Personal Learning Networks

colored_puzzle_connectionWith a new year comes new resolutions to make positive changes in our lives. This year I decided to make a New Year’s resolution for my professional life. My resolution is to increase my “Personal Learning Network,” or PLN. The acronym “PLN” is relatively new, but the concept has been around forever. Basically, your PLN is made up of those people that you communicate, share, and learn with. It is a system for lifelong learning.

Since my teaching career started (I won’t mention a year) my PLN has changed quite a bit. Prior to the Internet, my PLN was mainly the other teachers in my school district along with a few colleagues I met in my graduate courses and some teacher friends from other districts. Most of the information we shared with each other came from books, magazines, the occasional conference, and just bouncing ideas off of each other.

Today, my PLN is growing (slowly) due in large part to connections made through the Internet. Sharing ideas with others through Twitter, special interest groups, blogs, webinars, and many other resources has helped me learn so much more than would be possible without these connections. There is always someone out there that has had the same questions or problems that you have. If you start a conversation through email, a social site, blog comments, or other avenue, you’ll get responses. And don’t forget to share your own tips and tricks. PLNs are all about the give and take – the sharing of information.

Listed below are some ideas on how to expand your own PLN as well as a cute video that I think summarizes what a PLN is all about.
Find and follow blogs (or create your own)
You can find blogs by simply doing a search for your topic, like common core blogs, educational technology blogs, middle school math blog, or any topic you are looking for. Here are a few to get you started.
Scholastic Top 20 Teacher Blogs   –   Edudemic.com

Education Week    –    Edublogs   –   Edutopia Blogs

Use Twitter or other Social Sites
Twitter is a great place to get and share ideas. Start by following some hashtags (examples: #k12, #commoncore, #edtech, etc.). If you are new to Twitter, try the site Ultimate Twitter Guide for Teachers. Other social sites include Google+ Communities, Linkedin, Facebook, Nings, and many others.

Watch Webinars
There are many free educational webinars that you can either watch and participate in real time or watch the archived versions. Some examples include:
Ted Ed    –   PBS   –    Center for Learning   –    ASCD   –    eSchoolNews
Reading Horizons   –    Math Solutions   –   Discovery Education

Other Favorite Sharing Sites:
Pinterest   –   Diigo (video)  –    SlideShare
VoiceThread (examples)  –  LiveBinders (examples)

Consider how you might increase your own PLN this year.

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