20 Ways Teachers Can Grow Professionally

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March 10, 2014
A teacher is a life long learner by nature and the more we learn the better our teaching practice and methodology become. Today, I want to share with you some really interesting ideas, tips and web tools to help you reach out to other teachers and grow professionally through leveraging the power of PLNs.

10 Tips For Using PLN’s 

Join an online community. Nings are online rings of people with similar interests. Sharing ideas and contacting people for direct feedback is more effective in a community setting. Communities such as, Classroom 2.0 and The Educator’s PLN provide a meaningful circle of experts. They provide professional development resources, such as online events, and are a great place to start networking. Plus, using Mightybell, Edmodo, or Ning you can create your own virtual space to share pictures, documents, calendars, or projects. 
Join a Meetup group. Meetups are common thread interest groups that meet in the real world. The groups can also extend in social networks. For instance, social studies teachers in your district or city might create a group to share teaching ideas. Meetups take online networks and bring them into the real world. And if you can’t meet online try using a cyberspace, like Google+ HangOut, SecondLife, or Skype. Some university academics even have virtual labs on SecondLife

Become a beacon of light. PLNs rely on open sharing of information. So if you know something, share it! It’s best to start with a specific interest and then grow into other topics as time goes on. Become an expert in your niche by researching current trends. This will draw a larger following on your network, because you can provide a novel source of information. You might write a blog, start a Scoopit page to repost interesting articles, share a free tool, or create a Youtube video. Cater to your strengths and use what’s comfortable for you. 

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. After all, PLNs are all about learning. But don’t ask questions that you can easily research yourself. Try simple searches on TED talks, Wikis, blogs, or news articles before posting a question. Try to be specific and think of how a question might generate interest from others. For example, you may want to refer to an article or research study when asking a question. Be specific! This will generate the best answers. 

10 Tools and  Strategies for Establishing a Productive PLN 

Use Diigo, Evernote, Pocket, or Delicious to bookmark links. You can access them anywhere and on any device.
Use a reader to subscribe to blogs. Google reader allows you to manage multiple subscriptions to blogs. This allows easier access to new research. You can also use an application like Scribd or Yahoo News Social to publically share what you read with others. 
Establish your own platform. Consider establishing a blog site on WordPress or blogger.com. A blog provides a worldwide stage to share your views of education. You can spread your passion and find kindred spirits. From there, you can develop lasting connections and plan new projects. Fellow bloggers will appreciate the time you put into creating meaningful materials. Your ideas can be then be re-shared as a link. Many teachers keep class webpage or use applications such as PB works to share ideas. 
Share on Twitter first. Twitter reigns king, for now. Anything can change with technology, but Twitter is the most commonly used tool among academics for expanding PLNs. LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+ also provide access to different types of networks.

Consider your role. The article “Individual Learning” sheds some light on learning roles. Consider your learning style when designing a specific approach to your PLN:
  • Activist-Learning by doing, such as writing a blog. 
  • Reflector- Learn by reviewing situations, such as posting opinions to articles. 
  • Theorist-Prefer to learn by researching information and data, such as by creating a model. 
  • Pragmatist-Apply learning to real situations, such as by creating a project that uses PLNs in the classroom. 
Aggregate resources together. Applications like FlipToast and HootSuite allow you to merge all of your social media accounts into one interface. 
Map out an organized plan for using your PLN. There is a great chart of resources for mapping out your PLN plan on this blog.
Take a free course to learn about PLNs. MOOCs are Massive Online Open Courses that are free to the public. 

Establish a classroom learning network. Share your own expertise with other educators on a website or blog. Create a class website or teach students how to create their own PLN. You might want to design a classroom project that relies on using one aspect of PLNs. Doing so allows you to learn new ways to use PLNs. A YouTube video, The Networked Student, does an excellent job of explaining how a student might engage in a PLN. Teach students how to establish a PLN in small steps. For instance, they might use Google scholar to research a paper or share ideas on Google Hangouts.

These tips have been adapted from this wonderful article from Informed.