The world today is smaller and more connected than ever before with technology and the Internet allowing people to share and learn from one another without the restrictions of time and place. While nearly 50 years of educational research has shown that the best schools are ones in which there is a high-level of teacher collaboration, social media allows us to not only learn from those with whom we live and work each day but from educators around the world. This collective brain power can super-charge teachers’ professional growth and student learning.
The term PLN has been coined to represent the network of people that an educator can build and cultivate both in-person and online in order to share with and learn from others organically and consistently as part of one’s day-to-day life and work. A PLN is a Professional Learning Network or a Personal Learning Network, and every educator already has the foundations of their PLN in-place with those that they work alongside and learn from on a daily basis.
Online, one’s PLN is likely to live on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or even through Instagram or SnapChat, where the exchange of ideas looks different but still can, should, and does take place. Here are some basic steps to creating and growing your Personal, Professional Learning Network:
- Create an account on 1, 2, or 3 social networks – You do not need an account on every social network in order to have a robust PLN and to be able to both share and learn a lot. It is better to be very active in one place than to have too many places to visit and post.
- Follow others – Follow some people that you know and respect and already have learned from in the “real world” and then follow the people that they follow. Unlike Facebook, where you are not likely to friend someone you do not know personally, it is normal to follow others on Twitter and Google+ who you have never met face-to-face.
- Read tweets/posts daily – Take a few minutes each day to dip into your stream and read what is there. There is no need to “catch up” on what you missed. Just take in what is currently moving past you.
- Retweet and like and +1 – Use the built-in mechanisms in each social media platform to begin interacting with others’ posts by Retweeting or liking or adding a +1 to posts that are interesting, informative, cause you to ask important questions, or that connect with you in some way.
- Post – Do not be afraid to share what you are thinking with the world. Sharing links, comments, and questions are great ways to add value to the conversation and the world’s knowledge. Reply to others posts and tweets.
- Use hashtags – While card catalogs are a thing of the past, organizing information is more important than ever. Clicking on hashtags allows you to read posts on a particular topic and using them in your post will help others with an interest in that topic find what you have posted. (And, don’t forget to use #207learn when posting about learning topics relevant to Maine Township High School District 207 students and staff!)