Personal learning networks provide opportunities and resources for learning and growth. I have read several posts from respected bloggers discussing methods for educators to leverage their PLNs for professional development this summer. I am currently teaching an in-district course called "Learning Tools for a Connected Classroom". The objective of the course is for educators to demonstrate progress or growth with their positive digital footprint, to become "well-Googled".
This is not an easy sell for some teachers. However, if the expectation for students is for them to become independent, connected learners, then it would be beneficial for instructors to experience the challenges and victories of establishing learning connections through a personal learning network. Here are four recommendations that will certainly create opportunities for connected learning and professional growth.
- Create or adopt a learning management system. Our district has adopted an excellent product, Schoology, but there are many others to choose from. Some teachers are choosing to create their own system with Google Sites, WordPress, or LiveBinder. Students will benefit from knowing that there is a digital meeting place and container for their class. Three of the six standards for NETS-S can be supported with a well-prepared classroom LMS. If you are already using a classroom LMS, bolster it with discussion boards, current topics, and multi-media resources. Invite colleagues, parents, and community members to become engaged in your digital learning environment. (Leveraging LMS for Blended Learning)
- Get connected, or become better connected, using Twitter. Most educators in my PLN agree that pound-for-pound, Twitter is the best tool for those educators that are taking control of their professional development. Part search engine, part chat room, part news curator, and part social book-marker, Twitter can provide the foundation for creating and nurturing your personal learning network. Create a concise, thoughtful profile that let's others know who you are and why you are participating in social media. (25 Ways Twitter Can Help Teachers)
- Start a blog. Share your learning experiences. Reflect upon classroom successes and failures. Model responsible digital communication. Discuss tools and strategies that impact learning. Become a change agent for education by communicating suggestions for improvement. A blog provides a platform to share your connections, observations, and thoughts with your personal learning network. If you already have a blog, add gadgets to make it more engaging and versatile. Invite and respond to comments. Enhance it's appeal with graphics and media. (Seven Reasons Why Teachers Should Blog)
- Meet face-to-face with your professional learning teams. I suggest an informal setting with food, beverages, and wi-fi. Use this relaxed environment to discuss successes and set backs from the previous school year. Following this closure, discuss current learning opportunities and how they will impact your students' learning in the upcoming school year. What are you reading? What are you sharing? Who is impacting your learning? Make arrangements to turn upcoming conferences and workshops into social learning events for your PLTs. (Face-to-Face Learning in a Digital Age)
Three Ways to Kickstart Your PLN - IndianaJen
Getting Started with Twitter in the Classroom - Teaching Channel
Blogging in the Classroom - A 4 Step Guide - Edudemic
Giving Students a Voice in Their Learning - Pernille Ripp
What is a PLN, and Why Do I Need One? - TeachHub