Summertime is a time when I find myself being most reflective. I think back to things that went really well the previous school year and try to make mental notes of why they went well so I can keep the momentum going. I also think of the things that didn’t go so well (without dwelling) and put them into two categories: Find a Solution or Chuck It In the Bucket. Most items go into the latter category. During this summer’s reflections, I found myself surprised I didn’t have a ton of things that needed fixed! I attribute this to my Personal Learning Network (PLN), EdTech Heroes. At any time of the day, I can send a group text with a problem and have multiple solutions within minutes. Instead of waiting until the summer, I was able to get a fix on the spot. Are you in need of a fix? Inspiration? Motivation? Collaboration? You need to find a PLN (or start one) and start reaping the benefits right away!
What is a PLN?
A Personal Learning Network is a group of educators and resources that make you a better
teacher. The PLN can be a group that meets in person, online or a combination of both.
Tips for a Successful PLN
1. Find the Right People.
The goal of a PLN is for you to learn and grow as a teacher and an individual. In order for this to happen, you need to surround yourself with people that will challenge you but also build you up. Your PLN may be right in your building! Your PLN can be made up of colleagues, friends and even family. Start taking a close look at those around you and ask yourself if they fit the needs of your PLN. Your PLN may not be people you see on a daily basis. It could be people with whom you participate in a Twitter chat. Keep your eyes open and remember this is personal and you must keep your needs at the forefront.
A PLN is a network, meaning information needs to be sent and received to be successful. The most successful PLN’s are comprised of individuals that want to see all of their members succeed. If you know something, share it! We are teachers. We love to beg, borrow, and steal. Don’t forget to give back. There is no better reward than the satisfaction of helping someone else. Make yourself available to your PLN. Respond to texts, tweets, emails, etc. Participate in online chats and Hangouts. Pull your weight. Figure out what your role is within the PLN. Maybe you’re the idea generator but someone else is good at putting those ideas into a presentation. Maybe you’re the social butterfly and do a great job promoting your PLN. Are you the details person or the big picture person? Whichever your role is, own it, and appreciate everyone else’s roles.
3. Practice What You Preach--Digital Citizenship.
I’m constantly teaching my students how to be responsible digital citizens. Just because I’m an adult doesn’t mean I get a free pass when it comes to digital citizenship. Keep your Tweets kind. Never throw your PLN (or anyone else) under the bus on social media. If you have a problem with a member, call a meeting or Hangout and address it privately. Keep your information private. Yada, yada, yada. Don’t forget to give credit where due. I have learned an immense amount from my PLN and there are times I would like to pass along my newfound knowledge to my colleagues. I always make sure I send a quick text asking if it’s okay and then I make sure to credit them with the information. We all like to be acknowledged for our work. This also promotes your PLN.
4. Pool Your Resources.
Place shared resources in a place all members can access
such as Google Drive folder. Before placing resources in the folder make sure you set your sharing settings to “edit, comment or view”, depending on the purpose of the resource.
5. Stay Connected
EdTech Heroes is a PLN comprised of teachers spanning the entire state of Indiana so it’s not very feasible for us to get together very often so we use technology to stay connected. We text in abundance, we connect on Google Hangouts and Twitter. This summer we’ve been blessed to spend a lot of face-to-face time together at conferences, presenting, and attending. Use a combination of resources to ensure you keep communicating with your PLN. It will also benefit both you and your PLN for you to stay connected outside the PLN. Network on social media and at conferences. Advertise your PLN. The connections you make will ultimately bring more resources to your PLN, benefitting you all. The more resources, the more you’ll learn.
A PLN is a powerful way for you to grow as a teacher and an individual. I urge you to find the people that make you a better educator by pushing you out of your comfort zone. Get away from behind that desk and get connected today. You’ll be amazed at the reaction of your students when you start implementing your newfound ideas in the classroom!