There are many acronyms in the educational world, but one of the most important ones in my opinion is PLN. PLN stands for Professional Learning Network. PLN’s consist of a group of professionals (in our case educators) coming together to learn and grow from one another.
In college I was told about the importance of networking over and over again in every class I attended. Phrases like, “Networking is how you will get a job.” “People want to hire people they know.” “Networking is the key to getting into the educational world.” etc. These points drove me to substitute out of college to help build those connections. I made up my own little business cards, made sure I met the office staff and principal of every school, and made sure I allowed others to come in and see me sub to give me pointers as to what I could improve on. This networking and professional learning eventually is what helped me land a job. To be honest, I can rock networking and interacting with people but when it came to the interview process, I bombed it every time. I remember my principal even saying you were recommended to me by other teachers and principals in the district who have seen you teach and believe you are a better educator than your interview. All I could remember thinking was, "oh thank goodness." In truth, all that talk about networking in college and putting it into practice actually paid off. I did still have a short interview with my principal, but it was in the hallway of a school after a beginning of the school year training. I rocked the questions, at least I think I did. I was much more relaxed and sure of what I was saying and landed the job I have today.
There is all this talk in college about networking to get your foot in the door and networking to get a job, but not a lot of talk about how important networking is once you are in the door. My first year I would have drowned if it wasn’t for the networking connections I made through subbing. I remember emailing and talking to other educators in my school district about what they were doing or how was I supposed to do this or that. I would walk around and observe other educators in my building and try to figure out how to format what they were doing to meet my students educational needs. This networking within my district, and school, is still a very valuable cornerstone of helping me to grow and learn as an educator today. It wasn’t until I was invited to attend an Edtech Summit in Palo Alto that I learned about the global scale that networking could take on.
Attending this conference introduced me to 2 social media platforms that would allow me to connect with the people I meet and learned from in California. The first platform that has become my life source of information is Twitter. Instructors would show their Twitter handles on the presentations and ask you to follow them. I knew that I would need to stay in contact with several of them as our school was getting ready to adopt GAFE and tablets in the primary grades. The other big motivator for me to start using twitter was to earn a badge from the conference and possibly win prizes, ( I am definitely very extrinsically motivated and a tactile learner). The second platform we were introduced to was Google+. This one I used less, but what I was attracted to was the similarities it had to Facebook and Myspace, which I had used and am still using. I also loved several of the extras the platform comes with, Google hangouts being the biggest one. I took these two networking platforms home with me to Washington and utilized them to see what others were doing in education, as well as to see who was beginning to follow me. My mind was blown, I was now networking with professionals in different countries and states! I was networking, but for a new purpose of learning, not for getting a job.
I took to Twitter and decided to jump in and immerse myself in it. Instead of handing out business cards I started giving people my Twitter handle. This allowed me to gain access to individuals I have never meet in person and learn from them. It was amazing to me the power 140 characters could hold. I quickly learned about something called Twitterchats. These are live networking conversations on twitter on certain days and times. I follow a hashtag and suddenly I am networking with a whole group of educators that had something in common with myself. As I continued to follow people I learned about new ways to continue to network through both Twitter and Google+.
This last summer I was able to learn from a bunch of educators who were in a #NotatIste15 group on Google+ and Twitter, ( You can read all about that in my blog post named #NotatIste15). I learned about a new networking live streaming app called Periscope. Periscope allowed me to follow around a person who was at ISTE and who would talk to people at the conference I was able to send in questions or add comments to what they were broadcasting. I also learned about Voxer, a message recording app, like a walkie talkie system, that also allows you to send voice messaging or text to another individual or group. There are so many more networking platforms and connections that could be told about here. But for my sanity and yours I am going to leave it here.
All these amazing networking opportunities, which I will admit at times are very overwhelming, have become an integral piece of me as an educator and lifelong learner. The fact of the matter is, is that these apps and platforms are allowing me to connect, collaborate, learn and grow from people I would have never of been able to learn from before. A PLN helps me be the best educator I can be for my students, which are the most important piece of our job. The power of social media and it’s role on networking, especially in education, is something I wish all educators could experience.
Social media is ever changing and advancing and the opportunities to network with others will continually change, but do not fear it. I think that often times in education, change comes and everyone gets upset, I’ll admit I know I can be this way. The thing about social media and creating a PLN is finding what works for you. Using it to create a group of people you can learn and grow with,and to let you know that you have a support system. That is what a PLN is all about in my opinion, a group of people that you know can support you and help you grow as an educator and person. Yes, it may take you out of your comfort zone at times, but we can not grow as educators and individuals if we are always living in our comfort zone. It is not good for us as a person and not beneficial for our students. I hope you are inspired to find and embrace your PLN.
Until next time Play more, teach passionately,use tech,and be Kinder,Lara