How To Build Your Professional Learning Network Online and Offline

Professional Development

How To Build Your Professional Learning Network Online and Offline

4 ways to connect, share and create a lifelong community

By Sara Boucher     Aug 14, 2014

How To Build Your Professional Learning Network Online and Offline

This article is part of the guide: From School to Shining School: 52 Stories from Educators Across the U.S.

"I feel so stuck. Nobody seems to get my ideas or feel my passion for teaching.”

If you are like me, I am sure you have said this at least five times a day. What is a lone nut to do? I was surrounded by others who were great teachers, but didn't want to change. I was stuck. That was, until I found the magic of a PLN, and since then, I haven't had to utter those words anymore. I finally feel accepted, understood, and supported by amazing educators.

How can you do it, you ask? Easy. Here are the ways that I built my PLN both on and offline--just take the first step, and you will never want to go back.

1. Twitter: Sure, some merely think of Twitteras a website used for those who want to stalk their favorite celebrities’ every selfie and food habits, but the site has take a new turn for educators. Using Twitter in an educational setting for the past year has been my best asset. Whenever I have a question, need help with a lesson plan, or need to find the coolest thing to do in my class, Twitter is where I turn.

Once you are on the site, go find some of the educators you look up to (and tweet to them), find companies you use in your school (tweet to them, as well), and join an “edchat”. There are “edchats” for just about everything in education, ranging from state-specific discussions (like #UTedchat for Utah educators) to edtech (#edtechchat) and grade-specific chats. There is bound to be a chat that you can join and learn from.

And don’t forget, there’s a golden rule with Twitter--you don't have to follow everyone. Only follow those who will help you become a better educator.

Sign up right this second. (Seriously, stop reading and go sign up.) Don't know where to start? Tweet to me @MsGeekyTeach and I will help you out.

2. Meetups: Meetups are a great way to connect in real life with friends from Twitter, emails, and more. Meetups can be anything from a small meetup like BrewCUE, CoffeeCUE, or EdCamp, to a large conference like ISTE, NCTM or the annual CUE Conference.

Some are free, while some you have to pay for, but I’ll tell you this--it’s well worth your money and time if you get to connect with other educators, especially those you otherwise would have never come across.

3. Voxer: Voxer is, simply-put, a walkie-talkie application. Why not just text or call, you ask? Well, Voxer allows you to ensure that your question or comment gets the love it deserves. With the Voxer app, you can can send text messages, photos, and instant voice messages to individuals and groups.

I use this with many other educators to throw an idea around or to get feedback on a failing lesson plan. Since my message is there for them to listen to when they get the chance, I don't have to worry about my message being forgotten about. This also ensures that I will get a thoughtful response once my PLN members get the time to respond.

4. Point: How about sustaining your PLN by sharing articles? Point is a newly discovered favorite Chrome extension of mine. You can share articles with friends, highlight parts of the article that you find interesting, and easily retrieve your favorite reads.

Point has changed the way that I read articles, but it’s even better for my PLN: I can now share the coolest new edtech findings with all of my edtech friends with one, simple extension. It’s like sitting next to another person and chatting about the latest newspaper article!

These are just some of the ways that I stay connected to my PLN. I challenge you to check out new ways to connect, and if you find one, let me know in the comments section of this article.

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