How Educators Can Benefit from Personal Learning Networks

By Rob Klindt

While a Personal Learning Network (PLN) can be as simple as a teacher taking time to meet regularly with close colleagues to talk about school programs and district issues, it can be much more.

Imagine being able to connect directly with education experts across the country or around the world who have expertise in a variety of subjects, or being able to collaborate on an interactive classroom project with teachers and students in another city or state.

A good PLN that makes smart use of technology can help that happen.

Building Your Personal Learning Network

Personal Learning Networks can help teachers get better at their jobs and develop strong professional connectionsThe main building blocks of a successful PLN are communication, sharing and collaboration. Educators use their PLNs to connect with colleagues to share thoughts, ideas and resources for classroom learning. All have the common goal of working together to improve the education experience for their students.

A PLN also allows educators to quickly tap their connections to learn about industry trends, breaking educational news and other topics including:

  • Personal development.
  • Common Core State Standards.
  • Lesson plans.
  • Classroom management.
  • Integrating technology into teaching.

 

Smart Tech Tools for PLNs

The best tech tools for building a good personal learning network are online social networks, education-focused websites, and apps for tablet computers and mobile devices. Several tools are especially well-suited to educators:

  • Classroom 2.0. This site focuses on K-12 educators who want to develop social media and participative technologies in the classroom, which makes it a great place to start building a PLN. Features include technology special-interest education groups, blogs, discussion forums and tech tips. Free; registration is required.
    Visit the site
  • The Educator’s Personal Learning Network. Click through this site’s digital toolbox and find videos, forums, blogs, personal-development tips and more resources to help K-12 educators. Free; registration is required to participate in forums and groups.
    Visit the site
  • Facebook. With more than 1.1 billion users worldwide, Facebook is the social media champ among users from all walks of life, including teachers. Among educational pages to follow are Facebook in Education, The National Education Association, Edutopia, Education Week and Free Technology for Teachers. Free.
    Visit the site
  • Twitter. The short updates of up to 140 characters that Twitter users send to followers over the Internet can help teachers stay in the professional loop on breaking educational news, trends and professional development. Free.
    Visit the site
  • Google+. Like Facebook and Twitter, this site lets users post group and private messages to connections. Added features include “circles” where connections are segregated into custom groups, and “hangout” rooms designed for live chats and file-sharing. Free.
    Visit the site

After establishing a PLN, it’s important for educators to nurture and grow their network connections by contributing to group discussions, offering classroom tips and sharing expertise on specific subjects. Over time, a good PLN will open a wide range of resources and opportunities that will benefit an educator professionally and personally.

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