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

In the first step, we unpacked the definition of a PLN and looked at the benefits of being a connected educator.

You may now be wondering how to begin building your own PLN.

The aim of this step is to:

  1. Offer an overview of how to build a PLN
  2. Provide a snapshot of some tools educators use to connect with their PLN
  3. Share tips for connecting with educators from around the globe
  4. Discuss barriers to building a PLN

The Networked Teacher

Around a decade ago, Alec Couros created two diagrams that have been shared thousands of times.

This first diagram demonstrates how a teacher would traditionally connect and learn.

Image by Alec Couros, CC CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

This diagram of “The Networked Teacher” demonstrates just some of the ways that educators can connect now that technology is at their fingertips. Note, the “old” ways of connecting are still there.

The Networked Teacher diagram by Alec Couros showing the different media that educators can connect with -- blogs, social bookmarking, chat etc.
Image by Alec Couros (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Alec’s brother George reminds us that the arrows go back and forth and it’s not only about what you consume but what you create. You can give as well as receive.

What Tools Are Used?

Teachers from all over the globe are online and learning together, but where exactly do you find these teachers and develop working relationships with them?

In a 2016 study called “Together we are better: Professional Learning Networks For Teachers”, K-12 teachers were asked how they use PLNs.

The most popular tool in the sample was Twitter with 53% of participants indicating that they used this tool to connect with others.

Other popular tools listed in the survey included blogs, Edmodo, Facebook, Discovery Education Network, and Pinterest.

84% of survey participants indicated that they use more than one medium or site.

How Are Teachers Connecting On Online Platforms?

Teachers use social media and other online spaces in a variety of ways to connect with their PLN.

Here are ten examples:

  1. Twitter — Educators follow people they’re interested in, ranging from “thought leaders” to everyday teachers in a similar subject area or age group. Teachers also use hashtags to follow topics of interest, and join Twitter chats to discuss ideas in real time. Be sure to follow Edublogs and CampusPress on Twitter. The next step in this series will explain how to start using Twitter.
  2. Facebook — Educators follow pages and profiles of people and businesses involved in education. They also join Facebook groups to post questions, ask for feedback, and respond to others. Visit our Edublogs Facebook page and Facebook for Education to start learning something new.
  3. Instagram — You can follow educators to get new ideas for lessons, activities, learning spaces and more. Hashtags make it easy to search for topics you’re interested in. Check out Tony Vincent’s Guide to Instagram For Teachers.
  4. Pinterest — Pinterest is ultimately a ‘discovery engine’ and is becoming a go-to for many educators looking for fresh ideas, resources, and connections. Be sure to follow Edublogs on Pinterest!
  5. Blogs — Blogs play an important role in most educators’ PLNs. This might include reading blogs from a variety of different people or writing your own blog. Visit Step Five of this series for more information.
  6. Email newsletters — There might be an educator, thought leader, or blogger who you really enjoy following. Chances are, they have an email newsletter that you can subscribe to for free to have curated news and contented delivered straight to inbox!
  7. Voxer — This walkie-talkie like tool can be used as an app on your mobile device or on your computer. Educators can engage in both synchronous and asynchronous conversations about their professional practice. Learn more in this article on Voxer by Amy Heavin.
  8. YouTube — Video is a powerful medium. Many teachers enjoy following a selection of YouTube channels to keep up to date with a variety of topics. Check out Kasey Bell’s 20 YouTube Channels for Educators to find some channels that might interest you.
  9. LinkedIn — Considered a “professional” social networking platform, educators can connect with a large community of professionals on LinkedIn. Explore this collection of 25 LinkedIn groups for networking teachers via Fractus Learning.

Feel free to share this graphic on your blog or with your colleagues.

Popular ways educators are learning with their PLN Edublogs Teacher Challenge

Tips For Developing Relationships

PLNs are all about relationships! Here are a few tips to consider as you begin to build your PLN.

  1. Invest some time in building your PLN. Set aside even 15 or 20 minutes a day and you’ll build momentum in no time.
  2. PLNs work both ways. Remember, the more you share, the more you’ll find you receive in return.
  3. Try different tools. There are so many different forms of social media, online tools, and ways to connect. Dip your toes in and see how educators are using various tools.
  4. Find tools that work best for you. While it’s definitely worth giving things a try, not every platform is for everyone. Choose to dedicate time to the tools you enjoy and find the most rewarding.
  5. Follow up with people. If someone connects with you whether it’s through a tweet, blog comment, Facebook group, or any platform, thank them, ask a question, and get to know them. These are the building blocks of forming a relationship.
  6. Ask for help. If you find someone who already has a number of connections (on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or wherever) ask them to introduce you to others. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you’re figuring out how various platforms work either.
  7. Curate wisely. If you want to share interesting resources with people in your PLN, make sure you read beyond a headline and share things you think will be truly useful.
  8. Diversify. Try to connect with people with diverse opinions and points of view. It’s easy for “birds of a feather to flock together”, however, sometimes there is more to gain from communicating with a range of people from different backgrounds.
  9. Involve your students. Once you get to know a few educators, you might start to think about ways you can connect your students. Check out our Edublogger’s Guide To Global Collaboration for lots of ideas.
  10. Spread the word. As you begin to explore PLNs and online communities, share this information with others in your school or district. Maybe they don’t realize this wonderful virtual opportunity exists!

Barriers To Creating A PLN

In our first step, we looked at many of the advantages of building a PLN. If the benefits of being a connected educator are clear, what holds so many teachers back from building their own PLN?

Perhaps the first obstacle is that many teachers simply don’t know about PLNs. They don’t know there are thousands of educators from around the world who are online connecting, collaborating, and learning together.

Furthermore, Tom Whitby has outlined three deterrents to educators using PLNs as a tool for ongoing learning.

The PLN is a mindset, not the outcome of a workshop or the PD offered annually by many school districts. It is not a one-shot fix.

Teachers have learned through the “sit and get” model for generations. This mindset shift where you need to realize that you are responsible for your own learning and you can take control can be difficult to adapt to.

Additionally, prioritizing the investment in time that building a PLN requires would certainly be an obstacle for some. Step seven in this series offers some tips on finding time to invest in your PLN.

Successful users of PLNs overwhelm the uninitiated with techno-babble.

Hopefully, the future steps in this course can break down any overwhelming “techno-babble”.

You will probably find that many teachers who are regular uses of online technologies proclaim that they are “not very tech savvy”. Even George Couros who has a Twitter following of 224,000+ has said, “I’m not that good with technology and you probably aren’t either“.

It requires, at least at first, digital literacy beyond a Google search.

It is certainly essential that educators develop their digital literacy. As Silvia Tolisano has pointed out, our notion of what it means to be literate or illustrate calls for an update. 

... merely reading and writing in text form and on analog platforms is simply not enough to call yourself literate. The skills and abilities MUST include reading and writing in various media forms and on multiple platforms INCLUDING digital spaces. We can’t continue to differentiate between our analog and digital world. We live in ONE world after all.

If you feel like you need to improve your own digital literacy skills, don’t despair! You don’t need to learn everything before you embark on building your PLN. We will provide you with the essential tips and skills throughout this course and you can learn as you go.

If you feel like your skills need updating in other areas, such as blogging and online tools, we have other free courses you can work through at your own pace too.


Becoming a connected educator is something that takes work but has enormous advantages for both you and your students. In fact, many educators would say that it’s an essential responsibility of teachers to connect and commit to lifelong learning.

As George Couros has said, “Isolation is now a choice educators make“.

There are so many ways to free yourself from isolation. The following steps in this series breaks down three powerful avenues to becoming a connected educator — Twitter, blogs, and content curation.

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. Preferences: We all enjoy connecting in different ways. Write a post or comment on this post about how you plan to connect with other educators. What sites or tools do you think you’d prefer to use to make connections. Why?
  2. Relationship tips: Revise our list of tips for developing working relationships with other educators. What resonates most with you? Do you have any ideas to add? Tell us in a comment.
  3. Barriers: We have identified some common barriers to building a PLN. Leave a comment and tell us what the biggest barrier has been for you (or others you know). Share your thoughts on how this obstacle can be overcome.

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

How to leave a comment: Scroll down to find the comment box. Write your comment, then enter your name and email address (email addresses are not published). Enter the anti-spam word. Press submit and we will moderate your comment ASAP.

659 thoughts on “Step 2: Making Connections

  1. I think facebook, instagram and youtube are the social medias websites that I prefer to connect PLN with. Why because these websites that I used daily and well familiarized on how to use its tools that comes from within. Including friends and families that can help me along for connected educators to others on networking.

  2. My favorite ways for developing relationships with other educators includes: trying
    different tools, and finding the best tool that works for you, follow up with people, and ask for
    help. There are so many different forms of social media, online tools, and ways to connect,
    which is why it is important to give each one a try and see which one would be ideal to dedicate time too, as well as enjoy. I feel it is important to follow up with people if they connect with you on social media, blog posts, or any other platform, because that is how you get to know them, ask any questions, and begin forming a relationship. It is also equally important to ask for help when you’re figuring out how various platforms work.

  3. I plan on making connections for my PLN through twitter and wakelet. I have already created a wakelet account and have begun making collections to share.

  4. I prefer to connect with others via social media. I follow and interact with other educators on Facebook and Instagram. This allows me to be a lurker when I desire, give and receive feedback, and glean ideas from others.

  5. My biggest problem with online PLNs is the time spent online. Most Americans have a such a hard time with not being addicted to technology and I have been working hard on this problem for myself. With the progress I have made, I just don’t want to get sucked in again. I also have a lot of resources in my district that I want to try so my desire for seeking more information outside of my own city is not as great. So part of the issue is just my stage of life since I am only in my 3rd year of teaching.
    In order to overcome this, I just need to make sure I don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. I could use Facebook and I could make sure I only view a certain page that pertains to my PLN. I could also set a timer when I go to look up that page. In this way, I can maintain a healthy balance with technology but although reaping the incredible benefits of the amazing teachers across the internet.

  6. Being able to start up a successful PLN starts with being able to make connections. To me, the most important part of making these connections is to be reciprocal. In other words, the more resources you share, the more you will get in return. I would consider using facebook, instagram, youtube, newsletter subscriptions, mailchimp, etc.

  7. I would use tools such as twitter, tiktok, and pinterest that I am most familiar with to share ideas with educators and take from their thoughts as well. I would choose these three tools because it is a platform I am already comfortable with.

  8. I like using TikTok and Pinterest the most to stay connected with people around me, and how I can learn from others as well. Both apps help give so many creative ways to incorporate things in my classroom and lessons and help me belong in the community. I am also able to provide helpful tips and tricks to others as well. Especially TikTok, it is a growing community of constant great resources teachers provide for one another to help. I also think LinkedIn would be a great job connector to interact with more teachers and create professional connections.

  9. One of the biggest ways I plan to connect with fellow teachers, is by maintaining the relationships with my previous teachers from when I was a student and participating in all the conferences and workshops my county offers. I feel like these resources my county offers is not only great for refining my skills but getting the chance to work with other local teachers who I would not have gotten the chance to meet otherwise.

  10. I hope to teach private music instruction and a home business can come with alot of uncertainties. I plan to use PLN to get tips from other music educators and to network to other educators and students. Most likely I will use LinkedIn and Twitter to do so

  11. I have instagram and pinterest as my current only forms of social media because they are the easiest userfriendly media sites for me to use. I see teachers use instagram the most to show how they are setting up their classroom for success and what they do for their students behind the scenes. PInterest works best for me to see lesson plan and activity ideas visually. Though for making connections and having discussions with people, instagram offers very simply discussion opportunities.

  12. I personally like using Instagram to stay connected with people around me, whether it’s a post or a story it’s a way to help me stay connected! I plan on using Instagram or Youtube to stay connected for my PLN.  I am very comfortable and familiar with those apps, it would help me stay connected with other educators and share my lesson plan! I also been on TikTok where I would see teachers give their tips on certain lessons and share it with the community. I may use TikTok for future use! 

  13. I think I would use sites such as facebook , pinterest and youtube. I would use these because it is what I am more comfortable with and more savvy at as I have used them before in and out of the classroom. If I can find another site that would allow me to find organizations or other groups that align with me. Once I’ve created my own group on these platforms, I would then use it as a way for other teachers to share lesson plans, decorating ideas or even fun activities.

  14. My go-to websites to connect with other educators would be TikTok, instagram, Facebook, twitter. Even other sites that aren’t social media I’d choose TED Ed or even teacherspayteachers. I’d use these sights because it’s a good way to connect with other educators who have brilliant ideas.

  15. I plan to connect with other educators through Facebook, Instagram, and blogs. These platforms can be used in a variety of ways to connect with others like creating groups on Facebook or an instagram page dedicated to a PLN.

  16. I plan on connecting with other educators in many different ways. First, I’ve met some great future educators through my education college program. I will most definitely be still connecting with them when I become a teacher. Secondly, I think connecting with educators at the school you’re working at is a great way to create a community and feel supported. I also think creating a linkedin or some other sort job connector would be a great way to connect with other educators I might not get the chance to originally.

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