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Sunday, February 9, 2014

A Note to Teachers: Consider the quality of your PLN

This is an article I wrote for my district tech newsletter in hopes of getting more teachers to develop their PLN. It could be of value to others, so I posted it here. If you already have a PLN, I'd love to hear your input on this matter so I can help the teachers I work with to see the importance of growing a PLN.

Maybe you've heard teachers talk about their "PLN". Some will suggest everyone needs one. I'd say we all have one already, though PLNs vary in quality. It's important to recognize this, because in all cases they can help or hinder us in doing our best work.

A PLN is a personal learning network. I hear it most often in reference to social networks like Twitter, where professionals follow and contribute their own thoughts among peers and leaders in their fields.

I say everyone has a PLN because we all have a group of people we learn from. Some will talk about "connected educators", but we are all connected to some degree. Whether it's to authors we've read, speakers we listen to at conferences or the other teachers in our buildings, we have a network that shapes how we see our work.

But not all PLNs are equal. For the sake of our students and the profession, we all should evaluate the quality of our PLN. We can do that by asking three simple questions:
  • How does my PLN impacted my professional growth?
  • How many teachers am I regularly connecting with?
  • How often do we connect? 

When measured in those ways, the advantage of technology becomes obvious. In fact, that's why PLN commonly refers to a large tech enabled social network. The most effective tools for the job are obvious.

Those who regularly stay in contact through large social networks will confirm this. The anytime, anyplace nature a dedicated PLN is a lot like hanging out with teachers at a conference whenever you have a spare minute. It grants immediate access to timely answers, a source of collective wisdom, best practices and a perspective of education on a global scale.

If you already use Twitter, Edmodo or some other network as a PLN, I'd encourage you to share contact information with others in your building or across the district.

If you aren't yet a part of a larger network, I suggest taking the time to get started with TwitterIt only takes seconds to sign up.

This Teacher's Guide to Twitter is a good place to start for basic information. Here are two other good posts to start with if you are looking for other teachers to follow:

This is a note to the teachers I work with, but feel free to follow if you care to contribute!
Also, I set up a Twitter account for our district's technology tips or other related communication. Right now the only followers are me and Kevin Honeycutt (and he could split at any minute). So if you've got an account, join in and you'll make a very significant contribution to the number of followers. The account is the same as the title of the newsletter: @lv_tech_connect

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