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Welcome to the final step in our free professional learning series on building your PLN.

The aim of this step is to explore:

  1. What you can gain from connecting with other classroom teachers.
  2. Tips for connecting with different educators from around the globe.
  3. Your challenge task to help you continue building your PLN.


This following information was written by Shawn Avery, a sixth grade teacher at Dennett Elementary, in Plympton, Massachusetts.  He has a passion for teaching and trying to find new ways to engage students by integrating technology into the classroom.  You can find his class blog at mravery.edublogs.org. You can also visit his wikis, Student Math Movies and #6thchat. He can be found on witter, @mr_avery and Google+.


Making connections with other classroom teachers has provided so many learning opportunities for myself as well as my students.  My teaching world was relatively sheltered up until 2011.  I would often collaborate with other educators within my school.  However, my collaboration was confined to that.  I hadn’t yet seen the vast potential in flattening my classroom walls and connecting with teachers from around the globe.

A couple of the ways that I made connections with educators have already been tackled in previous posts.  Using blogs as part of a PLN and using Twitter were really how I started out.  I started my class blog in December of 2010.  In researching other class blogs I stumbled across the Edublog awards.  I started commenting on some of the different blogs that I came across there and as I started posting interesting content on our blog, those comments started to become reciprocated.  Around that same time, I started out on Twitter.    I started talking to some of those other teachers that I blogged with, posting interesting sites that I came across, as well as whenever our blog had a new post.  My PLN slowly started to build.

As the year progressed, I found many new ways to connect with others.

We quad-blogged.

Quad blogging is where four different classes, four different blogs, connect for a four week period. Each week the focus is on one of those blogs. The other three classes all visit and comment on that blog. That blog will take the week to post information about the school, their location, and any other interesting information they’d like to share. We were able to connect with a class from California, British Columbia, and Australia. It allowed for my students to learn information with others from around the world and I was able to connect with three other amazing educators.

On Twitter, grade level chats such as #4thchat, #5thchat, and #6thchat started popping up. Each week, we discuss a different topic that is voted on by peers. It may range from integrating technology into the classroom to back to school ideas. It’s an amazing way to connect with others. I’ve gained so many wonderful ideas just from these hour long chats.

I’ve also joined educator communities such as Edutopia, Classroom 2.0, and Teacher 2.0. All have great forums that really foster discussion amongst educators. The Teacher Challenge from Edublogs is also a great way to meet educators who have similar goals. Check it out next time it rolls around!

5 Tips to Develop Relationships

Put Yourself Out There!

The more you share, the more you’ll find you receive in return.  Whether it be sharing resources through blogging, bookmarking sites such as Diigo, Twitter, Google+, or Facebook, educators love hearing about great resources.  You’ll find that if you’re sharing quality content, you’ll make connections quickly!

Find What Works Best for You

I know all of this sounds daunting.  There are so many places to go to help grow your PLN.  You don’t have to sign up for every educator site or every social network.  Try them out though.  Find what you feel best fits what you’d like to accomplish and then dedicate yourselves to those.  I spend the majority of my time connecting between Twitter and blogging.  I’ll peak my head in to some of the other sites sometimes though just to see if there’s anything I find useful and to comment on a forum or two.

Always Follow Up

If someone comments on your blog, make sure you comment back.  If someone mentions you on Twitter, make sure you respond or at least thank them for the mention.  Having a PLN is all about the conversation.  Making sure that you respond back to others is a great way to get that conversation going.

Look for Innovative Ways to Connect

I’ve seen tools such as Skype used to connect with classes from around the world.  Instead of just a straight forward chat though, try Mystery Skyping or Family Feud Skyping.  Those will certainly get conversation going!  Or, try creating a chat on Twitter based upon an area of teaching you love.  You could do a weekly hour chat based upon botany in the classroom and create the hashtag #classbot.  Just an idea.  Be creative!

Be Prepared to Collaborate

In growing your PLN, you’ll find that it opens so many doors to new activities in the classroom.  Use these connections to collaborate with teachers and students from around the world.  I’ve seen amazing projects develop from these connections.  A great example is the Ugandan Global Project which was put together by Linda Yollis (California), Jonah Salsich (Connecticut), Kathleen Morris and Kelly Jordan (Australia), as well as Sarah Toa (China). Through the joint efforts of these classes around the world, they raised close to $20,000 (USD) to help build a play area next to a school in Uganda. I’ve also made great connections through the Kites Around the World Project created by Jonah Salsich and the Student Math Movie wiki. Or, if you have a PLN as wonderful as mine, maybe you’ll even have a chance to collaborate on a project such as this at some point in the future. Just know that collaborative projects will definitely help grow your PLN.

Your Task

We’d like you to add your voice and ideas to our ongoing conversation on building your own PLN by undertaking one or more of the following challenges:

  1. Write a post or comment on this post about how you plan to connect with other educators.  What sites do you prefer to use to make connections.  Why?
  2. Write a post or leave a comment on this post about how you currently or how you hope to collaborate with other educators.  What’s your favorite collaborative project that you feel helped you make connections with other educators?

Also feel free to leave a comment to ask any questions or share your tips.


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  1. Thank you for sharing! You brought up a lot of different platforms for making connections with other educators. Twitter seems to be brought up a lot, but I appreciated you mentioning some of the other options. Personally, I think Skype sounds a little intimidating but it was nice to see all the different ways educators can connect and what they can accomplish when they actually do!

    I also appreciated your reminder to follow up with people. I am always so encouraged when people write a comment on one of my posts so it is certainly good practice to engage in these conversations with people we are connecting with. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts!

  2. Thank you for sharing your personal educational learning experiences, Shawn! Your emphasis on collaboration and knowledge sharing is an area that intimidates me quite a bit, but is huge to being a life-long learner. When you were connecting with other teachers, I really liked your example of quad blogging. This is the first time I have heard of it, and I really like the idea of extending the educational network to a global scale that involves students in classrooms. I am still entering the realm of PLN, but Skype and Twitter are two platforms that I feel I would prefer using to make connections.

  3. Hi, I plan to connect my PLN by using sites like Yammer, which is a WV education collaboration site of teacher helping teachers in WV. I also intend to use Twitter. I am new at this and have as of yet still looking. Though as I was looking around I did find some civic sites, 1Civics.org that looks promising.

  4. Something that this blog post really emphasized for me is that a PLN is all about reciprocal relationships. It was interesting to read about the impact it has when you reach out to, and then follow up with someone. It can lead to awesome global partnerships, which does nothing but improve students’ classroom experience!

  5. Making connections is such an important part of being a great educator. At this point in my schooling, I typically only collaborate with fellow classmates and professors. In a few years when I am a teacher, I will need to broaden my horizons to make more meaningful connections. I plan on using Pinterest for classroom ideas and google for help with specific questions or problems I may have. I am not on board the twitter train yet, but having heard so many educators benefit from twitter, I may have to jump on the bandwagon if it comes down to it. However, I believe that collaborating with fellow educators in the school district that I find myself working at will be very meaningful as well.

  6. I found many useful ideas through reading this page! I have used ideas from Pinterest in order to figure out lessons and projects other teachers have used in their classrooms. I plan to use Twitter to generate more ideas for my future classroom. I am going to use this year to make my Twitter more useful for me in education.

  7. Thank you very much for this information about making connections. I have trouble making these kind of connections because of my personality, but I think I could really like using Twitter as a way of making connections as well as other sites. It will take a great deal of work for me to really get comfortable not only making connections but also using them. One thing I really appreciated is the way you gave very specific examples and ways that you as a teacher can change it up to best suit the classroom, such as with the family feud version of skyping. Differentiating these great resources really help with keeping student interest and promoting their learning.

  8. I hadn’t really thought about it before, but educational blogs provide a large base for learning and sharing teaching strategies. Even Twitter and Pinterest are often used as a storage place to help others find links to blog pages. It is an interesting idea to expose students to a blog to respond to as a class. This could be a great way to teach netiquette skills such as how to respectfully communicate online and for students to learn from others in a way that they can replicate outside the classroom. Thanks for all your great ideas on developing a PLN!

  9. Making connections by simply relying on personal interactions with other professionals can severely limit the range of knowledge one can take in about their passions and concerns. By using twitter, pinterest, and facebook as ways of chatting with and sharing ideas with other educators broadens and provides deeper knowledge to be gained. I plan to use twitter as a means of chatting with other educators. I also plan to use pinterest as a way of finding ideas and posting my own ideas.

  10. I really appreciate that it has been stated many times throughout this learning series that the only way to develop a PLN is to ‘simply start’. One of the hesitations that I have regarding beginning on Twitter or attempting to expand my PLN is that once I am started that I need to have everything flushed out and thought through when in actuality (as stated in this article) all it takes is the desire to begin! That is both encouraging and exciting! Thank you so much for your insight!

  11. I prefer twitter as a way to connect with other educators because it appears to be the least maintenance. Twitter has a word limit and that in and of itself is very attractive. I have so little free time that in order to effectively use a PLN, it would have to be something that doesn’t require a ton of time. Also twitter seems to me like the best way to hear from many different people. Searching a hashtag will offer me a ton of comments faster than searching through blogs or any of the other options on here. I also am more familiar with twitter so the fact that I already know how to use it makes it a more appealing choice.

  12. So far, I have utilized Pinterest as a tool to get ideas for my classroom. Due to this professional development, I also created a Twitter account and a Flipboard account for professional development purposes. Thus far, I have only used these sites for lurking and have not posted any original material. I definitely see myself using Pinterest as a way to share my projects and ideas with other educators. I love to integrate the arts in my first grade classroom and could easily photograph our projects and share them on Pinterest. It would be gratifying to inspire other teachers!

    • Mary Beth Kulin
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  13. My best experience in communicating with other educators has been at Journey to Learn conferences. I have been able to make a great number of connections with similar subject teachers in the surrounding school districts and bounce ideas back and forth and absorb a lot of great information. I realize this project has largely focused on web-based technologies that can be used to build a PLN, but very little can beat the immediacy and connectivity of direct conversation. As a young educator I am growing like a tree; expanding my reach in many directions over time and garnering new relationships along with new information.

    • Daniel Surovchak
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  14. Thank you for the persuasion I needed to go and ask some questions!

    I am not a fan of the “networking” culture, where people become contacts for an individual’s self-advancement, with not investment given without an expected return. But this seems quite different to the whole “Here’s my LinkedIn”, or “we should get coffee because you might no someone who’s willing to hire me”. So “making connections” had a callous feel to it before reading the page, tainted by that whole deal.

    This sounds more like social networking where the intention is to share and share alike, and to by all means get to know someone better over time. There is a friendliness about it, and common goals that extend far beyond the individual.
    It is a little daunting to start conversations with people over the internet, especially if I feel I am asking out of a moderate curiosity and the responder may go all out, putting a lot of their time aside for my sake. Educators are notoriously generous with the little time they have. I can imagine spending some time “lurking” before I felt I’d have something to ask that couldn’t be answered by Google.

    I feel like blogs are perhaps the most approachable format, to my thinking. Anything I made a blog entry about I would know enough about to answer any curious passer-by, compared to a few dropped names or terms in a comment somewhere.
    Equally it feels less personal to leave a comment on a blog – the author can choose to leave it be, unlike a more personal message directly to the author, which demands a response.

  15. Shawn,
    Thank you for the insightful post. It’s encouraging to hear how many helpful teaching ideas you’ve been able to gain through networking. However, I do have a question. You mention being innovative in making connections. My concern is the time that this takes. Is new technology worth the effort if it takes away from instructional time, or time that could be spent planning for instruction? Especially for those of us who are not incredibly technologically savvy, what makes something like “Family Feud Skyping” more beneficial than traditional Skype?My other question is how you’ve been able to find all of these resources.. Where do you find out about new technology such as “Family Feud Skyping?”, or specific chat rooms? I have never heard of many of the things you mentioned in your post. I do like many of your ideas for gaining information specifically for your subject area or grade level, or for specific things you want to develop in as an educator. Quad-blogging sounds very beneficial, as do many of the specific Twitter chats. It’s neat to hear how you can personalize your PLN to suite your needs. Thank you for your post!

  16. Wow! It is hard to believe that a month has gone by and I have learned so much by participating in the Edublogs PLN Teacher Challenge. Don’t get me wrong, I still feel like my steps are baby steps. But overall, it has been quite an eye opener revealing all the possibilities as I continue to build my PLN and learn to build my blog as well.

    My favorites so far have been Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and Pinterest. But I was already somewhat familiar with all of those except for Twitter. In addition, I am loving Scoop-It! to curate great up to the latest information. My plan is to continue to use Weebly for a book study this year for our teacher cohort and of course, utlilize the terrific resources Edublogs has to offer. Thank you for all the fabulous educators and resources I have been able to add to my PLN through the Edublogs PLN Teacher Challenge!

  17. This past summer, I was in Calgary at SMART’s World Headquarters for a SMART Educators Summit. I ran into another educator I follow on Twitter. I look at her tweets to discover new ways of integrating technology into classrooms. She recognized me, knew we followed each other, and asked what happened. Why haven’t I posted lately any new ideas for technology integration? I needed to get back into blogging and tweeting my ideas because she loved to read them. That struck me. I always looked at Twitter as a means to get ideas but never thought anyone actually looked at my ideas. So I would say Twitter has become the biggest way I connect with other educators.

    • Hi Dan, thanks for sharing the feedback from your Twitter follower. It is great when you meet someone and they share stories of how you’ve helped them as we don’t always appreciate this aspect unless they let us know.

  18. I really enjoyed viewing the GOODBYE MR RILEY video and I thank you for sharing your wonderful ideas.
    I am waiting until I commence a new job as Senior Teacher Librarian (Australia) to see what PLN collaborate sites best suits my learning and sharing needs. In the meantime, I shall be exploring links to save onto Diigo and connecting with the oztl.net forum. It seems always that one is chasing time to explore and because of this we need the PLN connections even more. It seems it is careful curation of tools that best suit us that will direct out pathway and increase our presence online. I am sure as I become more familiar with the tools, I will be amazed at the ease with which I shall connect like a ripple effect. Here goes…Thanks for inspiring….

  19. My favorite collaborative project that I feel helped me make connections with other educators would have to be Twitter Chats. I did three last week and enjoyed them all, created a larger PLN, and came away with good ideas. This teacher challenge has been a great tool for enlarging my PLN, and letting me know what’s out there for educators. Glad I chose to take this challenge!

  20. Hello Shawn

    I’ve recently set up edublogs for my Year 10 Physics students (Victoria, Australia). Your 30 day challenge is beginning today for me. Your 5 tips will be front and centre to the approach I’ll try to adopt. I’ll let you know how I get on.
    The collaborative communication that ICT gives us was the biggest reason I got involved in teaching with technology nearly 20 years ago. We are now seeing the potential of the medium really starting to be realised.
    Thanks for your good work.
    Kevin Sharkey

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  22. This post gave me a lot of great ideas about building a PLN! It’s easy to want one but not know how to go about doing it. I never thought about being prepared to collaborate and moving conversations into the classroom when it came to building a PLN. Any specific advice for pre-service teachers looking to build their PLN?

    • Priscilla,

      I’m glad you were able to gather some ideas from this post!

      Building a PLN can definitely seem like a daunting task. There are so many different sites out there.

      I’ve seen a couple of great ways for pre-service teachers to build their PLN. I can’t emphasize Twitter enough. It’s really become a go-to site for educators to collaborate and share ideas with others. I build some amazing connections that way.

      Another way is to create your own blog to share ideas that you have. This is an example of a great one, http://ashleyazzopardi.wordpress.com/. I can tell that she’s made a lot of connections by putting her ideas out there in the form of a blog. With this, you’re able to receive comments and create conversation which is such an important part of a PLN.

      I hope this helps!

      Shawn Avery

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  24. Hello Shawn
    A question: I have been slowly working up to collaborating with the people I follow on Twitter instead of lurking. During the semester year,, I have 70 or more blogs to respond to as part of my classroom blog network…that leaves me with little energy to post in different sites.
    How do you balance everything you do in order to collaborate so much?

    • Hi Ellen,

      That’s a great question. One of the tough parts about a PLN is balancing everything. I can’t possibly imagine trying to respond to 70+ blogs! I have about 10 or so that I visit and comment on regularly. Occasionally I will comment on others. I find that it can certainly take up an extraordinary amount of time if you try to comment on a lot. By commenting on a lesser amount of blogs, I feel I build a better relationship with them and I save myself some time to be able to join other networks as well! I hope this helps!


    • Mrs. Schmidt,

      Thank you so much for sharing! I think this is a great forum for anyone to share some of their different projects. There are so many great ones out there for educators to become a part of. I hope this post was able to introduce you to even more!

      Thank you again.


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