Saturday, January 10, 2015

Create (or clean up) your PLN

It's a new year, so you should probably check out your PLN and clean up your professional learning game.  Or possibly make one, if you haven't already.  Maybe you have one and didn't even know it.  Maybe you have carefully curated it and it's time to take a quick glance to be sure it's all up to date.  

I set a goal for myself this year with my own PLN... and it's simply to keep up with it.  I restructured my website to help me develop my personal/professional learning network.  I added my Bloglovin', Instagram, and Twitter buttons to the left, and while that may appear to be a nice shameless plug for my own blog, it's really more of a way to connect to each of you.  While followers are nice (virtual hugs!), I also really want to connect with you and learn from other professionals to enhance my own learning.  

I've been slowly curating (I read somewhere that the word curate is SO 2014, but I can't help it, I still love it) my own PLN for a little while, but made a goal to clean it up and up my game this year.

PLNs have been around for awhile, but it's a good idea to continually be in touch with your network.  Now, more than ever, it's important for teachers to be connected.  Here's a few helpful tips for developing your own Personalize Learning Network...or Professional Learning Network.  Whatever you want to call it is totally cool with me.  

First...What is a PLN?
A PLN is your Personal/Professional Learning Network.  It's the contacts you keep, blogs you read, accounts you follow, and general community you choose to be a part of to help enhance your professional learning.  The important thing is to stay connected and keep learning.

What's the difference between a PLE and a PLN?
Photo Credit: Credit:
A PLN is your network- the people, websites, bloggers, and feeds you follow to stay professionally updated, continue learning, and/or provide support.

A PLE is a Personal/Professional Learning Environment- these are the tools, apps, and locations where you store or organize your network.  For example, my tech environment includes Blogger, Bloglovin', Twitter, Instagram, and Google+.

Both a PLE and PLN are developed by you to create a successful and supportive learning neighborhood for your professional career.  Although these are slightly different from each other, I use the term PLN to mean both my PLE and PLN community.

How do I start a PLN?
If you're reading this blog, then you have probably already started developing a network for yourself. I unintentionally started mine a few years ago, but have become more mindful, specifically with social media and technology, about how I keep updated.

How you cultivate your network is completely up to you.  The important part is to build up a network that provides enthusiasm, information, and encourages you to learn more.  Personally, my network includes former and current teaching coworkers, past and present administrators, fellow bloggers, websites, and news resources.  I enjoy the "nitty gritty" information and studies, so I follow a lot of educational news accounts, websites, and I receive a bunch of weekly emails.

Teachers use a TON of difference resources for this purpose.  You can organize your PLN with various websites.  Here's a few that are helpful:

Bloglovin', Feedly, or any blog feed
Moodle, Edmodo, or other teacher media sites
websites such as Delicious or LiveBinders where you can store websites and ideas
email newsletters from websites you enjoy

What if I'm not a tech guru and don't know what I'm doing?
Start with just one.  Maybe start a Twitter account and start following a few education Twitter accounts.  Joining Twitter doesn't mean you have to start tweeting!  You can begin by just following a few accounts and go from there.  Same with a feed site like Bloglovin' or Feedly- you can start an account and follow a few blogs to start.

You get the most out of a PLN when you are able to contribute and share ideas as well, but start at the beginning and add more as you feel comfortable.

Although technology is a great way to keep your learning up to date, don't forget about those important education people that you already know!  Real relationships are always a motivating way to continue your own professional development.

What do you mean "clean up" your PLN?
It's important to keep your PLN inspirational and productive.  I'm taking some time to clean up my accounts to keep them up to date.  Are you following a blog that isn't inspiring you anymore, isn't active, or has gone private?  Stop following it!  Be sure your PLN is keeping you feeling professionally motivated, otherwise it isn't working anymore!

I want some more information...
You're in luck!  As usual, I've gathered a few helpful resources to give more information and resources regarding PLNs and PLEs on a Pinterest Board.  Lots of articles, infographics, and resources for gathering your own collection of network-worthy material.

Of course, you can add me to your network- I'm likely on whatever resource you may be using (except updates go out via Twitter instead so that everyone who follows me can see them!) - so click below to follow and get the follow-back so we can collaborate together!


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