These days, teachers’ professional learning networks (PLNs) don’t have to be limited by school or district. They can be virtual. Many teachers connect with PLNs online and through social media. Here are three of my favorite platforms to build PLNs.
One of the easiest ways to build your PLN is through Twitter. For instance, if you're reading an education blog post or come across a Pinterest page you like, follow the author on Twitter. If you attend an education conference, follow the speakers of the sessions. And if you have certain types of people in your network already, Twitter will serve up recommendations of relevant people you should follow. Most people are kind enough to follow you back, building you into their networks. Another great use of Twitter is joining one of the live Twitter chats on a variety of education topics. Be sure to check out #edtechchat on Mondays from 8-9 p.m. EST (founded by @thomascmurray, @KatrinaStevens1, @iplante, @s_bearden, and @ajpodchaski -- be sure to follow them!). If you’ve never joined a live chat on Twitter before, at the time of the chat, simply include the hashtag in your tweets. You can bring up a feed of tweets with the hashtag, such as Tweetchat or Twubs. For a comprehensive list of chats, see Cybrary Man’s Twitter chat schedule.
Not only can you follow friends and colleagues on Google+ in the same way you would on Twitter or Facebook, you can also join and participate in communities relevant to your interests. When you’re logged into Google+, go to the Communities page (left-hand drop-down bar). You can search or browse communities. Some communities you can just join, while others you need to request to join and be approved. My favorites include:
- Education Revolution: Part of the Learning Revolution project by Steve Hargadon, this community focuses on “thinking about how and why teaching and learning are redefined in the age of the Internet.”
- Ed Tech: This community is “a place where educators, technologists, students, researchers, connoisseurs and enthusiasts can discuss the multifaceted role of technology in education.”
- Technology in Education: This community is described as a "home for discussion, collaboration and sharing of resources on Technology in Education.”
Use Google+ communities as you see fit. Maybe it’s simply having the communities’ posts feed into your stream. Or, some communities offer online events such as live Google Hangouts on Air. For recommendations on which communities to join, check out the Recommended for You tab to see picks from Google+.
EdWeb is specifically designed to provide teachers a “hub” where they can join many different PLNs. You can sign up for free, join communities, and participate in asynchronous discussions. But where EdWeb really shines is the monthly webinars offered in their communities. Each live webinar can include hundreds of participants from around the nation and even the globe. You can participate in a lively chat with teachers interested in the topic and share ideas and resources in real time. All webinars are archived in the community. You earn a CE certificate for each live or archived webinar you watch. Here are some communities I recommend joining on the topic of education technology:
- Tech Tools for the Classroom: This community covers a lot of specific tech tools for the classroom and how to use them. Each of their webinars is focused on a particular tool or use of a tool, such as encouraging student collaboration or using online quizzing and testing tools.
- Game-Based Learning: Sponsored by FilamentGames and co-hosted by edWeb.net, the Education Division of Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), and ISTE VEN, this community “provides educators, game developers, researchers, and industry executives with a place to learn, ask questions, discuss topics, and share information about games and learning.”
- Digital Citizenship: Hosted by Common Sense Education (yours truly!), this community is a great place to connect with others on the topic of digital citizenship and helping kids think critically, behave safely, and participate responsibly in our digital world.
It’s important to have strong PLNs you can reach out to, ask questions, and get ideas and advice from. Teachers often get too busy during the school year to build PLNs, so I encourage you to use some of your “down time” in the summer as “up time” to build your networks. It’s something you can easily do sitting next to the pool with your smartphone in one hand and a cool drink in the other!
What are your favorite ways to build your PLNs? Share your ideas below!