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Consultant shares the power of Personal Learning Networks

Written on June 22nd, 2011

Education consultant Dan Beerens is excited about his own Personal Learning Network (PLN) tools and the potential for others to manage their learning in similar ways.

In today’s time of change and information explosion, Beerens has been discovering the best tools for his learning.

“It’s an extremely exciting time and you simply need some kind of personal learning device and access,” says Beerens.

In 2007, while working for Christian Schools International, Beerens started blogging. He recalls being fascinated by the worldwide connection of blogging and how people find blogs.

As a blog reader, Beerens found it was tedious to look through bookmarked blogs for updates. He soon started using readers and alerts to push information to him with updates on topics of interest.

When he’s consuming other people’s blogs and social media posts he saves items he wants to remember into an online notebook tool called LiveBinders, and when on his Smartphone a note storage tool called Evernote.

He likens wikis to a file cabinet that is virtually accessible to people, and started to use wikis to post his own presentations so the audience could reference the slides later.

He also uses Twitter, and sees the benefit in having people he wants to learn from send out filtered useful information.

Many personal learning tools are accessible and free. People don’t need to feel isolated, as regardless of distance they can find others online who share similar interests, notes Beerens.

People are identifying the best ideas and things available through these tools that have the “wisdom of the crowds” built into them, he says. For example, the number of retweets (reposting someone else’s tweet) on Twitter shows how much something is perceived as valuable.

“Truth can come from a multitude of sources,” Beerens says.

With social media people can directly access experts through commenting on a blog post or sending out a tweet. This creates a “levelling effect” that is healthy, he says.

While adults have had to learn about these different ways to access personal learning, Beerens says students intuitively understand it. The role of teachers is to teach students how to discern what is valuable, such as how and where to find the best information from credible places.