Blog Post #9: PLN

Step 1: A Personalized Learning Network, or PLN, is a network of people and resources that support ongoing learning and relationships. A PLN is focused around the idea of being a life-long learner, the fact that you can take your own professional development beyond the school and become a “connected educator,” which refers to educators who collaborate online and use a range of tools and resources to develop their PLNs. The notion of being able to connect with other educators all around the world at any time using digital resources is beneficial in terms of feeling more comfortable as I begin my teaching career. For this task, I focused on the benefits of PLNs that resonated with me the most—the ability to explore your own interests/passions (and those of your students!) and the ability to stay current on best practices in education.

Step 2: Technology has vastly increased the opportunities for teacher networks as new digital tools are being introduced and becoming popular. For this reason, building digital literacy and being open to exploring different resources is important in developing a PLN and becoming a connected educator. What I appreciate about PLNs is that you can join any networks at any time—as a teacher, I may decide to explore tools that I hadn’t considered trying before! It is also important to remember that “it is not only about what you consume, but what you create.” For this task, I talked about my current social and digital media preferences (Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, etc.), but that I want to step out of my comfort zone and try other tools to interact with educators.

Step 3: Twitter is one of the most popular tools that educators use when developing their PLNs. It is important to remember that it may take time to build rapport with others through social media, but putting forth effort and finding ways to contribute that work best for you will help you do so. When using any PLN tool, it is acceptable to begin by “lurking” and observing how others are interacting, but it is important to eventually contribute your knowledge and ideas to really get anything out of it. For this task, I discussed my professional Twitter and some of the education accounts that I follow. I also talked about how, in the future, I want to follow accounts that are related to the grade level, subject matter, and school district where I work.

Step 4: The use of hashtags, Twitter chats, and TweetDeck allows educators to efficiently find and interact with content that may be useful to them. I hope to participate in a Twitter chat, which is when educators discuss a particular topic by having moderators ask questions and participants answer questions in real-time. Twitter chats usually last about an hour and both moderators and participants use the chat hashtag to collate the content into a single feed that can be referred to later. Although Twitter chats can be interesting and informative, they can also be overwhelming. Educators can make the process easier by looking at the questions ahead of time, following up with other participants afterwards, and bookmarking/liking tweets to view later. For this task, I used TweetDeck to explore two Twitter chats (#WhatIsSchool and #NT2T) and read through some ideas that educators had on these topics.

Step 5: A blog consists of a dynamic community, where a blogger posts regularly and the audience has a chance to comment and provide feedback/insight. It was interesting to learn about the difference between a blog and an ePortfolio, although many educators combine the two. The ePortfolio that the VCU School of Education helps its students build is a way to showcase and organize work, but I have also maintained a blog about art and instructional technology in the Integrating Arts in Curriculum and Instructional Technology in K-12 Environments classes. Educators blog to develop, share, and archive their thoughts and ideas. It is important to remember to “write for you and don’t overthink” when writing blog posts and sharing information. For this task, I set up a Feedly account, which allows me to easily access and explore blogs that focus on different content areas.

Step 6: Content curation involves finding the most relevant and useful resources, making them your own, and sharing them with others. A person developing their PLN should read/discover information, filter out what is most important, editorialize (including creating something to make it your own), and share using their personal digital networks. I hope to become better with content curation because I can share this knowledge with my students and help them become better at organizing information in a way that helps them learn best! For this task, I discussed the tools I plan to try for news discovery (Nuzzel and Pocket) and curation (LiveBinders).

Step 7: When developing your PLN, it is important to consider how you might learn/connect best and try using tools that will support your style of learning. It is also beneficial to set goals and commit and make time for your PLN by setting a routine and sticking to it. The most meaningful piece of advice that I learned throughout this series is “the more you put in, the more you’ll get out.” While being a part of different online communities and “lurking” can be beneficial, sharing your ideas and experiences is even more helpful in developing your PLN and building relationships with other educators.