Useful Teacher Tools

3 Ways for Teachers to Grow a Professional Learning Network

Growing your professional learning network (PLN) can definitely seem like a daunting task for teachers who are not already connected to other educators through social media platforms. Well, there’s the whole “gaining a following” bit and understanding the workings of a hashtag. If you’ve been hesitant, here’s something to think about: growing your PLN through social media allows you to take bite-sized chunks of awesomeness from other educators to use in your own practice AND it allows you to share your ideas to grow them, deepen them, and make them stronger through conversation with others! It’s like a think, pair, share situation but for teachers in the virtual world. Our students would be so proud!

1. Twitter: A Connection Gift from the Education Gods

Setting up a Twitter account is quick! You need 3 things after pressing the “Sign Up” button: your name, a phone number or email, and a password. Got ’em? You’re good to go! Once you’re in, you can start curating your list of who you’re following and personalize your tweeting experience.

To grow your PLN, you’ll want to join some Twitter chats. Now, here’s where the mighty # comes in. If you follow some education accounts that host weekly Twitter chats, you’ll be able to join the chat by answering a handful of questions that are slowly rolled out using the hashtag for that chat. You’ll also be able to respond to other’s comments and have conversations on your own posts. For each question you answer, you’ll add the # for the chat within your post so that your thinking will show up in the feed for that Twitter chat.

Here’s an example from a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) mastery chat I chose to participate in:

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Jeff Gargas was co-hosting this chat with Katie Novak. This was the first question. My answer is below with “A1” to indicate that it is an answer to “Q1” and at the end of the tweet, you can see the hashtag for the chat: #masterychat. This enabled my tweet to show up in the search for the hashtag so other educators to find my response and reply to my thinking.

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Usually, Twitter chats last for about an hour. You can find an education Twitter chat almost any night of the week to participate in. Some educators enjoy just answering questions, some enjoy just responding to other educators’ thoughts, and some do both! If you haven’t given a Twitter chat a try yet, DEFINITELY do it. You’ll gain so many new insights from fellow educators and professionals in the field that will likely impact your own pedagogy and classroom practices. My thinking about teaching changes for the better with each Twitter chat I participate in and I am able to grow my PLN each time. Find a teacher through a chat you want to hear more from? Follow her! Have a great conversation with another teacher through replies to your original post? Follow him! It’s so, so rewarding. Another tip: create a Twitter account for the sole purpose of following other educators and connecting to other professionals in the field. If you would like a personal Twitter, you can link another account. You’ll want to keep your “Teacher Twitter” full of inspiration so that it’s a quick click to find your PLN.

Looking for some great accounts to follow that frequently host Twitter Chats? Here are a few to get you started:

BONUS! Follow me on Twitter (I don’t host any chats…YET!): @wildandfreein3

2. Blog: Read & Write to Connect

Blogs are powerful tools. Teachers, constantly problem-solving on their feet in the classroom, write amazing blogs. Education leaders who consult with teachers write amazing blogs. First year teachers write amazing blogs. Administrators write amazing blogs.

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Whether you’re interested in a blog that mostly posts about grade-level activities, or you want to read more about pedagogy, or you want frequent updates in what is new in children’s literature…an RSS (Really Simply Syndication) feed may be for you. Setting up an RSS feed through a platform like Feedly will help you grow your PLN. How? Well, you sign up for an account and then subscribe to blogs that you have hand-picked. The RSS feed will curate a collection of blog posts to inspire you and you can choose the ones you want to read. After you read a blog post, you can comment on the post with your thinking and begin a conversation with other educators this way. You’re PLN will continue to expand when you read and respond to blog posts.

Want to take it to the next level? Start your own blog and write about your thoughts and experiences in the classroom. Then, when others begin commenting on your blog post, you can continue to grow your PLN by virtually conversing with them. Who knows…maybe soon, someone will sign up to follow your blog through an RSS feed!

Here’s a look at my RSS feed from this week:

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3. Facebook Groups: Yes, Facebook Groups

One of the best groups I belong to on Facebook is a group dedicated to Lucy Calkins’ “Units of Study in Reading TCRWP” and “Units of Study in Writing TCRWP.” Through these groups, I am frequently inspired by educators across the country who are also using this resource. Teachers post about celebrations their classes had to wrap up a unit, they post tricks they used to display anchor charts to their students during one-on-one conferences, and they even post questions about the resource and other teachers respond with their thinking. Teachers of many grade levels belong to these group and it’s been so helpful to see the progression of skills from kindergarten to fifth grade through this platform. It’s really quite useful and I often check-in with this group. THIS is a super valuable PLN.

What are you interested in and what are you teaching? Is it middle school math? Is it kindergarten? There is a Facebook group for you to join to grow your PLN! Join it and share your ideas, share your tips, and share your latest activities. Others want to see what you’re up to in your classroom and a Facebook group is a great place to share. Can’t find one? Start one and invite all your education friends to begin sharing their thoughts and the happenings of their own classrooms. Grow that PLN!

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Begin growing your PLN right now!

Share below by commenting your thoughts: what’s your plan? What are your goals for growing your PLN? Do you already have a PLN? If so, what tips do you have for others who are just starting to grow their PLN?

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