A professional learning network involves making connections and building relationships with other educators in your community and around the world for sharing ideas, resources, and voicing educational concerns. When you have your own PLN, you are in touch with other teachers just like yourself around the clock. What's more, you are constantly learning and becoming exposed to new practices to revolutionize the way you educate.
We have some tips in mind to guide you in developing a strong and effective professional learning network, and here they are. Keep in mind these 5 do's and dont's of professional learning network best practices and you won't go wrong.
The 5 Do's
Do focus on collaboration. The major focus of expanding your PLN revolves around a beneficial symbiotic relationship involving give and take. By all means, post in the comments section of articles or blogs and give your opinion. That said, you should also be ready and willing to share resources or new information of your own as it becomes available to you.
Do reach beyond your school or district. Expanding your PLN means going beyond geographical boundaries, so continue to connect with other educators in your local area. However, it is equally beneficial to establish relationships with other professionals. Try participating in local, regional, or national associations or connecting with them virtually.
Do seek out the experts. Look for professional organizations whose mission statements and values align with your own and join these organizations, or sign up for their email newsletters. You might also connect with authors, public speakers, or researchers who embody your personal values. Follow these individuals' social media posts and blog updates to stay abreast with the conversation.
Do find other professionals with common interests. To truly succeed with expanding your PLN authentically, you want to form connections that are built on more than just information sharing. Seek out other teachers who teach your subject or grade level. Share your passion for community service, yoga, or Victorian-era literature. Join groups on Twitter, Google+, or Ning related to your specific niches.
Do use separate personal and professional profiles. Designate accounts that are relevant to different spheres of your life. For example, your professional contacts may not be interested in hearing about your new baby or that funny thing your cat did. Sure, there will be some overlap among your profiles, but try to maintain a clear separation between your personal and professional online activity.
The 5 Dont's
Don't spread yourself too thin. Joining every single educational community will only overwhelm you and result in you ending up connecting with no one. Find the face-to-face and online networks that meet your content goals and expectations and stick with them.
Don't post anything that you wouldn't say in class or at a professional event. Be mindful that what goes on the Internet stays on the Internet. Refrain from participating in any sort of student, colleague, or administrator-bashing. Always be the best you can be in every communication inside your PLN—and outside of it too.
Don't be afraid to ask questions. PLNs are collaborative environments and questions are their lifeblood. Just be sure to pose thoughtful questions that would contribute to the current knowledge of a topic and are not easily answered elsewhere on the Internet.
Don't miss out on professional development opportunities. Being an active member of a PLN is not restricted to logging in and commenting. You must also actively participate in workshops, lunch-and-learns, and conferences. These are places where you can learn useful information to contribute to your network and steadily meet new professionals.
Don't forget the "professional" part of your PLN. Making friends and professional connections should be fun, but always remember what purpose your PLN is serving. It's meant to help you grow and develop as an educator. Maintain appropriate in-person and virtual etiquette, and always give credit to the rightful content owner.