We are now halfway through Connected Educator Month. Today’s post is about connecting online and building your PLN. Soon after I left the classroom to be an eLearning coach, I learned about a PLN (personal learning network.) PLNs have grown in importance remarkably over the last few years and with good reason. They are a great way to extend your professional network beyond and tap into a huge wealth of knowledge about the subject you teach, situations you face, and education in general. This makes a PLN one of the most effective resources available.
Building a good PLN is dependent upon knowing where to look. There are many ways to both build and maintain your personal learning network. As you begin a new topic or unit in your classes, grow your network by finding experts in the subject you are getting ready to teach. Learn what they have to say and feel free to ask questions. If they are a good person to follow, more than likely they will respond with an answer. Remember to provide feedback and contribute to your PLN as well. This is a two way street in order to make your PLN a success. All teachers are creative, smart, have reflections and have good ideas. Post these things within your PLN whether it is social media or replying to someone’s blog post.
So you may ask, “How can I find good ways to connect?” As I mentioned, there are several ways. One way is to check out and join some online communities. A few you might want to check out are ISTE’s Wikispace, EdWeb, Adobe’s Education Exchange, Discovery’s Educator Network, and Sony’s Education Ambassadors. As you look over these communities and find information that is useful to you, then personally connect with the author and add them to your PLN. I have done this myself multiple times.
Another great way to make connections is to sign up for Twitter and follow some experts on there. It is very easy to share and get new information on Twitter. Once you find a good person to follow, you can look at the people that person follows. Check out their tweets and if you find them useful then go ahead and add them to your Twitter feed as well.
Another way to search people to follow on Twitter is the use of the hashtag. A hashtag is used in a Twitter message to allow many messages to be gathered together in one place. There are hashtags set up for of topics, conferences, classrooms, and regular Twitter chats such as #edchat or #INeLearn that sponsor an online chat each week on a number of topics. You can do a Twitter search on a hashtag, even if you are not a Twitter user. Here you can find some great information and people to follow.
Reading and following some great educator blogs is another way to do some great connecting. If you know an expert in your field’s name, do a search the person’s name. The search may result in the URL of the person’s blog or may at least lead you to their website that will have the URL of their blog.
Once you spend some time reading and commenting on the blogs of others, you might decide to create your own. Most educators use Blogger or WordPress. Take the time to promote your blog via social media so that you are sure that people will come to visit, subscribe, and comment on your blog! Comments are what generate the collaboration component of your PLN.
Again, October is Connected Educator Month. Many educators across the country are reaching out and making connections. It doesn’t have to stop on November 1. Use these suggestions and begin growing your PLN now and continue connecting all year long.