Welcome to the second step in our free professional learning series on building your PLN.
The aim of this step is to explore:
- What you can gain from connecting with other classroom teachers.
- Tips for connecting with different educators from around the globe.
- 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.
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.
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:
- 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?
- 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.