Edublogs Teacher Challenges

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Step 10: Making Connections

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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.

mraverysmall

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+.

Overview

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.

17 comments for “Step 10: Making Connections

  1. Alaina
    December 16, 2014 at 6:50 am

    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!

  2. Angela Ribo
    November 4, 2014 at 11:07 pm

    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!

  3. Dan Gallagher
    November 4, 2014 at 10:04 pm

    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.

    • Sue Waters
      November 5, 2014 at 3:41 pm

      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.

  4. hrowli02
    November 4, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    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….

  5. Cyndi
    October 20, 2014 at 3:35 am

    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!

  6. September 22, 2011 at 10:14 am

    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

  7. August 21, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    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?

    • August 24, 2011 at 12:08 pm

      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!

      Sincerely,
      Shawn Avery

  8. August 12, 2011 at 11:30 am

    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?

    • August 13, 2011 at 2:59 pm

      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!

      Shawn

  9. August 12, 2011 at 12:14 am

    Here is a post listing some of my favorite collaboration projects. http://tschmidt.edublogs.org/2011/08/11/making-connections/

    • August 13, 2011 at 3:04 pm

      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.

      Shawn

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