Continue to Learn Beyond the SJSU iSchool by Creating a Personal Learning Network

Published: Wednesday, February 01, 2017 by Allison Randall Gatt

One of the best things about the SJSU School of Information is that even while you’re learning in your pajamas and slippers, you’re not learning alone. Once you graduate, thanks to the skills you’ve acquired from the iSchool, you don’t stop learning, either. Through a variety of courses and resources, you can set up a personal learning network (hereafter referred to as a PLN).

Great! You may think. What is a personal learning network? A personal learning network is the environment of resources that you set up to continue to learn outside of your formal education. PLN’s are really formed in the beginning of life, when small children learn that those letters they sing in the alphabet song make words in books, cereal, street signs and billboards. A child’s PLN is all around them, at home, in the neighborhood and at school. Now that you’re in graduate school, your PLN becomes a little more complex. You’ve got your LinkedIn profile (and if yours needs help, be sure to read this to make your profile awesome and this to help you network) and your Twitter account. You subscribe to a variety of online LIS publications and keep up with a certain amount of blogs with your RSS feed. This is all good stuff to do, but make sure you know why these sources are important, and why they’re important to you and your particular career goals and work environment.

The whole point of having a PLN is to establish a solid foundation of constant personal and professional development to keep you up-to-date on current trends and best practices. Social networks included in your PLN will help keep you in touch with mentors and peers in your career field. For example, when you join career-related Facebook groups, you can see what others are doing and be able to share your own ideas.

Why Should I Have a Personal Learning Network and How Do I Create One?
SJSU School of Information alumna Elaine Hall put together a personal learning network plan in her Info 281 Transformative Learning and Technology Literacy course when she was a student with assistant professor Dr. Michael Stephens. In her article posted to Stephens’ website Tame the Web, Hall outlined the process in which she set up her network. Most importantly, she outlines her goals and objectives in setting it up—the ‘why’ not just the ‘what,’ or a list of websites.

In the article, Hall begins the process of setting up her personal learning network by outlining her goals and objectives in creating her PLN and details the scope and mission of her collection of tools, networks and resources. Start by thinking about your current career goals and what elements of learning are most important to you. In her Slideshare presentation, Hall recommends linking up with professionals who have similar career interests or whom you admire. Send a personal request to add them to your to your LinkedIn network, follow them on Twitter.

In Hall’s article, she includes an example of how she achieved one of her goals of developing her PLN by taking action. She used Pinterest to do a search on PLN’s and found boards with suggestions, resources and presentations that helped develop her own Pinterest boards further expanding her PLN. I have my own Pinterest boards that include lists of materials, projects and ideas that I can use in my future as a librarian. I also have a board entitled, ‘My Envisioned Library Future’ that serves as a collection of inspiration and encouragement.

What Do I Include in My Personal Learning Network?
A personal learning network is a constantly evolving collection of tools and resources that changes as you go through your career. A change in job title may change your focus, or perhaps you’d like to change the focus of your job title and you need to brush up on a few elements of information science. Nearly two years after graduating, Hall says her “PLN has already evolved many times. As I embark on new roles and responsibilities in community engagement, partnerships and outreach, not only has my professional network increased, but the focus of my PLN has also been expanded to foster a broader, global perspective of the work I do every day.” Social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Pinterest are all great ways to keep up with the world of library and information science, but there are great sources here on the iSchool website and LIS publications that focus on a huge variety of library, information and archival fields. The iSchool’s Career Blog is a great place for ideas and inspiration and has recently published its own great list of PLN reading and resources.

No matter what tools you use or what focus you have for your PLN, focus on why you are putting it together and the reasons each element should be included. Realize that developing a PLN takes time and a bit of effort and the process, as Hall says, “is ever-changing and evolving.” Come back to it regularly and keep up-to-date on other possible resources as you become aware of them. Develop a PLN for your career future, so your learning doesn’t stop once you get your degree. Your SJSU iSchool education has prepared you for lifelong learning—your PLN is the key to engaging with it.

For related content, be sure to read these helpful articles:
Learn How to Get Published as a Student at the SJSU's Publications Roundtable-- EVENT FEBRUARY 7, 2017

Your Best Sources of Advice for Graduate School-- Featuring iSchool Faculty Experts

image courtesy of nonicknamephoto

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