I recently had a conversation with a work colleague about whether having a professional learning network (PLN) was worth having or not. A PLN can be an online tool that uses social media and technology to collect, communicate, collaborate and create with connected colleagues anywhere from around the world, at any time. This can also include scheduling meetings with educators within your local area such as Teachmeets or even a chat over a common goal. When becoming a part of a PLN, educators, worldwide, are able to build relationships and therefore make requests and share resources.

Starting my own PLN

Initially, I started my PLN on Twitter in 2013 when I attended one of my first professional development sessions at an ICT conference and saw how many others were connecting, learning and sharing their ideas through feedback. I was fascinated with how quick and simple it seemed to build a network, and also I was able to understand the new content and share knowledge. At first, knowing where to start and what to search was difficult, until I was pointed in the right direction of searching for hashtags based on teacher-led chats.
Since these early beginnings, I have been invited to contribute and also lead weekly chats and in doing so I have been able to build confidence and much knowledge that I can now share with others including my students. By continuously looking at ways to build my professional learning network I have been able to maintain relevancy in keeping up with the latest changes in technology use in the classroom, following good ideas, and being part of rich discussions and sharing many resources with educators from around the world.

What does the future hold for my #PLN

Being able to join the team at Aussie ED this year, I am looking forward to helping guide other educators on their PLN journey by sharing my knowledge and passion for teaching. In my role as ICT Coach, I am always looking at ways to share what I do in the classroom, not only with my students but also with my colleagues. As I mentioned earlier, a professional learning network is an online tool that has the ability to use social media and technology by collecting, communicating, collaborating and creating with connected colleagues. Recently, I have become a Level 2 Google Certified Educator and without the ability to access resources from colleagues and the support garnered through online chats, such as Google Teacher Tribe, hosted by Kasey Bell and Matt Miller, the confidence would not have been there to complete the exam.

How to Build a PLN

Just like many opportunities in education, teachers need to develop a positive mindset in wanting to join and participate in a lifelong learning approach to their teaching. This can then be transferred onto their students in a positive relationship. To build a PLN some of the things I would suggest new or the more experienced would be: –

  • Start a Twitter account that builds upon your teaching skills and at following educators that helps develop your passion.
  • Follow education blogs.
  • Participate in Twitter education chats that are specific to your content area.
  • Accept invitations to collaborate.
  • Search for and look at joining local teachmeets to join educators in building resources in your local area

This list is by no means extensive, as there are plenty of other ways to develop your own personal learning network. However, whether you are new to using social media or more experienced please start slowly and explore them at your own pace.

Till next time ….

Cameron Ross

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