There are many questions facing schools and educators for the opening of the school year. Will classes be face-to-face? If they are, what protocols will be in place to account for social distancing, class sizes, and disinfecting routines? If schools do not return to face-to-face learning, what will the format be? Will it be a fully remote-learning model or a hybrid version, with part face-to-face and part remote learning?
With so many uncertainties facing them this fall, teachers will likely be looking for insights, support, and ideas. A Professional Learning Network (PLN) can be a great way to stay tuned in to the most up-to-date educational dialogue.
What is a PLN?
A PLN is an acronym for Professional Learning Network. It’s a place for educators to connect and share questions, ideas, strategies, and materials. Typically, these networks find a home on social-media platforms.
Why should I join a PLN?
A PLN lets you collaborate, communicate, and learn with other educators. In fact, it has never been easier to stay connected and share than it is right now. The internet has made the world smaller and provided learning opportunities that would have never been possible otherwise. By joining a PLN, you can also save yourself a lot of time and effort by learning from others’ successes and failures. You can also expand your perspectives by connecting with thought leaders in your field. Even if you don’t contribute (though it’s more rewarding if you do), you can expand your perspectives by tuning in to the conversations of others.
Where can I find a PLN?
In short, go online. While you can initiate great professional connections by meeting colleagues face-to-face at conferences or other events, the vast majority of these connections are now facilitated online. In particular, social media has exploded with PLN opportunities that allow teachers to overcome time and distance barriers to connect with educators from around the globe. Teachers today have unprecedented opportunities to connect, share, and learn digitally. Best of all, much of it is free!
Where should I start?
Three quick ways to get started in developing your PLN are to follow educators on Twitter, read educational blogs, and listen to educational podcasts.
Nearly every social-media platform has groups for educators to join or follow. Of these networks, Twitter (Tool Tips) is probably the most frequently used PLN by teachers, and it’s an ideal place to start. If you’ve never used Twitter before, here are a few tips to help you begin your PLN journey.
1. Sign up.
Set up a free account and create your profile.
2. Start following education leaders.
When you do, their Tweets will appear on your account feed so that you are alerted. Here are a few popular education feeds to get you started:
- AVID @AVID4College (closing the opportunity gap by preparing all students for success)
- ISTE @iste (International Society for Technology in Education)
- Catlin Tucker @Catlin_Tucker (blended learning and related instructional strategies)
- Girls Who Code @GirlsWhoCode (teaching girls the computer skills they need to make an impact)
- WeAreTeachers @WeAreTeachers (ideas and inspiration for teachers)
- George Couros @gcouros (reflections on innovative teaching, learning, and leadership)
- EdSurge @EdSurge (education-technology news and resources)
- SmartBrief Education @SBEducation (the latest news in K–12 and higher education)
- Education Week @educationweek (the latest K–12 news and insights)
- TeachThought @TeachThought (supporting innovation in teaching and learning)
- Edutopia @edutopia (evidence- and practitioner-based learning strategies)
- MindShift @MindShiftKQED (teaching and learning with a focus on technology and media)
- Alice Keeler @alicekeeler (practical educational technology)
3. Search popular education hashtags.
A hashtag is a way to tag your Twitter post and make it searchable. Search for popular education hashtags, and you’ll find a treasure trove of information. Here are some great ones to try out:
When you’re ready, post Tweets of your own. This is when Twitter changes from a consumption tool to an interactive dialogue experience. You might celebrate something that worked well in your classroom, ask a question, or share a resource. Think of it as sharing ideas with your teacher friends from around the world.
Blogs are informal articles or posts that are published on a regular basis. Often, these include opinions, experiences, or insights from thought leaders, but anyone can start a blog. Consider finding and following blogs from educational leaders as another great source of PLN content. While this is more of a one-way conversation from the blogger to you, it is still a great place to gain insights and ideas. As you become more comfortable as a blog consumer, you might consider starting your own blog to share your thoughts with others. This can be a great way to give back and transform your blog experience into more of a two-way dialogue.
To follow a blog, you can like them on social media, bookmark their website, sign up for an email subscription, or use an RSS feed tool that will alert you to new blog posts. A few blogs to consider following are included below. You will notice that there are similarities between this list and the list of Twitter accounts to follow. Some feel more like websites or online education magazines, but they all post new, informative content on a regular basis.
- EdSurge (education-technology news and resources)
- Edutopia (evidence- and practitioner-based learning strategies)
- KQED | MindShift (exploring all aspects of teaching and learning with a focus on technology and media)
- TeachThought (supporting educators in innovation in teaching and learning for a 21st century audience)
- WeAreTeachers (ideas and inspiration for teachers)
- U.S. Department of Education (official United States government website for all things education)
- Cult of Pedagogy (everything education, from strategies to reform to educational technology)
- Ditch That Textbook (technology that allows teachers to revolutionize their classrooms)
- eSchool News (education technology news and trends)
- Catlin Tucker (blended learning and related instructional strategies from a practicing teacher)
- George Couros (reflections on innovative teaching, learning, and leadership from the author of The Innovator’s Mindset)
A podcast is a regularly published audio show that is available online (typically available by subscription). Many of these are free. Podcasts have been gaining popularity in recent years and are especially popular with people who like to listen and learn while working out or commuting.
By subscribing to a podcast, you will be notified when a new episode is available. That means you don’t need to go out and check to see if there is something new. The updates come to you. Some of the most common platforms for subscribing to podcasts include iTunes, Spotify, and Google Podcasts. These platforms often offer a phone app experience to make managing the podcast subscriptions convenient and easy.
Four Podcasts to Get You Started:
- Tech Talk for Teachers: Join us to discuss how technology and teaching best practices can positively transform education to create equitable classrooms to prepare learners for all that is possible in their future.
- The Creative Classroom: Professor and former middle school teacher John Spencer discusses ways to boost classroom creativity and innovation.
- Cult of Pedagogy: Jennifer Gonzalez discusses everything education, from strategies to reform to educational technology.
- 10 Minute Teacher: Become a “remarkable educator in just 10 minutes a day” with Motivational Mondays, EdTech Tool Tuesdays, Wonderful Classroom Wednesdays, Thought Leader Thursdays, and 5-Idea Fridays.
Bonus: Include AVID in Your PLN!
Of course, we also hope you make AVID a part of your education PLN, and we have multiple options for you to explore.
- Visit our website at AVID Open Access for online articles and podcasts.
- Follow us on Twitter:
- @AVIDOpenAccess (Official AVID Open Access account)
- @PaulEBeckermann (AVID Open Access writer)
- @RenaPClark (AVID Open Access writer)
- @WinstonBenJam (AVID Open Access writer)
- Like us on Facebook.
- Follow us on Instagram.
Extend Your Learning
- How to Follow Blogs (Habits of a Travelling Archaeologist)
- Top 100 Education Blogs for 2020 for Educators and Teachers (Feedspot)
- How to Subscribe to a Podcast (The Podcast Host)
- 5 Tips for Podcasting With Students in the Classroom (EdTechTeam)
- Twitter Help Center (Twitter)