Great Ways to Grow Your Personal Learning Network

Professional Development
grow personal learning network

Y’all, it’s been TWO MONTHS since I last posted on this blog. Wow. I feel like a major failure (more on this in the future), but sheesh, it’s been a crazy few months. Just two weeks after school started, we moved into a rental house with our three nutty and demanding dogs while we finished building our new house. First of all, it took forever to find a rental that we could afford/wasn’t terrible/let us have dogs. Second, the rental didn’t have a fenced in backyard– do you know how much of a pain in the butt it is to take dogs out on leashes all the time? Ugh. Then about two-three weeks before closing, there were a million things to do: inspections, paperwork, phone calls, emails. I felt like I was working two full-time jobs. Finally, we moved in! Hallelujah! Then my husband went out of town for work and a few days later we went to the Bahamas for vacation (no complaints, obv). We returned the day before Thanksgiving and since then we’ve been unpacking our suitcases and our moving boxes. 

But we’re here and life is (slowly) returning to normal. I’m ready to get back to a routine of writing, reading, riding my horse, cooking meals with all of my dishes available. 

I’m back and I’m ready to tackle a new posting routine. I hope y’all will stick with me while I return to regularly scheduled programming. 🙂


My last post was a guest post from a local teacher, Liz Shutls, about the importance of finding your village which made me think about how much my Personal Learning Network has changed and grown over the past few years.

I love my school; I am part of a faculty of over 250 teachers. I have a lot of amazing resources at my fingertips, but you know how it is, it can be hard to get out and about to find out what’s really happening around the school. So, despite working with a bunch of awesome people, I don’t really feel like I have easy access to the collective genius that exists there. As an extrovert, I really feel the need to connect with other educators, but I don’t want to be that annoying colleague who shows up at your door all the time asking questions, sharing unsolicited ideas, or gushing over my latest PD read (what can I say, I’m a bit of a PD Junkie).

I needed a bigger network.

grow personal learning network

Using the Internet to Build My PLN

Enter the internet. Although there are many negatives associated with social media, through Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Voxer I have found myriad resources from all over the world. I have thousands of experts at my fingertips any time a question pops into my head. As an avid reader of professional development books, I also think it’s cool to follow (and even interact with) my favorite edupreneuers on Twitter or Instagram.

It’s sort of amazing, really.

I have learned so much from educators all over the world, so let me share why I love these five social media networks and how they’ve helped me grow my PLN.

Twitter

You’re on Twitter, right? I mean, you have to be. It’s an amazing resource for educators. But if you’re new to Twitter, it can be quite overwhelming. I’ve been tweeting for several years now, but I still can’t spend huge amounts of time reading because there is SO much information and it updates SO rapidly; however, the access to amazing minds from all different fields all over the world is staggering. You can connect with educators, business leaders, community members, celebrities (Chance the Rapper is awesome, y’all). You can also follow topics (and chats) that are important to you. My favorite hashtags include #educoach (for instructional coaches), #hacklearning (for cool ideas to hack your teaching), and #dtk12chat (for using design thinking in schools), all which have chats as well. Twitter chats can be a bit much, but I tend to lurk and pick up some ideas from the ones I really enjoy following. If you’re not on Twitter yet, check it out. Don’t let it freak you out–you’ll be amazed at what you can learn from following chats and the resources you can collect by following fellow educators.

Facebook

I know, I know. Facebook? Really? Yes, really. This summer I started following several different teacher groups on Facebook–holy moly! It’s like an idea smorgasbord! As a matter of fact, I have to limit my time there because I could easily get lost in the posts offering ideas, resources, and encouragement.  (I’m embarrassed to tell you how many I’ve saved, but I love that I can easily go back to them). I enjoyed this resource so much, that I started not one, but THREE Facebook groups! (I’d love for you to join us in Innovative Secondary English Teachers, Design Thinking in the English Classroom, and Secondary Instructional Coaches). So, if you’re still using FB only to see your grandmother’s cat pictures or your uncle Kevin’s political rants, I highly suggest you join some educator groups!  It’s great when you have an idea or a question because you can post it to the group and then get opinions and suggestions from teachers all over.

Pinterest

Besides all of the ideas I have pinned for our new house, the garden, my dogs, present ideas, foods that look amazing, pumpkin desserts, and quotes that inspire me, I have several boards dedicated to teaching: Teaching Vocab/Grammar, Teaching Writing, Teaching Reading, Ed Tech, and Teaching Public Speaking. I also have a board for my own posts and I follow several educator’s boards, including Cult of Pedagogy and Favorite High School ELA Lessons. While this social media works differently in that you don’t necessarily interact with others, it is still an AMAZING place to get ideas. And it’s so easy to access and organize.

Instagram

I love IG. To me, it is better than Facebook in terms of “regular” social media. I like the simplicity and the lack of political posts and pointless “share this if you believe in _____, ignore if you’re evil” posts. Plus I can follow meme accounts and dog accounts. Win-win. I actually have 3 IG accounts (yes, that’s a bit much). One is personal, one is for my dogs-don’t judge- and one is for my blog.  I wouldn’t have guessed that I could learn so much from a picture-sharing platform, but it’s true, you can! I love my Instagram Teacher Tribe, and I have learned SO much from them. Not to mention the fact that it’s really easy to interact, make connections, share ideas, and find support. You can also save posts in categories so they can be easily found later. If you’re not using IG professionally, I’d recommend you check it out!

Voxer

Last but not least. Let me start with this: I was firmly opposed to using Voxer, ask @jennifer_hogan on Twitter. She wanted us to use it for PD this summer (a book study of Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros) and I was dreading it. But guess what? I loved it! Seriously! It’s so easy to listen to messages while I drive, leave my own messages to listeners and keep the conversation going. Plus, you can type messages and send pictures, too! I love Voxer so much that I started two groups: One for English teachers–we don’t know each other but we all met on Instagram and they’ve become a great support group–and one for Instructional Coaches. Both of these groups are fantastic resources. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I have an idea floating around in my head and I just need to get it out, which is much easier to do orally. With Voxer, I can jump on, share an idea, ask for suggestions (or encouragement or whatever) and then wait to hear what my new friends have to say. Don’t let the whole “I hate listening to myself” keep you from utilizing Voxer! Send me a message if you want some help getting started or if you want to join a group!

These are currently the most helpful resources for growing my PLN. The internet is a big place: there are countless resources, but I’ve found that utilizing these social media networks (along with my Feedly blog reader) helps me to be (slightly) less overwhelmed by everything. Instead of just googling an idea, I can find one that has been tested by fellow teachers (who I at least feel like I know). I can also ask questions or get shared resources, both of which would be difficult if I just found something floating around on the interwebs.

I hope you will consider joining these networks–if not all, then at least one at a time.  Join, get comfortable, and then consider adding a new branch to your network.

Let me know if I can help!

~Kristy

Current Professional Read:

I’m on Chapter 4 and I’m LOVING it already! Check it out!

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