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Freshen Up Your PLN for the New School Year
posted by: Melissa | August 09, 2013, 05:13 PM   

In the past, we've talked about the importance of setting up a PLN (professional learning network), an online alternative to a school based professional learning community or PLC. PLNs are one of the few forms of professional development that have been shown to have a lasting impact on teacher practice and student learning. As the new year approaches, now is the perfect time to take a look at your PLN and make sure that it's getting the job done.


Start by looking at what you already have in place. What platform are you using? Is this a platform that you understand? Are the sites that you visit useful and helpful to you as an educator? Does someone post more pictures of their baby than what they're doing in their classroom? This step may involve some trimming of your PLN. If you're using Twitter, look at who you're following and unfollow people who aren't really helpful, or at least move them into your "social" twitter feed so they're not all jumbled up with the people who are empowering you as an educator. The same thing goes for blogs, Google+ groups, subreddits, etc. As teachers, our time is limited. We shouldn't be wasting time on people or sites that we really aren't getting much out of.

If you're like me, when you were going through teacher training, you were probably told to "stay out of the teachers' lounge." The reasoning was that there is where you would find all the Negative Nellies and old entrenched educators who were just opposed to anything new. Well, there are "teachers' lounges" on the internet, too. While you're weeding out your PLN, now's the time to delete bookmarks to groups that are stuck in the past, or unfollow that person on Twitter who spends more time complaining about how difficult their students are rather than looking for constructive ways to reach them.

After you streamline your PLN, start adding new resources. Just like you didn't want to be following a Twitter account or blog that was unhelpful, you want to be following one that's filled with new ideas. Look for blogs, pages, and accounts that inspire you to try something new or look at something in a new way. It's easy, when setting up a PLN to only follow those people who do things the way you do them, but if you do that you'll be doing yourself a disservice. It's important to be getting a diversity of high quality ideas.

Finally, now is the perfect time to try out a completely new platform for your PLN. If you haven't yet explored Twitter, now is the time to give it a shot. Better yet, try out a page specifically for teachers, like CTQ's Collaboratory, the Educators PLN, or venture into a new teacher-oriented forum.

Do you have any other ideas for teachers to freshen up their PLN for the new year?
Feel free to share them with us!

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