers’ perceptions of social support networks. I find it inspiring and informative with regard to my own research related to social support and ESL professionals.

The article (Brannan, D. 2012) describes three main sources of support reported by participants in the study: mentors, coworkers, and family. Of those three sources, only family was viewed as providing the affective support necessary to foster overall well-being and health in the novice teacher participants with relation to their perceived efficacy. That being said, the support from family did not seem to provide adequate pragmatic and technical support for the novice teachers. Both branches of support were deemed necessary for overall effective teacher development and success (perceived efficacy in the study).

With regard to this study, I aim to extend the social support network into the digital realm. Professional teachers and novice teachers currently participate in PLNs (personal/professional learning networks) mediated by online tools like Twitter, RSS feeds, Diigo, and other social media tools. I wonder how participants in the Brannan study would have responded with regard to these sources of social support. It seems that a novice teacher would be able to receive ample pragmatic and technical support via social media and other online tools (whether actively or passively). It also seems probable that a novice teacher might receive affective support via social media and other online tools from both their personal and professional online networks.

I’m excited to explore this topic further as my research continues.

References:

Brannan, D., & Bleistein, T. (2012). Novice ESOL teachers’ perceptions of social support networks. TESOL Quarterly, 46(3), 519-541. doi: 10.1002/tesq.40