Where Are You in Your PLN?

We are now in the middle of Connected Educator month 2016. This is a great time for educators to reflect on their Personal Learning Networks. In my opinion PLNs run in three stages. While it is definitely possible to flow between different stages depending on what is going on in life, take some time to reflect on where you are momentarily. Now might be the time to take it to another level.


1. Development. Teachers are constantly learning from each other within the school walls. This is a great thing, as there is a wealth of knowledge and experience we can learn from. It takes about the same amount of effort as walking down the hall to a colleague’s classroom, as it does to begin learning from educators beyond the brick and mortar of a school building. Once the development of your PLN is underway, the process eases as you can begin blending your learning and can grow from information on any mobile or digital device. To develop your PLN and become a connected educator, decide which tools work best for you personally. If social media is your venue, try Twitter, Facebook groups, Google+, Pinterest, or Linkedin. For alternatives to social media, check out educational blogs, webinars, or curating articles through bookmarking websites. There are plenty of avenues to take in terms of developing or broadening your PLN. Decide which you tool(s) you want to use, how you want to learn, and when you want to learn. If you already find yourself in this developmental stage, I challenge you to broaden your reach. Stretch yourself to find people to connect with outside of your immediate region or even outside of your content or grade level. Push yourself to connect.


2. Consumption. Most people enter the digitally connected arena by participating through consumption. This may include reading Tweets, searching for articles, maneuvering through blog posts, watching YouTube videos, or viewing webinars. The learning and growth generally comes as a result of what is being read or taken in by the user. The learning, while more passive in the digital sense, may be shared with colleagues actively or implemented into daily practice in the physical world. If you identify yourself within this stage, I challenge you to consider sharing content or articles of your own. Try Retweeting an article you read, or reflecting and writing a blog post about a lesson that went well. It can be intimidating to put yourself out there, but take an initial step and begin to go beyond consumption.


3. Contribution. The natural next step after consuming content is a progression of participation within the PLN. Contribution may grow in the form of writing Tweets, sharing articles, or reflecting on learning through blog posts- to hosting a webinar or sharing educational videos created on YouTube. The individual at this point is in a give and take environment, where they are not only learning from others- but others are learning from them. If you already contribute within your PLN, I challenge you to push yourself outside your comfort zone. Try creating and sharing beyond the medium you are accustomed to. If you are a YouTube creator, try writing a blog post about your learning, or vice versa. If you solely learn through Twitter, try Google+ for a change. Experiment with not only broadening your PLN but also yourself as a contributor to open educational resources.


If you are finding it tough to define yourself within any of the categories above, it is never too late to exercise your growth mindset and learn from those around you. Connected Educator month is a great time to begin, as you are among many educators who are ready and willing to provide you with the support you need.

Day Two: “Quickfire Challenge” PLN

Today we were asked to make a mind map of our Professional Learning Network. This is common language at ASFM, and something we discuss quite often- therefore the topic was nothing new to me. However, as I worked on creating my PLN visual, I became aware of how much I gain professionally, solely from ASFM.

At ASFM, we are up to date with research based lesson design and instructional strategies, leaders in the field of education visit and revisit our school quite frequently offering multiple professional development opportunities. Personally, I utilize principals, instructional coaches, and digital teachers. And my teammates and I are sharing ideas constantly. Last year, I attended the Principal’s Training Center for a course, at the recommendation of a few colleagues. Yet, creating this visual made me realize how “unconnected” I really am to other professional organizations, outside of the ASFM realm.

Of course, I added MSU, MAET. And while looking for other learning networks is a possibility, I also realized that I am part of another organization already. One that a fellow educator and I are in the midst of creating, the SIG1to1DC: A Special Interest Group for 1:1 Digital Citizenship. Together we are working to create an online location for professionals looking for (and looking to share) ideas on how to promote digital citizenship in a 1:1 program. Increasing my confidence and leadership in educational technology is one goal I have for myself throughout my time in MSU, MAET. The creation of this SIG, is something that will help me achieve that goal. I am sure that while conducting the research and list of resources for this special interest group, my senses will be heightened in search for organizations that may be added to my PLN.

At the beginning of this quickfire challenge, I had no idea how much I would come to realize after just 30 minutes. In addition to the appreciation of this activity for bringing me this new state of mind, I also experienced using a new (for me) tech tool.

The tools we explored were to act as a platform to host our PLN mind map. I have seen younger students, and even some of my own students use different mind mapping tools, including Popplet, which is what I ended up giving a try (there is also an app for this tool). I did not feel rushed at all during this 30 minute challenge, as Popplet is very simple to use. Pictures, video, and changing font colors are all easy to add and edit. Best of all, you can present your content in a clean, student friendly format. Again, overall a great learning experience- both with technology and reflecting on my PLN.

You can view my Professional Learning Network Mind Map full screen here.PLN Mind Map