Imagine being able to walk into a room filled with the very best education professionals, selected by YOU, and having a conversation with them! It can be as long or as short as you want, and as in-depth as you have time for. Perhaps you might discuss ways to teach various concepts, learn about resources that others are using, or maybe even have conversations that challenge the way you think about education and teaching. This is exactly what a Personal Learning Network (PLN) can bring to you!
Last month I made a video introducing you to the concept of a Personal Learning Network. If you haven’t yet watched it, here it is for you:
This month I’m going to begin sharing some specific Personal Learning Network (PLN) resources with you, ones that you can really use.
One type of resource is the professional community. These are generally websites that include message boards (also called forums), resource links and live chat. Sometimes they also include blogs. Message boards are like a digital bulletin board. One person leaves a note on a topic of interest, and as people look at it over time they respond. There’s not necessarily a sense of immediacy, so it’s a nice communication tool when you can’t check the messages every day. Sometimes message boards are active, with a number of responses happening in a short period of time, other times there may be days before a response is posted.
Sandy Hamm, who teaches second grade at Toffolon, is a huge fan of ProTeacher. Sandy says,
“I absolutely love this site. I happened upon it about 4 years ago and got hooked! It’s wonderful how everyone is so willing to share their ideas/information back and forth. I have gotten so many creative and refreshing new ideas; a great place to get advice from a very supportive group. It has also been a great place to meet teachers from all over the country. I find it helpful to find out what’s happening elsewhere.”
Teachers.net is another professional community, similar to ProTeacher. In addition to the features you’ll find at ProTeacher, Teachers.net has articles contributed by a variety of leaders in the education field. It also has mailring discussions, which are a little like message boards in emails (aka a listserv).
The Elementary Teachers’ Network is another online community for teachers, with content features similar to ProTeacher. This community, with over 800 members worldwide, is part of a Ning, which is considered to be a closed social network (you have to request to join). If you visit this Ning, be sure to look for the links to other specific grade level Nings, located in the left margin of the page.
If you love technology, you’ll want to check out the Classroom 2.0 Ning. This online community is the place for educators moving forward with technology in the classroom. Not only will you find classroom teachers here, you’ll also find district leaders and education specialists from around the world. This Ning, with over 37,000 members, has many specialized sub-groups, including one for beginners with technology and Web 2.0.
No matter what online community you participate in, you’re able to expand your Personal Learning Network outside the walls of your building. PLNs allow us to build a community of colleagues and grow as educators, which in turn benefits our students.