If you're an educator of any level, you know the importance of maintaining a great personal learning network, a lifeline in the digital age.
It doesn't matter if you're a teacher, administrator, or any other form of educator—a personal learning network sustains and nurtures you in many ways.
Developing your own personal learning network gives you flexibility to get information on your own terms. You're no longer only limited to just the professional opportunities that your school provides.
Social media and other online tools have broken down the barriers to learning; this is just as true for teachers as it is students.
You have much more control in your own professional development nowadays. So what are some of the best tools that can help you?
Let's look at some of the finest avenues for support in sharpening your career and craft. These are some of the best tools out there for perfecting your personal learning network.
Wabisabi is a global community of educators just like you. It's a great way to connect with professional learning in the coolest way you can imagine. You'll also experience real-time reporting against standards, rich media-driven portfolios, a vibrant collaborative learning experience, and much more. It's a great way to get excited about building your PLN every day.
LinkedIn is currently the world's biggest professional network. They boast more than 400 million members in 200 countries and territories worldwide. They connect professionals everywhere in every field of expertise. It gives you access to people, opportunities, news, and insights to help you grow your success. Teachers adore LinkedIn because of its scope of community. LinkedIn's Becky Krill has a great list of the top LinkedIn groups for educators to explore.
Twitter is a great starting point for teachers. The key to following people on Twitter is to focus on those whom you want to emulate. Follow too many people and the information flow can be too much to digest. It's a learned skill to be able to scroll through hundreds of Tweets for information that is important to you.
Another tip is to ask questions to the right people. Sometimes throwing out a question into the Twittersphere yields no results. The trick here is to locate the best professionals in the field and tweet them a quick message. You stand a better chance of being guided in the right direction.
EdWeb.net is a feature-rich professional learning network specifically for educators and other leaders of education innovation. Its members are teachers, faculty, administrators, and librarians at K–12 schools and post-secondary institutions. It offers some fantastic personal learning network features and noteworthy free professional learning programs. They even offer personal training and support for educators embarking on edtech adventures.
5. The Teaching Channel
The Teaching Channel provides a social interactive environment where teachers can experience and share new techniques to help each other and their students grow and learn. This is done through custom videos and by connecting with a wide network of industry professionals. Join their website for free and discover their Teaching Channel Teams, which are collaboration platforms for professional learning.
6. Powerful Learning Practice
Powerful Learning Practice has been in the professional development biz since 2008. It's personal online learning for teachers at its best. You can take self-paced courses, instructor-led courses, and browse digital books. They have an impressive list of schools they've worked within countries all over the world.
Educators can learn anytime and anywhere with what interests them. Topics of note include blended learning, tech-infused lesson plans, Google Apps, Web 2.0 tools, and lots more. They also connect you with a community of learners just like you. This isn't a free program, but it allows teachers to earn valuable education credits.
7. Classroom 2.0
This is an online community created by Steve Hargadon focusing on technology in education. Classroom 2.0 is a free community-supported network. Applying for a membership to access their features and discussions is free after going through a short approval process. While you wait, you still have access to many great things on the site such as blogs, forums, recordings, and the Learning Revolution Project.
8. The Educator's PLB
The Educator’s PLN is a Ning community created by Thomas Whitby, the author of The Relevant Educator. His site and blog are dedicated to the professional development of educators all over the world. Members can join chat groups, explore videos and resources, and read user blogs. There are currently almost 20,000 global educators on this site and it's growing all the time.