Sunday, April 2, 2017

4 Ways To Grow Your Personal Learning Network This Week

“Alone we are smart, but together we are brilliant. We can use the collective wisdom to do great things when we are connected.”

I said that way back on September 17, 2013 and yet I think it is even more true today than even back then.

When I was in the classroom, I felt isolated as a teacher. Teaching middle school math and science my first few years out of college I had ideas as to what I wanted to do but I really needed help. I would reach out to my colleagues but many were apprehensive to give away their secrets. They wanted their kids to be the best using the methods they had developed over the years. All I wanted to do was improve and I felt stuck.

We live in an age where we have near real time access to just about anything you want to know and to the people who know it best. Social media allows us to connect, to learn, to grow and to reflect not only within ourselves but with each other. As just as my quote says we are brilliant together.

Recently, on a webinar with my friend Erin Olson, she talked about an activity she does with teachers. She has them write 3 things they need to improve their learning and 3 things they can give to improve the learning of others. As you could guess it’s easy for them to write the 3 things they need. However, when asked about the 3 things to give many struggle to come up with one. Many educators still believe they have little to offer to improve the learning of their colleagues.

All of us have something to offer. An incredible lesson or teaching method that just worked. Or maybe it was an idea that was born out of a struggle to get kids to better understand their content. All of us have had those wins that could help others win too. Being a connected educator is more than just taking ideas from a Twitter chat or even this blog post. It’s about always being in pursuit of that selfish goal of improving our learning so we can improve learning for kids.

Our personal learning networks are all different. Mine looks different from yours and yours from mine. But that is where the beauty lies. Each of us has something different to learn and different to offer. They are going to naturally look different. And they are a constant work in progress. We don’t just decide to have a personal learning network and we find some folks to follow and we are done. Connected educators constantly have to be chasing down the learning they need and the educators who know it best.

4 Ways To Grow Your Personal Learning Network This Week

Edweb-Most know Edweb for their awesome webinars (like this one this week on school culture.) But what many don’t know are the extensive communities that come with those webinars. In those communities there are blogs, messages boards and tons of people to follow and learn from. And you don’t have to feel like you have to visit all the time. At the end of the day you can get a simple email that tells you all that was discussed and upcoming events. You can participate at your pace. The Leadership 3.0, Early Childhood Learning Solutions, Game-Based Learning and Amazing Resources For Educators. Come for the webinars, stay for the conversations!

ASCD Edge-The ASCD Edge community is full of some of the brightest minds in education sharing blogs, having discussions and posting resources. You don’t have to be a member of ASCD (although you should be) to join. Create a free account and browse the hundreds of groups, and insightful blogs. The groups cover topics like Being A New Teacher, Mobile Learning, Problem Based Learning and more. And if you don’t find a group that suits your learning needs you can request a new one created for you.

Google Communities-Often overlooked, Google Communities can be a great place to connect with others on loads of topics. Of course they have many Google related like the Google Classroom community. But there are several other active ones like Connected Classroom, PBL, and Digital Leadership.

Voxer-This one will surprise many, because I am not a Voxer fan. I have used it sparingly and honestly don’t know if I even have the app on my phone any more. For me Voxer doesn’t work. For others it may be the best thing ever. Voxer is a 2-way, walkie-talkie type app. Think of it like leaving a voicemail for someone without calling. You can create small groups and leave longer voice messages or text. The app is free and many educators use them for book talks, reflection, or to, believe it or not deliver professional development. This is a very comprehensive list of ongoing Voxer conversations that you can jump into.

If you are looking for more ways to grow your PLN, Shaelynn Farnsworth and I recently wrote a blog post about why it’s important to be connected, and you can check our our resources we shared recently at ASCD.

It’s important to point out here that the tool is just the means we use to connect. It’s what we do with those connections that really matters. The art of being connected is in the conversations, the discussions, the debates, the learning, sharing and growing that all take place when we connect to each other.

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