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.

768 thoughts on “Step 2: Making Connections

  1. The jargon and technical language often associated with online platforms can deter educators from exploring digital tools for PLN building. Providing clear, jargon-free tutorials and guides on using various platforms can demystify the process of engaging with a PLN. Peer-led training sessions where educators share their experiences and tips for navigating digital spaces can also help break down the techno-babble barrier.

  2. I would try to connect with other educators by first speaking to educators that I know in person to create an online forum. I would ask those in the forum to bring in other people, especially those who are working on the same kind of content, whether that means we are all creating science, lesson plans, or we all teach third grade. I would try to make a social media page to reach out to more educators and might try to put up flyers or speak to other teachers at my school about a PLN. I think for the network, I would try to create a website with dedicated forums for each grade I think for the network, I would try to create a website with dedicated forums for each grade level and subject, assuming the PLN is made up of a large group as opposed to a few teachers.

  3. I would most likely use my existing social medias (Twitter, Instagram, Reddit) to connect with fellow educators/teachers. It might also be beneficial to branch out into new social media platforms such as LinkedIn or Facebook to network. This would be very valuable to me in terms of getting resources and support during my career. It would also be beneficial maybe to create new profiles on these social media websites so as to not cross between my private and professional lives.

  4. I think one common barrier to building a PLN is the time commitment it takes to actively build resources and also contribute to conversations. In addition, finding credible resources while also finding differing perspectives can be hard to comprehend for some and takes time curating different sources and where to get them from.

  5. I love using TikTok, YouTube shorts, Instagram Reels, and Pinterest. These platforms are fantastic for teachers to connect and share ideas. I spend a lot of time on TikTok, saving videos with cute lesson ideas and room decor inspiration. These apps aren’t just fun; they’re incredibly valuable resources for teachers.

  6. I like to use instagram to make connections with other educators. One of the barriers I think would most affect me is time commitment however, I enjoy going on instagram so it helps it to not feel like a task to complete. It helps me to feel like I’m still just absently scrolling while still being able to connect with other educators and learn from their contributions. 

  7. A tip that resonated with me the most would be ” Reciprocity”. It emphasizes the importance of giving back to your personal learning networks while receiving valuable insights and resources from them. An idea for this would be to actively participate in virtual conferences, webinars and collaborative projects organized by your pln networks to deepen connection.

  8. I plan to connect with other educators by using platforms like LinkedIn, school portals, and online forums. I want to use platforms that easily explain someone’s situation, so I can engage with them in a meaningful manner. I specifically enjoy these types of platforms because they easily allow for networking amongst other teachers around the globe, and can be responded to more thoroughly.

  9. I actually use my work app as one of the ways that I connect with other educators. I work with a company that has locations all across the country, and through our app we are able to connect with people from each location. It’s a really cool way for us to share ideas on how we’re going to teach the lesson plans for the current week as well as how we can implement new ideas into our classroom.

  10. Although I haven’t started creating a PLN quite yet, I do experience some barriers with social media that would pose challenges for building a PLN. Social media can be used for good and for bad, and navigating through the good and bad can be quite difficult especially if you are not familiar with how content is curated for each individual. Based on what you interact with or like, an algorithm will feed you more of that content. This can lead you into an echo chamber where you only see content that you agree with and that puts you in a place where you think the majority of people agree with you. Teachers should take care when using social media in order not to fall into this trap. An effort should be made to diversify the content you see and do external research on a trusted and unbiased site on subjects you might be unsure of.

  11. I currently use social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter to connect with other educators. Many of them use these platforms to post informational content that may be useful for other educators and allow for collaboration between educators.

  12. I think the best way for me to connect with other educators would be through social media. Many educators will post things like reels on instagram or tiktok sharing tip and tricks. It’s easy to engage on these platforms with educators in all places of all backgrounds through comments of direct messaging.

  13. One way that I have found strategies and teaching ideas is by following educators from around the US on Tik Tok. I like social media for networking because there are so many educators out there that post tips and activities or teacher advice in short clips and offer sections for asking questions that they answer in videos which is a very new age way of communicating with little to no work.

  14. This step was all about making connections, and how PLN’s are all about making connections! It is interesting to see the difference between a networked teacher traditionally versus the new diagram of the “networked teacher.” I also found it very interesting to see the amount of platforms that teachers are using to make connections and teach their students. From Instagram to Pinterest to LinkedIn, teachers are using so many platforms!

  15. I use LinkedIn and Facebook to make connections. I like these because I like having a professional network and using Facebook to connect with my colleagues on a more personal level. It also allows me to be able to connect with professional events and things going on in the education community.

  16. I think a really powerful tool for current teachers that wasn’t mentioned is TikTok. While it does not have the same community aspect as a social media platform like Facebook or Instagram, it is definitely a very quick and simple way to find resources and ideas. They are very easily shareable through text or social media, so the videos can then be shared out to the PLN that way for others to utilize as well.

  17. I enjoyed all the tips for developing relationships with other educators and it was difficult to pick just one. I think the one that most resonates with me is to Ask for help. I definitely tend to try and do things on my own and not wanting to ask others for help. The whole idea of a PLN is to have a group of other educators that you can connect and have as support. Having one connection that can introduce you to other connections and so on will be very helpful.

  18. I plan to connect with other educators primarily through Twitter and professional learning communities within my school. Twitter’s brevity and diverse perspectives appeal to me, while PLCs are more goal and discussion based. These platforms will enable me to engage meaningfully and continuously grow both personally and professionally.

  19. I think the best way to get connected with teachers is through social media, especially in today’s society. Linkedin is the best tool I can think of, and Linkedin will even offer you people in similar positions and your feed will be related to your occupation as well. This will help to be connected with more educators, as Linkedin you are able to message other educators and be able to set up meetings as well.

  20. I really enjoy YouTube shorts! I follow so many Elementary Teachers, and I take notes on their lesson plans, classroom organization, and class structure.

  21. I feel like another obstacle would be the fact that it may be difficult for some people to step out of “I’ve taught this way for X amount of years, and it has always worked for me. Why would I change this now/ask for the opinions of others” It is when that stubbornness starts that we fail our students. Our students deserve the best that we can give them, and they deserve to hear from/ learn multiple perspectives.

  22. I think I would be most likely to use social media (i.e. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook) to initially connect with other educators. I already use these platforms in my day-to-day personal life, and so I feel like incorporating them into my day-to-day professional life would be an easy transition. Using social media as my main form of connection would really allow me to find younger educators to connect with as well which I think will be a huge support in my first year or two teaching because they are either going through the process side-by-side with me or have just finished those hard first months and years.

  23. The idea of making connections and networking within the education world has always been an overwhelming step to me. The part that resonated the most with me was the tip on asking for help. Throughout my years in college, I have started to grow more comfortable with admitting when I was not confident enough on a topic and taking the proper steps towards addressing the insecurity (i.e., tutoring, supplemental instruction, office hours). Many upcoming teachers may feel this pressure to have the best, most modern and interactive learning activities, updated understanding of their discipline and just have it figured out. Being reassured that asking for help in a space that flourishes out of it is very relieving. I hope that one day I will have enough mentorship and valuable experience to create my own PLN to help others in the position I am in now.

  24. When it comes to connecting with other educators, I tend to follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Tik Tok. These are the outlets I am not familiar with, and I have become connected with many groups, In these groups, I have been able to find new, up to date ideas for my counties current Kindergarten curriculum. It has amazed me the number of educators who are willing to self create items and give them away to fellow educators. I am very thankful for these sites and these educators.

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