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.
659 thoughts on “Step 2: Making Connections”
The biggest barrier I have would be finding the time to update my PLN, but I can overcome this by setting aside 5 to 10 minutes a day to work on it.
I prefer to use YouTube but recently I have thought about connecting with teachers who have blogs to get a deeper perspective on how they teach and organize their lessons. Something new that I started to realize (and easy) is TikTok there are so many educators on TikTok that I am able to easily see their classrooms, ideas, opinions, and among other things that makes me reflect on myself.
I feel that when it comes to connecting to others in a professional setting I would steer away from social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Although these are great ways to stay in touch with people and get faster responses, I don’t feel that it is professional when connecting with other educators. I really liked to Voxer, walkie talkie site, and the Email newsletters. The email newsletter being the most professional in my opinion and the Voxer being a nice fun way to stay in touch. I feel that the other sites are for more of my personal use and would not want educators connected to me through there.
How I might connect more to other educators may be to make more intentional out reaches. I am surrounded by teachers who are friends or family. Sometimes I think we get so caught up in life we forget to reach out to the people around us. Reaching out to the people around me can help build my PLN.
I have heard of many educators using these tools to get great ideas for their classroom. Several teachers I work with have shared activities that they see online, but I do not engage regularly with these social media platforms. When I am looking for fresh ideas, I turn to Teachers Pay Teachers, but I tend to stay away from Facebook and Twitter. I would like to use these tools more effectively, however, so reading these comments have inspired me. I have also reflected on some of the obstacles and barriers to my full embrace of these collaborative tools. The biggest factor for me is time. Because I teach full time, have three young children, and am in graduate school again, there seems to be very little time left in the day to log onto Facebook to read current conversations in education. I took the app off my phone last year because of the temptation to scroll endlessly, I like the suggestion in this step to dedicate 20 minutes a day to social media focused on my PLN. This seems like a reasonable amount if time, so setting a timer and logging off after it goes off might be a good strategy for me.
The two relationship tips that resonated with me the most were “PLNs work both ways” and “Diversify”. These two stood out to me because being diverse helps for educators to see different perspectives and points of view. This helps open up your ideas in a whole new way, sometimes in ways that you never thought of. I think it is the same thing with “PLNs work both ways” because a lot of networking can help you in the future.
There are so many diverse ways and applications to connect with teachers. One of the main ways I plan to connect with teachers are through Tiktok. This app has blown up over the last few years and has conntinued to become one of the most time consuming platforms in my life. I have already found so many different teachers that I have followed and watch/lurk on their information and experiences within the classroom. I have learned about different approaches as a teacher and how to support ways of social emotional learning and so much more. This app makes networking and learning fun! I also would like to use Facebook and Pinterest. Facebook has groups that you can join and is a super easy way to connect with others on both a personal and professional level. It also allows you to share ideas and posts that you agree with so even if you are not posting your own experiences and material you can share your opinions and input by sharing and quoting other individuals simialar perspectives! Pinterest also has a lot of great resources and ideas for different units and lessons that can be used as is or altered in a way that achieves the intended learning target.
There are so many great online platforms that educators can use to stay connected. Personally, my favorite platforms to learn and engage with other teachers are Facebook, Pinterest, Youtube, and blogs. Pinterest is an amazing tool that I have found myself using to help me during lesson planning. This platform allows you to see a lot of unique and creative ways others have taught the same material. Facebook groups have been super helpful when looking for advice and tips on early teaching stages. As well as Youtube is perfect for visual learners. I’d love to explore the other platforms as well because I feel they’d all be resourceful. It’s wonderful to see the many ways teachers can stay updated!
Relationship tips: I could reach out to my teachers in the past. I’ve already done so since some of my teachers are now principals and even county superintendents. This resonates with me because I wouldn’t be where I am without my previous teachers. Since they’ve taught me personally, they know me best. Furthermore, because they’ve been in the field for so long and still are, they’ll definitely have great advice.
I think the platforms I would use for my PLN would ether be Facebook or Tiktok. I barely use my Facebook so it would require the least amount of professionalization I believe, and I already kind of use it for professional things. I also see so many teachers on Tiktok, and it seems like such a fun and easy way to share ideas.
I would use my PLN to connect with colleagues who are now teaching and my past teachers and professors. I would like to develop a close circle of trusted educators so I know there will always be someone there to help and to come up with new, creative ideas for the classroom.
I connect with others via social media: Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Maybe even Snapchat and TikTok but the teacher side of it. I think these outlets are good in finding others who have same interest in education and the topic I wish to teach. I think I would use Twitter and Facebook the most to connect to other educators, just because I don’t use those two accounts a lot for personal things, just to stay in the loop with other people and the news.
The sites or tools I would prefer to use to make connections would be the first 4: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. This is because they are already sites that I use now for other reasons and therefore, I am familiar with how they work. I believe also that starting with these would be a good way to overcome the barrier of investing time since I already find myself on these platforms daily.
As a part of the “tech-savvy” generation, I would consider myself quite familiar with the different forms of social media that were mentioned in this step. However, I believe that using these as apart of a PLN goes beyond the typical sharing and of uploading posts without any thought. Out of all the platforms mentioned, I think that using Facebook and Pinterest would be two sites that I would feel most comfortable using for the purposes of a PLN as they are something I already regularly use and understand the different features that both have.
Preferences: The ways that I would prefer to connect to others within a PLN are through videos, social media, and online communities. I think that these are ones I prefer because they are forms of communication that I am already familiar with and know have a wide array of information and people within them. In terms of social media, I think that Pinterest is great for connecting with individuals who are creative and for finding resources. I also think that Twitter and Instagram would be helpful for having conversations about topics or asking and answering questions.
The sites I use to connect to other educators are youtube and Reddit. On Youtube, I follow other educators and watch the videos they put out on the content I’d like to teach in class. I observe what information they present and how they present it. On Reddit, I get to participate in moderated discussions with other educators where we talk about classroom experiences and share tools and resources others found helpful.
I currently use Twitter as part of my PLN for graduate school. I follow a variety of educators and professors to learn about new perspectives and research taking place in the field of education, which helps me better understand what is taking place in classrooms across the country and the world. I can connect with these individuals and bring my own insights and experiences into the conversations as well.
I would like to connect with other individuals and ideas through Pinterest and Youtube. I would also use blog posts and Instagram as well. I would like to be able to visualize the tools and strategies that I am looking for. I also feel like these are ways to make faster connections then email, etc.
When it comes to connecting with other educators, I think it depends on what you are comfortable with. I have found Pinterest and YouTube to be the easiest way to connect with other educators. Pinterest is a great way to get ideas for a lesson that is possibly more creative and YouTube is a great way for educators to learn from other teachers who document their experiences or they even share lessons that worked for them and they give step-by-step verbal directions. I feel sometimes I overthink possible lesson activities and frustrate myself but when I look at a few ideas from both sites I feel I can get back on track and create an effective lesson plan.
One of the biggest barriers for me was not knowing that PLNs exist. I did not know there were teachers out there on a network collaborating and helping others. Now that I have been educated and know about PLNs, I will be a part of a PLN. I use social media almost every day as a person who is a part of Gen Z. I will use my resources to reach out to PLNs using social media and collaborating with other educators. This will help me with my teaching skills.
I don’t think I would just use one platform for my PLN. As I have created some lesson plans for classes Pinterest has given me some really good ideas to add. It would also be a good place to share the more creative aspect that some teachers love. I personally am someone that enjoys crafts and Pinterest is fullllll of crafty people. Another platform that I have seen a lot of educators on is tik tok. I have found a solid handful of people that share great ideas from classroom management to lesson planning. I feel that whatever platform I use in my free time would be a great one to create a PLN for because I already spend time on that platform as is.
I plan on reaching out to my previous teachers from high school for advice. I could also reach out to my old and current professors for further advice and guidance. As for websites, I would use TikTok, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook to make connections. These are websites where teachers are very open and honest. I tend to struggle with creativity and/or recycling things to use in the classroom and there are plenty of ideas on Pinterest, TikTok, and Instagram. Every teacher on any of those social media platforms also tends to be very kind and willing to help any new teachers.
I think Pinterest, and Youtube would be my go too tools for my PLN. Mainly because I have already used Pinterest and Youtube in the past “to follow” fellow educators. On Pinterest I have often used it to see how they set up their classroom, or how they structured a lesson on a certain topic. I also have looked at classroom decorations and ways of creative learning walls on Pinterest. Youtube I use more as a learning resource for myself. There are ton of historian ran and edited channels that are always covering “new history” or sharing well known historical stories and shedding new light on them. This connects to the idea of PLN allowing teachers to stay current.
As I have begun to create lesson plans and explore the field of student-teaching, I have found that Pinterest has been my favorite tool by far. To me, it is the easiest to navigate. It has endless ideas for creative and interactive lesson plans. I have found it to be the most helpful when you are creating a lesson plan that involves arts and crafts. Teachers from all over the world post photos and directions of their ideas. Once I am a teacher myself, I will be uploading my lessons to Pinterest as well.
There is no one specific way that I plan on connecting with other educators but one idea that comes to my mind first is through Pinterest. Coming up with lesson plans, thinking of ways to decorate your classroom, brainstorming new methods of positive reinforcement, etc. is hard to do – especially on your own. This is why I love Pinterest. All you have to do is type in a search of anything you are looking for from classroom decor ideas to behavior management posters and thousands of results will show up that are specifically tailored to your question. 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. In addition to looking up topics, you can also post your own. I think Pinterest is a great way for educators to connect and share ideas with each other in an informal and non-judgmental environment so this is definitely a way I plan on connecting.
A barrier that I feel is one of the most prevalent is the idea that there are platforms, but I just don’t know where to start with them. It is easy to say that there are millions of opportunity and availability to create a PLN, but I think the hardest part is getting started. The problem I find is the one revolving around getting acquainted with the platforms and finding an education community within them. However, this barrier can be overcome through reaching out and actually starting this through a platform. The only way that it can be overcome is through immersing oneself in the platform. It also can be beneficial to do research on the platforms in question to help get more familiar.
I would feel most comfortable using Instagram to share ideas with other educators. I would have an account strictly for me as a teacher where I would follow other teachers as well. I would share ideas and different strategies that I use in my classroom. I would also look at strategies and other ideas from other educators to get ideas on how to improve my classroom and the learning of my students.
One way I think I would connect with other teachers is through LinkedIn and blogs for educators. I like that these are more strictly professional then Instagram or other social medias, and feel the separation between personal and professional media is important as an individual. Taking the time, especially during breaks in the school day, to foster connections and work on my personal PLN would not only benefit professionally but in being an educator so in the future I plan to make it a priority.
Because I have taught in Lutheran schools and currently teaching in a Christian school, my current PLC groups revolve around Christian education. I am in a Facebook group for Lutheran teachers. I’m in a listserv groups for Lutheran educational leaders. I also receive a daily email with links to a PLC for Christian educators. I also glean ideas from the textbook resource pages from the curriculum from my school.
There are a lot of websites that teachers can go to communicate with other teachers. I currently am with two groups on Facebook. One is a fifth-grade teachers group where any fifth-grade teacher can ask questions or leave ideas for others. The other one is a group for our reading curriculum Amplify. Teachers who have used or are using this curriculum can post on the topic. Another website I use is Pinterest. It is helpful to look at teachers’ different ideas. The last website I use is Tiktok. Many teachers post ideas on how to help with problems most teachers have in their classrooms. The great thing about Tiktok is they are short but also very helpful.
Social media is a thing of today. It is a great resource for staying in contact with one another. I also try to limit my screen time due to having small children and trying not to teach them that being on an electronic when you can do other things is important to me. I do like Facebook and Instagram as my choices as well as interest. Pinterest helps me with finding out ways to decorate my room and other things.
I believe that all social media can help us reach our professional peers, but Twitter is the one that I think is the most useful and effective when it comes to creating community. It is an app I use frequently and am comfortable with. It is also something I use to connect with coaching communities as well.
I believe social media, more specifically Pinterest, would be my number 1 choice for a platform. I think the way that Pinterest connects you with other users based on your chosen interest makes the connection process that much easier. I think the way it recommends similar topics that you also may be interested in based on your current choices is a great feature as well. The way you can save things and shift them into categories as well to save for later is an amazing feature for someone that wants to stay organized. Other platforms like Instagram and Twitter may have more users to connect with, but I’m not sure how efficient using those apps would be.
I believe that the use of social media as a way to connect educators and peers is the purest use of social media and this connection is the basis of why social media is so popular for millenniums. However, I try to limit my screen time and I am actually currently fasting from all social media. I already followed a few teachers on youtube and facebook. I think that the use of Pinterest can also beneficial to my work inside the classroom as a use of PD.
I would prefer to use Instagram as I know how the platform works and use it frequently in my spare time.
I believe Instagram would be the best tool to use to help make connections to other educators. It seems like Instagram is a lot more modern and simple compared to the Facebook and even YouTube. Instagram seems to be less political as Facebook and it keeps videos short and to the point. Most people have short attention spans and this would be more beneficial with Instagram.
Personally, the ones that resources that I find to be the most helpful would be Instagram, Pinterest, and Youtube. I have used all three of these resources in the past to gain knowledge from them, and to incorporate some of these strategies into my classroom as well.
The platforms I like the best would be Pinterest, Instagram, and Youtube. I feel like I am able to learn the most from these platforms, and communicate with other teachers effectively. All of these platforms offer a variety of different learning opportunities for teachers. I have used many different strategies from other teachers off of these platforms.
Facebook and Twitter are my favorite PLN social media platforms. I have been teaching at the high school level for 11 years and these two platforms help me stay connected with my mentors and also enable me to guide young educators just starting in the profession.
I feel like video platforms such as YouTube are great resources for educators to share and connect.
I already am subscribed to several educator YouTube channels, so watching more videos, commenting on videos, and subscribing to more would be ideal. Whether for self-education or leisure, I already spend time on YouTube, so I would like to make that part of my PLN. Secondly, I want to include blogging in my PLN. I love to read and write, so I think blogging would be a suitable medium for me. I read blogs, but I have not yet invested time in reading education blogs. I have thought about starting my own blog, so perhaps my future could include starting one about something in education (such as classroom management). Lastly, I would like to include LinkedIn in my PLN. The networking focus on LinkedIn should be helpful.
The platforms I use most are youtube, facebook, instagram, and pinterest. I enjoy using these options to connect with other educators, because they offer a wide range of options to help create a more engaged classroom. I have found an 8th grade slope escape room lesson plan on a facebook group for middle school educators. I have found fun catchy songs on youtube to go with the content and lesson presented to the students. I have found games on pinterest to intertwine with the current lesson. All have been successful with my students.
I’m most interested in Instagram, blogs, and youtube as platforms to connect. They appeal to me because I need a combination of reading and visuals to take in new information. I like to read about something, take in all the information I can, and then see it in action. This jump-starts my imagination, and I can run with it from there.
I am very comfortbale with my social media use. I would use facebook, instagram, youtube, and even tik tok. These are great ways to connect to other teachers. You can see and find fun strategies for your classroom. You can search certain hashtags and find content you are looking for. Social media definitely can be a huge advantage.
The four platforms that I would like to use to connect to other educators, are LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. LinkedIn is a profession social networking page, with many professionals, very easy to network and learn from this platform. Facebook and Instagram are very popular platforms that I’m very familiar with and feel comfortable networking and communicating through. Lastly, TikTok is a new platform but very informative.
I like using YouTube the most. At this stage in my PLN, I am more of a lurker. I look forward to when I may feel confident enough to think my knowledge will help other professionals.
I like to use Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, these three tools help me stay connected with my family and friends since I’m away from them, I also daily use YouTube for different purposes, of my especially when searching for topics of my interest.
Instagram and Facebook are my favorite PLN social media platforms. Being in an art teacher, most of our information being shared is so visual. Facebook and Instagram are great platforms for sharing pictures and project ideas.
Hi Sierra, I see that we are sharing the same preference for PLN use, Facebook was the first application I downloaded to my phone, and even there are plenty of other PLN networks but Facebook is still my favorite one.
The biggest tools I use to connect are twitter, youtube, and facebook. I find it often can be time consuming to connect with educators in other ways, and these are both beneficial because I can quickly find ideas and tools to use. They are are updated constantly, have commenting features, and have an ease of use that makes connecting less time consuming.
Since I have been using Facebook and Pinterest for years, I would feel more comfortable using these platforms to connect with other educators. I already follow a few teacher groups on Facebook and have used some ideas from Pinterest that I loved. These two media sites have many groups and individuals that have great, refreshed, and updated ideas, tips, and lessons. I know many that would prefer to use Twitter and other sites, but I personally have never been a big fan of Twitter. I have an Instagram, but I am not on it as much. I can still see myself using Instagram as a PLN. Maybe, after this course, I will understand and enjoy these other platforms to make connections.