Editor's Note: This blog post by Ami Turner originally appeared in the American Educator.
A Personal Learning Network
Educators understand the importance of a positive school community. For students, this type of environment promotes trust and enables them to learn and feel valued.
But sometimes educators become so focused on guiding their students toward success that they forget about the importance of growing in their own profession. Just as students need support, teachers need it too. And so educators might want to consider establishing personal learning networks (PLNs) with their colleagues or joining an existing PLN. In a PLN, participants support each other by offering tons of advice, instructional tips, and classroom materials.
Establishing a Network
One of the most effective and immediate ways an educator can connect with a PLN is to find a teaching community that offers materials, resources, and advice applicable to his or her school and classroom. The AFT’s own Share My Lesson provides a space for educators to share lesson plans and classroom materials, find online professional development, and connect with teacher leaders. Educators can also find great collections to help them infuse new ideas into their classrooms.
Using Blogs and Social Media
Another great way to establish a personal learning network? Blogs. Find several terrific ones at Points to Ponder.
By sharing thoughts through blog posts, educators can connect with others around the country and even the world. And the best part? Blogging provides a venue for reflecting on practice and, perhaps, gaining a different perspective. For those nervous about sharing their writing, commenting on blog posts written by other educators in a PLN is a great place to start.
Another way to form a personal learning network is through social media, such as Twitter. (Find Share My Lesson on Twitter.) Though tweets are limited to 140 characters, these microposts are great for those who want to dip their toes online but are not ready to detail their thoughts in a blog post. Educators can also use Twitter to follow what others are saying, without actively tweeting.
And, finally, there’s a tried and true method of establishing PLNs: meeting in person. Attending conferences and AFT events, or simply reaching out to teachers in the same school district, can create invaluable networks for educators.
No matter how it is set up, a professional learning community will enhance educators’ experiences both inside and outside of the classroom—and ultimately help students be more successful.