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.

Conclusion

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.

416 thoughts on “Step 2: Making Connections

  1. I feel that the best tool to use to connect with others would be to use zoom. The reason for using zoom is based on the fact that zoom is one of the most used tools used for connecting with each other right now. With zoom you can be anywhere and be able to talk to them at any time.

  2. 1. Preferences
    I would prefer to connect with other educators through Pinterest and Blogs. I use Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram as a personal social media platform and I I feel like those platforms get the most negative attention. I think social media platforms like Pinterest and Blog posts are less hateful platforms and are full of more ideas instead of just opinions.

  3. When it comes to connecting with other educators there are a couple different ways that come to mind. One being conferences in the field (for me it would be physical education), and two being resources online. Utilizing online resources is becoming more and more popular and on each website properly using hashtags while help you find others in the same field.

  4. Barriers: A potential obstacle for starting a PLN might be the aversion to social media because of how consuming it can be. I deleted Facebook from my phone to stop wasting time, but it could be used as a highly beneficial tool by finding and learning from educators. To overcome this obstacle, one might set a time limit on their social media usage or create an account solely for a PLN.

  5. 1. Preferences. I plan on using Twitter and Pinterest a lot to connect with teachers and share lots of ideas. I already have connected with a couple teachers on twitter before, and I plan to continue to do so.

  6. A barrier that I see for some educators is more for the older ones. Older people may not be as tech-savvy so they might find this approach more difficult. A possible solution is that it won’t hurt to ask a colleague to teach you how to use these platforms. The PLN community is also there in support in case this might not be for you.

  7. My preferences for connecting and learning from other educators varies depending on the situation, the information, and my schedule itself. Lately, I have gotten a lot of help and ideas from teacher TikTok where educators of all subjects and grade levels are sharing things that have worked and things that haven’t worked in their classrooms, as well as their ideas and beliefs on different teaching topics. They also share tips and tricks that have made life easier for them. I also love the various PDs that different teachers create themselves, such as Lucky Little Learners and other summits and conferences that are recorded and sent out to those who sign up. These also often have various freebies and discounts for various items and products to use in the classroom. I also love getting tips and ideas from different blogs and websites created by teachers for teachers in order to share testimonials as well as different lessons and things that they do in their classrooms. Different forms of social media in general have been a huge help and I plan to continue to use it as much as possible!

  8. I plan to connect with educators through Instagram and TikTok. I love getting to see videos of a lesson especially if they include their students work or reactions. You are able to comment and ask questions and sometimes even visit their blog where they have all the materials for that lesson connected. If I have enough time as a teacher, I think Instagram reels is where I would post all of my lessons and experiences.

  9. Preferences– I would plan to connect to other teachers by talking with co-workers, finding resources online, YouTube, and conferences. I would first start with co-workers because they would relate most to my community. I already have a few podcasts that I listen to and I could reach out to other educators on the forum there. I have multiple different avenues that I could use to reach out to other educators to make connections.

  10. I am not big on communicating through the internet. But if I decided to incorporate it into my personalized learning network, I think I would utilize sites like Facebook, Pinterest, and blog pages the most. I would use facebook to conection with peers in my area; professionals I could meet face to face with. I would enjoy using Pinterest from creative outlooks and ideas when planning a fun lesson. Blog posts would be beneficial when learning from others that are not in my area. 

  11. Barriers- I think that my biggest barrier is my ability to use technology. I haven’t been very active or involved in social media ever in my life and don’t hold any social media accounts anymore so that is something that I’d need to improve on to improve my PLN. Also, because I don’t have any social media, I’m very out of practice of checking up on my social media or being involved in social media. I’d need to get into a routine that checking in on my PLN became daily.

  12. I generally do not use social media, but there are still ways for me to find ways to connect to others. YouTube is a great way, as I can get audio and visual explanations rather than just text. Discord is another potential way, since voice chat is available if people want to be able to talk.

  13. One way I would like to connect with educators is through a Facebook group. This could be a space for educators to ask questions, tips, and updates! I think that would be a very resourceful way for educators to connect and help each other.

  14. 1. Preferences: I think I’d prefer to use YouTube, or even Pinterest for making connections for my PLN. Mostly because I don’t really enjoy using most social media platforms. I prefer to observe, rather than actively engage. At least, at first, that is. Maybe I don’t quite feel comfortable in this environment yet. Maybe I’m relying on old schemas. Who knows? I think though, that connections are based on the individuals. Old fashioned face-to-face interactions are what I enjoy. Others will prefer to use social media platforms to reach out to the teaching community. That’s totally cool.

  15. Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, in my opinion, are the best ways for educators to connect with one another. Pinterest is particularly useful for classroom ideas, assignments, and activities. Pinterest also provides me with a lot of great ideas. I also believe that Facebook is a better way for teachers to communicate because it is more popular among older generations. One of the disadvantages of using PLN, in my opinion, is the constant need to keep up with technological changes.

  16. Social media is one of the best ways to make connections with people, it all comes down to which ones you like and who is your audience.

  17. I plan to connect to educators and professional development resources primarily through social media, as the ability to quickly send ideas, get feedback, and connect to others is unmatched by other methods. LinkedIn, which I think is the best “professional” social media platform, will be my avenue of choice, as it is purpose built for professionals, and I frankly just don’t like Twitter, even if it’s more popular overall. Additionally, the format LinkedIn uses is far more conducive to conversation, as Twitter requires long threads that take ages to read due to the character limit.

  18. I would use Facebook to connect with other educators. Facebook groups is such an easy way to connect with others now. Facebook is also a great tool to find nearby educators in your area. Communication and connecting with other educators is important .

  19. 1. Preferences

    Although there are so many digital platforms for educators to connect, having conversations in person provide so many benefits to learning and growing that digital platforms do not. Hearing, seeing, disagreeing, discussing; these things happen more organically when you can pick up on things like body language, facial expressions, and intonations. With that being said, there are many digital platforms that provide benefits that in-person growth doesn’t. The first that come to mind, and one that I use and see myself using to connect long into the future, is Twitter. Although solely a part of my social life for most of my youth, it has recently become a way for me to connect and learn from fellow educators. There are myriad mediums to use on Twitter (images, videos, gifs, and text) and the amount you wish to learn and contribute to learning with like minded people is near limitless.

  20. A way to address the barriers of connecting through PLN’s is becoming more educated on them throughout our education before we become an educator. I think that if we were introduced to PLN’s and the ability to connect with other educators we would feel a lot of stress relief because we know that we have a community of people we can come to if we have questions or need inspiration.

  21. 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?

    I plan to connect with other educators on my team and all around the world. I think that using online platforms opens doors for collaboration like never before. Two platforms I would like to use are pinterest and twitter. I used pinterest on a regular basis when I taught pre-k. There are numerous ideas and all you have to do is type in a few key words to get several ideas. As for twitter, it can be used as a place to post ideas, ask questions, get inspiration, and overall develop as a professional through groups.

  22. 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?

    I plan on connecting with other educators through Instagram. I like how you can connect with other teachers on Instagram, share stories, share current events, post activities, and interact with others. Instagram is a great way to connect with people who have similar interests as you. I 100% see myself collaborating through IG.

  23. Sites or tools I prefer to make connections: The one great thing about technology is how diverse and international the platform ranges in. Going from apps to to blogs to specific websites to give you the exact information you need is incredible. When I am an educator, the sites that I would prefer to make connections would be Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. The one thing these tools all have in common is the post and share concept. As all kinds of new ideas and advices are posted throughout the site, creators are able to get inspired and share it with their audience. Having specific pages that I am able to join makes my search load a lot simpler and faster. By also having the search bar to look up what I am looking for will bring up a tremendous amount of ideas posted by other creators similar to you which will help a lot as well.

  24. Sites or tools I prefer to make connections: The one great thing about technology is how diverse and international the platform ranges in. Going from apps to to blogs to specific websites to give you the exact information you need is incredible. When I am an educator, the sites that I would prefer to make connections would be Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. The one thing these tools all have in common is the post and share concept. As all kinds of new ideas and advices are posted throughout the site, creators are able to get inspired and share it with their audience. Having specific pages that I am able to join makes my search load a lot simpler and faster. By also having the search bar to look up what I am looking for will bring up a tremendous amount of ideas posted by other creators similar to you.

  25. I really like the graphic of “The Networked Teacher,” as it shows just some of the extensive opportunities for connecting with other educators. As someone who is fairly technologically savvy, I have experience on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, all of which I have found valuable resources for me as a teacher. I would like to look more into using YouTube, as I have not utilized that platform as much for professional development up to this point. Another resource that I really like that I did not see mentioned in the article is podcasts. These are easy to utilize while doing something else such as driving or cooking, and the podcast industry has definitely been growing exponentially over the past few years. As a new teacher, I have spent much of my time consuming information, but as I get my feet under me, I’d like to try and utilize these platforms for sharing information as well.

  26. 1. Connect? I was so surprised to not see Spotify in the list of ways to connect with educators! I personally love podcasts, and think they are an amazing way to stay connected to the current world. I am hopefully that podcasts will become even more relevant as the world of educating evolves. Of course Twitter is infallible when it comes to asking your favorite podcaster a question.
    2. Resonates? ASK FOR HELP! The world is waiting to help you, all you have to do is ask.
    3. Barriers? For me personally the biggest barrier is fear of the unknown. I have never made a LinkedIn, or posted my own YouTube video. so I have apprehensions around activities such as those.

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