We must always continue to grow and learn on a personal and professional level. My husband and I have started taking a competitive toll on who has the most followers on Twitter. When I started Twitter over a year ago, his initial reaction was simple; “why?” and “what will you twitter about?” What great questions!
And, as the year has passed, both he and I now find ourselves tweeting about all sorts of things . We tweet about posts we have written for our professional development, share what we’ve read but mainly we retweet about other people’s interesting blogs posts and tweets.
As a result I find myself continuously working on what I call being a connected collaborator. My personal learning network (PLN) is growing and I am learning through social media; making it possible for me to gain a bigger audience which means more feedback and more learning.
Building my PLN means collaborating with others. It has opened doors for sharing with strangers around the globe with a shared enthusiasm for an idea, a project or a product. Kim Cofino wrote an amazing post quite some time ago about collaborative partnership as the powerful tool to increase student learning. Like her, I strongly agree collaboration allows for teachers to learn from each other. This is what building a PLN should be all about! I often come across Will Richardson, as I roam the web. I agree with him on many aspects and I believe we’re in a ‘Collaboration Age’ and it’s our responsibility as teacher to embrace this.
But building my PLN isn’t just about me. It effects my teaching and inevitably student learning. It is through online collaboration that we can “bring the world” into our classrooms. Edutopia recently shared an article written by Suzie Boss on authentic ways to connect classrooms to the world. Student learning should no longer be confined to the four walls of their classroom. Successful collaboration with one classroom teacher begins to create a ripple effect among other teachers at the grade level or division – allowing other teachers to see how one of their colleagues has utilized technology effectively in their classroom. By sharing the results of quality collaboration more teachers may become interested, spreading the effects far and wide throughout the school, helping move an entire school community forward.
When I look at where I am in Jeff Utecht‘s stages of a PLN, I find myself going back and forth between the stages 3 (wanting to know it all) and 5 (finding a balance).
I often ask myself the question of how to make the best of the vast sea of knowledge online and conclude, I just can’t do it and know it all. As for myself, it is important to encourage students to build up their PLE networks but also to find that balance and that it is okay to not know it all.
Before I had convinced him to join Twitter, my husband asked me why I bother thinking about my PLN? Whether you’re a full-time parent, a full-time teacher, or a full-time student, your PLN can be extremely interesting and helpful. The beauty of people communicating and collaborating online is the ease of finding and sharing information and – if you ask for it – the group feedback that you get on ideas and projects.
If you are not yet convinced, here are some ways that educators are using their PLNs:
- Professional development – learn from content-area specialists
- Locate resources for your classroom, such as free websites and software
- Get lesson plan ideas from others
- Learn about new technology and how to integrate it into your teaching
- Find collaborative solutions
- Find interesting links to education news
Here a several ways to for you to start building and to continue expanding your PLN:
|Category||Value||Examples and Guides|
|Social Networking||The challenge is to keep up with personal, more social contacts like friends, family, and former students||Facebook, Myspace|
|Microblogging||A great place for educators from around the world to share best practices and resources||Twitter, My guide to Twitter, Plurk, Utterli|
|Professional Profiles||Find other professionals and experts||LinkedIn, Brightfuse|
|Wikis||Community-monitored sites. They can function as websites and/or for group organization and projects||Wikispaces, pbwiki, wetpaint|
|Blogs||Great sources of information such as best practices as well as personal opinions||WordPress,Blogger, Typepad,
Alltop – top blog headlines by subject
Technorati – a blog search engine
|RSS Reader||RSS means “Real Simple Syndication” – an RSS reader is a tool that allows you to keep up with many of your favorite blogs, all in once place
(see this video on ‘RSS in Plain English’)
|Google Reader (what I use) Netvibes,PageFlakes,|
|Nings||Communities of people interested in similar topics, with forums and messaging||Classroom 2.0, Future of Education, Ning|
|Social Bookmarking||Share bookmarks with others, see what others are bookmarking; you can join groups and get email updates on new bookmarks||Diigo, Diigo Groups,Delicious|
|Webinars||Live, on-line presentations or conferences, with real-time chat, hosted by experts on specific topics; Great way to learn about new things and to meet new people||Classroom 2.0 Live!, EdTechTalk Live, Elluminate, Dim Dim|
|Backchanneling of conferences||This is a great way to follow conferences when there are good, but usually expensive for you to attend; follow conversations and links about the highlights||Twitter search – use acronyms like ‘NECC’ or ‘SXSWi’|
Images: Peripitus, Jeff Utecht