Developing a Professional Learning Network

I recently had a young acquaintance of mine, who is training to be a teacher, ask me what a PLN was.  In one of her courses, she was required to develop hers using various digital platforms and communities.  She expressed that it seemed like such a waste of time to keep logging on to all these different platforms to maintain them.

At first I was frustrated that it seemed the training of teachers was once again missing the mark.  A professor was throwing around catch-phrases and theory but not providing a concrete way to implement it. . . However, that is another rant for a different day.  Instead of sharing my frustrating, I simply shared with her my view of a PLN and how I incorporate it into my own personal and professional development practices.

The conversation got me to thinking and inspired today’s blog post.

What Is a PLN?

Simply put, PLN stands for Professional Learning Network.  It is a group of connections that a professional can go to in order to share and learn.  It’s often a reflection of your own personal values, passions, and areas of interest as well as expertise.

As a teacher, I define my PLN as a group of outstanding educators who inspire me.  I have spent the past 5 years or so developing my network.  Often, I will meet other educators at a professional development event that share ideas I like.  Most of those events have been technology focused and so we’re all there with devices in hand, adding each other on Twitter to continue conversations beyond the seminars we attend.

How Do I Start My Own PLN?

There is no one right way to go about starting your own PLN.  You need to be able to work with what feels comfortable for you.  I began my network at a flipped classroom convention a number of years back.  There were so many good presenters and they were sharing their Twitter handles to stay in touch.  I was not a huge Twitter person back then (I’m still not, to tell the truth), but I signed up and started following the educators and presenters at that conference that left the biggest impact on me.

I realized, in short order, that most of these educators were on multiple platforms.  Since I have always found Twitter confusing (yes, I’m getting old 🙂 ) I started looking up these same individuals on Facebook and Google+.  Some of the individuals who were more established also had their own websites which I bookmarked on my web browser.

I have continued to develop this list as I meet new, inspiring educators.  It’s important to note that if your network becomes too large, it can start to feel overwhelming.  That is why I have been very purposeful in the development of my PLN to only include those individuals that provide an inspiration to me.

Where Do I Begin?

You’ll want to start by finding other teachers who share the same passions as you do.  Some of the areas that I was very passionate about were junior high students, technology, flipped classrooms, and gamification.  If you’re a Twitter fan, there are weekly meet-ups on that platform, depending on your area of interest.  For example, English teachers may like to particpate in Monday night’s #engchat.  Elementary teachers might find inspiration on Pinterest (start by searching for your grade level).  There are also some great teacher connections to be made on platforms such as Edmodo and Schoology.

I also highly encourage every teacher to participate in regular professional development courses.  I do at least 5 or 6 throughout each school year.  The connections that can be made at these events are priceless.  One event that I really recommend is Edmodocon.  It is a free professional development course that is presented virtually during the summer (usually the first week in August).  I have met wonderful educators and learned incredible concepts each year I’ve attended.

Ms. Rochford’s Recommendations

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Ms. R.

About Ms. R.

Danielle Rochford has been a certified teacher for over 15 years, practicing her craft with middle school students in British Columbia, Canada. She is also a self-taught landscape photographer and founder of D-Roc Photography and Design. She has spent the past five years teaching online in such areas as English, Math, and Photography. She hopes to continue sharing her expertise with others now on Udemy. Danielle encourages her students to be interactive and provides many opportunities for discussion and feedback. In her spare time, she loves to travel and enjoy the solitude of nature. You will often find her traveling through Jasper, AB on a photography adventure.

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