Personal Learning Networks (PLN)

Quick Links

What is a PLN?

The Personal: A PLN is all about collaboration. It starts with building personal relationships with other professionals in your industry. Teachers, administrators, even college professors and other experts are great people to include in your PLN. One tendency people often display is keeping their PLN's local. Expand it! Through the use of the Internet, you can connect with other educators from around the world. Chances are, many of these folks understand the challenges you face better than even your next store neighbor. In addition, there is always someone online ready to answer your questions, share their own experiences and looking to learn from you too. 

The Learning: Developing your own PLN is about collaboration, sharing resources, and learning from one another. Since we are all different, we often demonstrate our own knowledge in different ways. The advantage of a diverse PLN is the exposure to different ideas through a variety of media and tools. A PLN can be the best professional development you will ever participate in – and it’s available 24/7.

The Network: What makes a PLN so different from other PD is they are global in nature. This feature allows you to tap into and share diverse, global perspectives on teaching strategies, educational issues, and technologies. After you have established a strong PLN, the only real challenge is keeping up with the plethora of new information hitting your screen!

10 Ways to Start a PLN

The only way to start a PLN is to put yourself out there.  That sounds kind of scary, right?  I know.  However, it really is easy after you get the hang of it.  There are a variety of places to start connecting with other teachers and educators if you know where to look.  Listed below are some starting suggestions.  Also, listed under the Quick Links on the left side of this page you can find educator networks that are great additions to your PLN.

1) Twitter: The ultimate microblogging platform that provides educators the opportunity to learn and share in 140 characters or less. But, don't stop there!  Twitter is filled with resources, best practices and opportunities for teachers to collaborate.  Try out these education hash tags to get started. Hashtags: #edtech, #edchat, #Web20, #elearning, #edapp, #appsforkids, #ipaded, #slide2learn, #highered.

2) LinkedIn: Often thought of as Facebook for professionals.  LinkedIn provides a social network for working professionals to connect, interact and collaborate with one another.  There are variety of groups focused on education and teachers from around the world are constantly submitting articles and comments. Here are a few suggested groups to join. However, there are too many LinkedIn groups to even mention.  Groups: Florida Society for Technology in Education (FSTE), Secondary Education Professionals (SEP), Elementary Education, Classrooms for the Future, International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), ESL Excellence, Great Schools: Instructional Leadership Coaching & and Development, and Principals-School Directors-Deans & Educational Leaders.  

3) Blogs: These sites provide educators with incredible amounts of useful information and experiences to draw from.  Blogs are a platform for people to reflect and share their opinions with others.  The great part about blogging is anyone can do it! In fact, even D50 has its very own Instructional Technology Blog where your very own colleagues are sharing their best practices. Some common blogging applications are Blogger, Wordpress, and TypePad.  But to get you started, check out these Education Blogs: The D50 Education Technology CornerFunshine, Top Teaching, Ms Cassidy's Classroom BlogScience FixA Year of ReadingYouth VoicesThe Principals PagesIt's Not All Flowers and SausagesTechno TuesdayHooda Math BlogLearning is MessyTales from the School Bus

4) RSS Readers: RSS stands for "Real Simple Syndication". Many of you are probably still wondering what even that means!  A RSS reader is a tool that helps keep your PLN in order.  Instead of navigating to each network, blog, and forum; a RSS reader compiles all of the content from around your PLN into one central place.  It makes keeping up with your learning Real Simple.  Any forum, blog, newsletter or website that displays the RSS symbol can automatically feed content to your reader. Check out this video for a further explanation. There are many RSS readers to choose from, however here are a few suggestions: Google ChromeG2ReaderFeedlyComma FeedDigg Reader.   

5) Discussion Forums:  Consist of cyber communities of individuals sharing interests on similar topics.  Forums are a great place to connect with other educators, ask and answer questions and use as a sounding board for just about any idea.  This is a great place to get quick feedback or find wide-ranging topics.  The Quick Links of this page has many educator forums already linked, so all you have to do is click and start exploring!

6) Wikis:  For most of us, the word Wiki automatically brings Wikipedia to mind.  Although Wikipedia is the largest wiki (and the encyclopedia in the world for that matter), there are plenty of other wikis which are micro-focused on one topic.  Education and teaching included!  Wikis allow for users to create and edit "entries" or pages pertaining to a particular topic.  They can be wonderful sources of information and should absolutely be in your PLN toolbox!  Here are a few education wikis worth checking out: Wiki-TeacherCool Tools for SchoolsFlat Classroom Project.

7) Social Bookmarking: Method for marking, storing and organizing online material.  Social bookmarking allows users to add, annotate, edit and share web documents with ease. The most popular social bookmarking sites are Delicious and Diigo, however there are plenty of other options to choose from.  To learn more about Social Bookmarking and how to setup your own Delicious account check out this video.

8) Facebook: I know what you're thinking but give me one minute to explain!  Yes, Facebook is not commonly thought of as a professional development tool, but that doesn't mean it can't be.  It is the largest social network in the world after all.  There are several groups within Facebook devoted specifically to teachers and educators.  Each of these customizable groups provide a variety of opportunities to expand your professional network and to learn from others. Checkout the following groups to get started: Teaching Digital KidsEducators Using FacebookEducators NetworkScholastic TeachersK12 IncThe Cornerstone For TeachersTEDEdutopiaISTE.

9) Pinterest: The modern day cork board.  Pinterest is a cool site that allows you to "pin" things you find on the web to your own customizable board.  You can search an endless number of topics, including education, to pin to your wall.  In addition to building out your own board, you can also connect with others and see what they are "pinning", or browse the Education Board of Pinterest.  Head over to Pinterest to get started.  Also, check out this article for additional information about how to incorporate Pinterest into your classroom.

10) Google+: Google's continual attempts to take over the world!  Well, not really but Google+ is the company's response to Facebook and Twitter.  Google+ users can create their own page, connect with other Google+ users, and post status updates throughout the day.  It is a social network but also has other capabilities that make it a great place to enhance your PLN.  Inside of Google+ exist communities or "hang outs" that people can seek out professional development.  Check out these Google+ communities to get started: Education Technology CommunityGoogle Apps for Education (GAPE), EdTechSchool Technology LeadershipEducational LeadershipConnected LearningiPad EdSTEM EducatorsTechnology & Innovation in Education