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:
- Offer an overview of how to build a PLN
- Provide a snapshot of some tools educators use to connect with their PLN
- Share tips for connecting with educators from around the globe
- 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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Tips For Developing Relationships
PLNs are all about relationships! Here are a few tips to consider as you begin to build your PLN.
- Invest some time in building your PLN. Set aside even 15 or 20 minutes a day and you’ll build momentum in no time.
- PLNs work both ways. Remember, the more you share, the more you’ll find you receive in return.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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:
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
617 thoughts on “Step 2: Making Connections”
I have already connected with other teachers on Instagram. I will look into connecting on Twitter or Facebook groups. Getting to know new tools and resources with the help of other educators on social media will be beneficial. I’d like to become more familiar with Linkdin for a more professional profile
I would prefer and like to connect with other educators through a facebook group. I feel one that those groups are easy to moderate and you can make it private so people can request access, thus allowing you to only accept people who you want in your PLN and not any “outsiders” or spam accounts. I also like facebook groups because it gives you the opportunity to post and have multiple responses other than just one person, as well as it is more organized, where as other technologies are more confusing. Facebook also allows you to make multiple groups and be a part of multiple groups so it is beneficial if you want to have different PLNs that are all separate whereas twitter and instagram are more open to all and you would have to have multiple accounts if you wanted to be a part of multiple groups and if you wanted them seperate.
I would most likely want to use Facebook or Youtube to make connections with other educators. I know how to use Facebook and Youtube well and already use them which is why I choose these two networks.
I prefer to use Tiktok or YouTube as a platform to make connections. I follow tons of teachers with classroom strategies, activities, and other inspirations/ideas that I align with and especially on Tiktok, it’s so easy to get these things in your feed and be recommended more like it so it’s curated to things that I like. I love getting recommendations for more ideas I could use in my teaching practice.
I feel like teachers definitely connect through Facebook especially in the groups that have been made. This is a way for teachers to communicate and maybe even be able to brainstorm or build on ideas. I personally am in a Facebook group called “teacher yard sale.” I also had teachers/administrators use Twitter when I was in High School as well. Over the last year or two, zoom has also been a big way for teachers to communicate and build relationships when being in person wasn’t always an option.
I have joined elementary and kindergarten specific groups via Twitter and Instagram. I have noticed there are tenured educators who are more than happy to provide resources that help develop up and coming teachers, as they are green to the education field.
It’s important to vet where we take advice from. Finding peer reviewed articles and accredited authors has been easy while in grad school but should be continued, as instructional best practices will likely change. Many authors offer sub stacks or newsletters on twitter.
Meeting trusted colleagues at professional development days or networking events also grows your network. Alumni events reconnect area teachers but also often bring in guest speakers, vetted by the university.
The platforms I look forward to using the most would be YouTube and Email Newsletters. I love YouTube videos because of their convenience and the fact that they allow me to learn about so many different topics that I otherwise would have never heard of, so I think it would be a perfect form of PLN. Email newsletters also stands out to me because of the convenience. They would come straight to my inbox so that I can stay up to date without having to put in any effort to research.
1. Ask for help.
I believe this is the best way to get something done the correct way. Not being shy to ask for help is always a good tool to use to develop relationships.
Nit being scared to go away from something that you have always done. Trying new things. talking to new people will always help you build those relationships.
3. Follow up with people.
following up with the people that helped you can help see if you missed something or still neeed to add something.
4. Find tools that work best for you.
sometimes tools don’t always work for everyone. Find the right ones that work for you will only help your relationships.
5. Invest some time
Just like anything in life, if you dont spend time working on it, it will never be great.
6. different tools.
try new things but do not be afriad to fail
7. Involve your students.
8. PLNs work both ways.
9. Find tools that work best for you.
10. Curate wisely.
11. Spread the word.
Platforms that I commonly use and would prefer as a means to connect or build my PLN include Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.
I plan to connect with other educators through TikTok and Facebook. Facebook gives you the option to make groups and communicate in private group with group members. TikTok is a fun way to create informative videos and to learn from other educators to get a feel for what goes on in their classrooms.
The platforms I enjoy using for PLNs include Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok. Facebook has groups for every grade level and specific subject area you teach. I am a member of several middle school science groups where every day people share excellent lesson materials. It is also a great place to write posts if you need advice for everything from labs to behavior management strategies. Several of the groups even have shared dropbox folders where everyone shares their resources for classroom materials. YouTube and TikTok are useful to watch videos of other teachers sharing their engagement activities and video blogs on teacher life.
My platform of preference is Facebook. I have the ability to follow pages and profiles of people and businesses involved in education. I am also a member of several Facebook groups that are specific to my content area. It is a place to post questions, ask for feedback, and respond to others.
Currently are use Twitter as a PLN for my classroom and my teaching career. I think because I teach art that Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest are the best platforms for me to use to be able to get my con tent out there but to also reach other teachers in my field. We teach such a visual content area that these platforms accommodate best.
Personally, I prefer Facebook as the platform to use as a connection tool to other educators. This is mainly because I understand the interface of Facebook better than the other platforms that are well-known. It seems to be more user friendly and easier to organize into groups, messages, and connecting with other platforms as well.
The platforms I use to connect to other educators are Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn. These platforms are most appealing to me because they are almost universally accessible. Many institutions encourage thoughtful engagement with one’s community through social media, and there are professional learning communities, playlists and networks accessible through these platforms. I am also a fan of many podcasts and currently run my own podcast.
I like linked in the best, I think. It shows the connection level between you and a colleague. It will group by organization, which is helpful in weeding out spam. With linked in, people seemed to be more professionally minded when they are on that site. Twitter is good too. It is an easy way to stay up to date on trends in teaching.
Platforms that I commonly use and tend to see ideas on are Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube. Since I use these platforms a lot, I tend to scroll and see other educators post about ideas for teaching, behavior, and other tips to use within the classroom. As platforms progress and new socials emerge, multiple platforms provide guidance. Another platform that has come out is TikTok. This platform shows videos of how other educators teach in the classroom. Connecting with other educators directly or through a simple follow on social allows us to learn from one another. Using these platforms has connected me more with understanding what teachers go through daily and understanding that there is more than just being a teacher.
The three platforms that would be most interesting to me to connect to other educators would be Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. I enjoy seeing videos on YouTube on how to do different lessons or to show students so they can learn a standard. Students love visual, catchy tunes that they can recite to remember. I use Facebook and Instagram daily. It would be an easy platform for me to navigate to see different tools that teachers are using. One platform that was not mentioned was TikTok. I use TIkTok to connect with educators daily. I am implementing a new classroom management strategy that I saw on TikTok this week.
Since Twitter seems to be the most popular PLN tool at 53% popularity, I think it is the most advantageous platform to use to connect to other educators. Since more teachers use it, I would have a wider array of teachers to follow and topics to learn about and explore. However, I think LinkedIn will be beneficial too. Many WBL Coordinators across Georgia have started using this platform to create networks and have created safe ways for students to start building their networking skills as well.
I prefer to make connections with educators on Facebook because I scroll through the app regularly anyways. I look through Facebook to stay updated with friends, family, and current events around the world. Educational connections on Facebook make for a convenient and consistent presence.
I prefer to make connections with other teachers through Facebook. I usually scroll through Facebook for updates on friends and family and news around the world on a regular basis, so it is easy to add teaching connections to the list while I am at it.
My favorite platform for connecting with other educators is Facebook, specifically Facebook
Groups. My two favorite groups are both specific to the disciplines I teach. In my middle
school ELA teacher group, we share many books to recommend to our students, discuss the
best ways to manage classroom libraries, and ask for or share ideas on how to teach specific
standards to best engage our students. My favorite Spanish teacher group is particular to the
acquisition-driven curriculum I am using, so much of our discussion centers on how to add to
the curriculum or best use it in ways that students make the greatest gains in their proficiency.
My favorite platforms to connect with other educators is Facebook. I’m in variety of math groups. I like these platforms because the groups share interactive lessons and offer different strategies to use in the classroom.
My favorite platforms to connect with other teachers are Tik Tok and Instagram. I am not active on Tik Tok, but I follow many other very active teachers on both platforms. I like these platforms because they are both visual and fun. I actually get a lot of my ideas from both platforms.
I plan to connect with other educators through social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Tiktok, and Pinterest. I prefer these social media platforms because they allow for such creative ideas and great insights into the teaching world. Plus, I enjoy collaborating with others and sharing so that the teaching world can grow as a whole.
I feel that social media is an important place for me to connect with other educators. Using platforms like facebook, instagram, tiktok, and twitter have been beneficial to me. I follow several popular educators on each of these platforms. They often have beneficial tips and can even offer classroom activities or lessons. They also provide humorous relief to a stressful job.
I find Instagram the most user friendly to connect with other teachers/ teaching content.
I find that Instagram is the most user friendly platform to connect with other teacher; this is the platform I plan to use.
I plan to connect with other educators by using profiles such as linkedin, instagram, twitter and even facebook groups. They can provide ideas and assistance from other educators.
I chose to complete task 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.
The biggest barrier for me in building a PLN is finding time to invest in creating one. I am so busy these days that it is hard for me to invest my little free time into something career related. One way I can overcome this is by dedicating some of my plan time each week to investing in my PLN and continuing to grow as an educator.
I plan to connect with other teachers via Twitter.
I actually don’t have any social media besides Facebook, but even Facebook has been a helpful tool in collaborating with other educators. There are multiple Facebook groups where local and global educators share resources, inquiries, and anecdotes from their classrooms. I also find Pinterest and TeacherspayTeachers (not collaborative – but it is an online resource service) as spaces for others to share their ideas and find inspiration.
I also second Twitter for being a collaborative space to find colleagues for a PLN. Many of my peers share classroom work and school happenings on Twitter and use of hashtags makes it easy to search for new communities to connect with.
I intend to connect with other educators through social media platforms such as Twitter and Pinterest. I prefer these two social media platforms because they allow insight into other educators’ ideas and teaching styles. In addition, I enjoy collaborating with others and sharing best practices to enhance learning.
I plan on connecting with other educators by using platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest. I like these two social media platforms because it also gives me a chance to see different educator’s ideas as well as getting to know them. I am a visual person and I like the overall idea of Pinterest and Instagram as a way of connecting with other educators.
As an educator I plan to use more online PLN resources in the future. I currently learn from professionals on YouTube and blogs. I especially enjoyed learning from other professionals during the pandemic as we were required to create plans that were fully remote. I feel that Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter can be great resources for me in the future. I already have the accounts and I would only need to reach out to groups in my content area to make connections. Doing this can help me to learn from a variety of educators across the world and across the country. It would also help me to be more creative I would have a variety of ideas to use or modify. On the social platforms I would be able to chat with similar educators about curriculum, struggles, and a variety of other topics. I could also follow individuals or groups that I share similar interests with and who teach in my content area. Finally, I would like to create a class blog for health and physical education and have my students work to be connected students through its use. We could add to the blog and research other blogs to find healthy information throughout the year.
I currently use Twitter and Facebook to connect with other educators. In particular, I follow several Nebraska math teachers and a few national math and technology teachers. I also follow professional development groups such as Mashup Math and NCTM. I tend to treat Twitter as my professional social media focusing on following people and groups that pertain to math and technology. I often get ideas and resources from the people and groups I follow on Twitter. In addition to Twitter, I also use Facebook. Although I use Facebook primarily to keep in touch with friends and family, I have found a few groups that I follow, such as Middle School Math Teachers and DeltaMath Official Group. DeltaMath, in particular, has been very helpful as they are always quick to answer questions and share ideas.
The list of tips resonated with me as I needed the reminder that communication on social media needs to go both ways. I need to do a better job of commenting and sharing and not just following.
I like the idea of creating a PLN. In order to really learn teachers have to be able to collaborate with others outside of their buildings and district. Twitter will ensure that I collaborate with educators all around the world.
I think that once I create my own PLN I will mainly use social media. This day and age most other people my age are incredibly active across most, if not all, social media platforms, and because of this I think that social media will be the most effective and useful way for me to reach the largest number of people. In a more specific sense, I think that Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok would be the most useful because they are the platforms that I am most active on. When creating a PLN it is important to be able to separate your personal life from your professional, so creating separate accounts for educational use, and personal use would be the smartest route. Each of these platforms have an iPhone app where you can switch accounts with a simple press of a button, so you would have access to my PLN very easily!
Social media is definitely a preference of mine when it comes to connecting. I have found super relatable content on Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter. Each of them have something unique to offer and I think they are a great place for people to start it they aren’t super comfortable with online communication. For example, last year I searched for 6th grade math groups on Facebook, and I found a group of teachers that all used the exact same curriculum that I do. It was so helpful to collaborate with them!
When it comes to interacting with other educators I think websites like Pinterest can be awesome. I have met some teachers who do not care for the website but I have had good experiences with it. When you find a post that you like, you can pin it to your own feed and you can also view the feed of the individual/organization that posted it and see what else they have to offer. When it comes to sharing materials and ideas, this is a great way.
The biggest barrier to first creating, and then participating actively in, a PLN is time constraints. Many teachers, especially those who are new to the profession, work second jobs and haven’t yet fine tuned the essential skill of time management when it comes to a work/life balance.
I plan to connect with other educators through Facebook groups, Pinterest, and blogs. I utilize Facebook groups very often and have found them to be a wonderful resource for like-minded individuals and there are so many different styles that create their own groups. It would be a great and convenient resource.
I plan to connect with other educators through Facebook groups, TikTok, and Pinterest . Facebook groups can be a really great support system for educators, as you are able to communicate within a private group where the information is filtered by the admin. TikTok is a great source to learn from other teachers’ experiences and see what they are doing in their classrooms. Pinterest is a fantastic way for teachers to gather ideas from one another and they even sometimes link resources or worksheets/activities.
I plan to connect with other educators by staying in contact with some of the current and past educators/professors I’ve had the privilege of learning from thus far. I will also use the site teachers pay teachers to find resources from other professionals that I could put to use in my own classroom.
I do plan on connecting with other educators in many different way. The first ways that pop to mind when thinking about tools that I could use to make connections are pintrest, tiktok, youtube, and facebook. Currently, I use pintrest, tiktok, and youtube the most. Pintrest provides you with a wide variety of information and ideas. Youtube is also where I get many ideas because there are teachers that give advice and ideas through their videos. Tiktok is growing and as it grow, I see many teachers posting their ideas, thoughts, and other information as well. I could see myself joining a facebook group in the future as well as other sites and tools that I will contribute to my learning and connections.
My preferences on making connections with other educators and people in the education community is to do so in person. I am not a huge social media person, it’s just a personal choice to benefit my mental health. Plus not to mention, I learn better when things are in person and in my control. One way to connect to people is to just meet everyone, and even going to get food or drinks with other people and just getting to know people personally. Then you can branch out and get more connections and help this way. It has worked already when finding new jobs, and having job opportunities come up often amongst work peers and friends.
The tip for cultivating relationships that resonated with me, was the following up when you make a connection with other teachers. I think it can be easy to create a relatability amongst teachers, especially right now as many teachers are struggling in many ways. I think that the important step comes from continuing on with the relationship to really make an impact.
I think that I would use mainly Twitter and LinkedIn to connect with other educators. I would use Twitter first because that is what I am most familiar with and I think that the layout of the website does well with fostering discussion. I would also used LinkedIn because it is a very professional site with many users.
I have started joining science teacher specific facebook groups. What I have learned thus far in these groups is there are some teachers who seem to be super devoted to helping newer teachers gain their classroom momentum. I plan to continue to use these. The longer I have been in them, the more specific groups I can find (ex: content specific, pedagogy specific, etc.) I also really like the site teachers pay teachers. It doesn’t seem like a great networking place, but most of the larger creators link their email addresses and are more than willing to answer questions, provide more information or advise, etc. I also like that in turn I am helping with their income.