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Building a Professional Learning Network A Guide to Becoming a Connected Educator Torrey Trust

Author Bio: Torrey Trust has a M.A. in Educational Technology from San Diego State University. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Education (Teaching & Learning) at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her research focuses on teachers’ use of professional learning networks to give and receive support, resources, ideas, and connect with educators around the world. Trust is the founder of the K-12 Tech Tools wiki and designer of the Connected Educator Map.


Table of Contents What is a PLN? ............................................................................................................................... 4 Types of PLN Tools .............................................................................................................................................................................. 4 Information Aggregation ....................................................................................................................................................................... 4 Social Media Connections (collaborative) ...................................................................................................................................... 4 Benefits of a PLN................................................................................................................................................................................... 5 Preventing PLN Overload ................................................................................................................................................................. 5 Where to Start?...................................................................................................................................................................................... 6 More About PLNs.................................................................................................................................................................................. 6

Ethics & Policies ............................................................................................................................. 7 Privacy ...................................................................................................................................................................................................... 7 Readings ................................................................................................................................................................................................... 7

Information Literacy....................................................................................................................... 8 Critical Consumption .......................................................................................................................................................................... 8 Reading/Additional Sites .................................................................................................................................................................. 9 Information Literacy Videos ............................................................................................................................................................ 9

Networking .................................................................................................................................. 10 Netiquette ................................................................................................................................... 10 Networking & Netiquette Media .................................................................................................................................................. 10 Reading/Additional Sites ................................................................................................................................................................ 11

How to Use Your PLN ................................................................................................................... 12 Asking for Help .................................................................................................................................................................................... 12 Asking for Ideas .................................................................................................................................................................................. 13 Asking for Feedback .......................................................................................................................................................................... 13 Connecting with Others ................................................................................................................................................................... 14 Learning from Others ....................................................................................................................................................................... 14 Sharing Your Expertise .................................................................................................................................................................... 15

PLN Tools ..................................................................................................................................... 16 Information Aggregation................................................................................................................................................................. 16 Social Media Connections ............................................................................................................................................................... 16

Information Aggregation: RSS Readers ......................................................................................... 17 RSS Readers .......................................................................................................................................................................................... 17 Building a RSS Reader ...................................................................................................................................................................... 18 Blogs/Sites to Follow ........................................................................................................................................................................ 18 E-Mail RSS Feeds ................................................................................................................................................................................ 18 Readings ................................................................................................................................................................................................. 18 Refining the RSS Reader .................................................................................................................................................................. 18

Information Aggregation: Social Bookmarking .............................................................................. 19 Diigo Groups ......................................................................................................................................................................................... 19 Using Diigo ............................................................................................................................................................................................ 20 More Resources................................................................................................................................................................................... 20

Social Media Connections: Twitter ............................................................................................... 21 Using Twitter ....................................................................................................................................................................................... 21 Hashtags ................................................................................................................................................................................................. 21


People to Follow ................................................................................................................................................................................. 22 Readings/Additional Sites .............................................................................................................................................................. 22

Social Media Connections: Edmodo .............................................................................................. 23 Edmodo Overview.................................................................................................................................................................................... 23 Using Edmodo ...................................................................................................................................................................................... 23 Readings/More Information.......................................................................................................................................................... 23

Social Media Connections: Ning.................................................................................................... 24 Ning Overview ........................................................................................................................................................................................... 24 Using Ning ............................................................................................................................................................................................. 24

7 Degrees of Connectedness ......................................................................................................... 25 Growing Your PLN ........................................................................................................................ 27 Connected Educator Map ............................................................................................................. 27


What is a PLN? A Professional Learning Network (PLN) is a teacher-driven, global support network. Building a PLN will give you instant access to thousands of experts in your field. Imagine that you have to re-design a lesson plan that did not pan out as expected. You post a request for ideas on your Professional Learning Network and within a few hours, you receive 15 responses that include links to resources, successful lesson plans, and engaging activities. That is the power of being a connected educator and using a Professional Learning Network (PLN).

Types of PLN Tools There are two types of PLN tools: information aggregation and social media connections. These two types of tools have different functions. Information Aggregation

These tools allow you to collect information from various resources in order to stay upto-date on recent news, ideas, and theories. Social Media Connections (collaborative)

These tools allow you to connect with individuals around the world.


Benefits of a PLN • Crowdsourcing ("none of us are as smart as all of us") • Flexible, practical, and personalized learning (not a one one-size-fits fits-all Professional Development workshop) • Find solutions to classroom problems in real-time • Global support network (instant access to thousands of educators worldwide) • Give and receive help (share your expertise and learn from others) • Reduces feeling of isolation • Read Why a PLN Changes Everything... • Read How Twitter is Changing Professional Development for Educators • Read Meet Your New PD Tool

Preventing PLN Overload It is common to develop both types of PLN’s; however, it can be overwhelming sorting through all of the information, figuring out the social norms for the activity spaces, and learning to use the new tools. Tips for Preventing PLN Overload: 2-3 blogs, or join 1-2 groups) • Start small (1 tool per day, follow 2 • Limit the amount of time you spend on a PLN (i.e., 15 mins a day or 45 mins a week) until you are comfortable using all of the tools • Set a reminder on your calendar to participate in your PLN once a week (so you don't feel like you have to visit your PLN daily)


• Skim read - quickly browse through your RSS reader and Twitter/Edmodo updates and only read the articles or visit the links that are the most useful to you. If you have extra time, feel free to explore other articles/links/ideas of interest. • Read page 14 of Grow Your Personal Learning Network ("Keep it Simple" section) • Read Technology: Where do I Begin? If you are able to manage the information overload of a PLN, you will reap the benefits – instant access to support, new ideas, feedback, peers to collaborate with, and conversations focused on practical solutions.

Where to Start? There are millions of sites, videos, blogs, news sources to follow and thousands of educators to connect to. Where should you start? • Start with an area you need help with or want to learn more about (technology, teaching problem-solving skills, student-centered learning, behavior management). • Start with your subject/grade level (if you teach 4th grade math, start looking for elementary math sites and educators).

More About PLNs • Personal Learning Networks for Educators (YouTube Video) • The 21st Century Educator (Slideshare) • A Day in the Life of a Connected Educator (Infographic)


Ethics & Policies Before you use your PLN tools, it is important to know the rules and regulations in online environments. When you use social media and web 2.0 tools, the information you post is permanent. There are two problems that you may face. First, you may not ever want to post on Facebook, write a blog, or tweet. Second, you may make a mistake when posting (see "Teacher fired over Facebook photo"). For the first problem, browse various social media and web 2.0 sites and see what educators post. This will give you an idea of what is acceptable. Also, understand that what you have to share is important and others can learn from you as much as you can learn from them. PLN's are a two-way conversation. Try something simple for your first post (i.e., "Trying Twitter for the first time, any suggestions?") and then build your confidence as you add posts over time. Making mistakes happens (that's how we learn!). Before you start posting, see if your school has any social media policies/guidelines (if it does not, maybe offer to help create them). If you do post something that stirs up trouble, quickly take it down, apologize, and move on (don't just ignore it). You don't want your boss calling you into the office to discuss something you've posted online.

Privacy Facebook allows you to change your privacy settings to determine who sees what (read Facebook and Your Privacy). Unfortunately, many of the social media tools do not have privacy settings. Anything you post becomes public. You can set a blog to be private and only those with access can read it. However, your tweets, posts on Edmodo, and comments on blogs are all in the public arena (where anyone can take what you say out of context or use what you say in a court of law). So be aware of the tools you use and what privacy settings they have (if any).

Readings Here are some good articles and websites to help you learn more about social media policies, guidelines, and role modeling digital citizenship for your students: • Facebook for School Counselors Guide.pdf • Creating Social Media Guidelines for Educators • How to Create Social Media Guidelines for Your School • NYC Department of Education Social Media Guidelines • Social Media: Guidelines for School Administrators


Information Literacy Information Literacy is the ongoing process of sifting, organizing, analyzing and evaluating information and individuals in your PLN. According to the University of Idaho, information literacy is "the ability to identify what information is needed, understand how the information is organized, identify the best sources of information for a given need, locate those sources, evaluate the sources critically, and share that information." Improving your information literacy skills is critical to maximizing the potential of your PLN. With the wealth of information and resources available online, it can be hard figuring out where to find information, what information and educators are credible and trustworthy, and being able to organize the information you learn so you are not overwhelmed. Here are some information literacy tips for building a PLN: • Start with well-known website (i.e., Edutopia) and see what blogs/websites are mentioned (follow those) and who is contributing to the website (add these individuals to your social network) • Look for websites with thousands of subscribers and good reviews • Look critically at the information (if it doesn’t make sense or the writer does not seem to know what he/she is doing, delete that source from your PLN) • Organize your information/contacts to prevent information overload • Building a PLN should be an ongoing process - add resources, delete resources, build, grow (don't stay stagnant). If your career interest or the subject level you teach changes, add more resources/contacts to your PLN and delete the ones that are no longer applicable.

Critical Consumption Howard Rheingold produced a video and wrote several articles about critical consumption or "crap detection" (source). Critical consumption is the idea of figuring out who is trustworthy. In an online world where anyone can make a website, expertise has shifted from the individuals that write and publish books to everyone. However, not everyone is as trustworthy as they seem (this is an important lesson for you AND your students). So how do you determine whether the author of the text you read is credible? Do an Internet search of his/her name. See what other individuals have to say about that person. See what else that person has published. Do other individuals link to this author's articles? Who does this author cite in his/her article? Take the Crap Test to help you with information literacy: http://www.workliteracy.com/pages/the-crap-test/


Reading/Additional Sites •

• • • •

Critical Thinking Handout.pdf Crap Detection 101 ISTE Critical Thinking Wiki Teachable Moment - Crap Detecting Net Smart: How to Thrive Online (Howard Rheingold's Latest Book)

Information Literacy Videos • Information R/evolution (YouTube) • Discover Information Literacy (YouTube)


Networking Networking is a way of increasing the number of individuals you can reach out to for help, support, ideas, and feedback. You can use all of the tools in your PLN to connect with educators worldwide. However, networking is not just about having 500 "friends," it's about building relationships with the individuals you connect with. Here are some tips that will help you excel in networking: • Learn more about individuals before you connect with them (read multiple tweets/blog posts or visit their website) • When you send a "friend" or "colleague" request, write a little bit about yourself and why you are interesting in connecting with the individual (i.e., "Hi, I'm a 6th grade teacher in California. I've really enjoyed reading your blog posts and I would like to keep in touch.") • If you find an article/resource/tip that one of your contacts might like, share it with them ("I read on your blog that you were interested in learning about using Google in your classroom. Here's a cool website I found, that you might be interested in.") • Be a connector (connect two of your contacts with each other through a short email) • Follow-up with the individuals you connect with.

Netiquette Netiquette means understanding the proper way to interact in online networks. Participating in a social media site is not just about promoting yourself or constantly asking for help. It's important that you respond to others by answering their questions or commenting on their posts ("Great post. I love how you detailed step-by-step instructions for flipping the classroom."). Read the Ultimate Social Media Etiquette Handbook. You need to think before you post. This may seem obvious, but you would be surprised how many people have been fired for posting an angry or offensive comment about their workplace on a social media site. Your posts should be professional (i.e., no ranting about a student or making fun of students). And anything that is posted online is hard to delete, so look over your posts from the point of view of a student/parent/colleague/administrator before hitting the "publish" button.

Networking & Netiquette Media • How to Follow Proper Netiquette Rules (YouTube) • Internet Ethics and Young People (YouTube) • The Shy Connector (Slideshare)


Reading/Additional Sites • • • • • •

Personal Learning Networks for Educators: 10 Tips Netiquette (Internet Etiquette) Five Tips for Better Online Networking 15 Rules of Etiquette You Should Know Before Networking Online 5 Powerful Rules for Online Networking 5 Tips for Improving Your Social Netiquette


How to Use Your PLN Asking for Help You never have to do anything alone. Teachers face various challenges every day (curriculum, resources, technology, behavior management). Instead of trying to figure out how to overcome your challenges on your own, put out a request for help on your PLN. You never know, you may even connect with a mentor or teaching partner who is halfway across the world but is willing to spend time helping you.

Twitter

Classroom 2.0

Edmodo


Asking for Ideas You don't have to reinvent the wheel. Save yourself some time and instead of searching for resources or lesson plan ideas on your own, ask for help using your PLN tools. One teacher asked for solar system resources on Edmodo and received 7 responses and many links within 2 hours.

Edmodo

Asking for Feedback You can share your lesson plans, classroom ideas, and new projects and solicit feedback from your network before implementing the ideas in the classroom. You can also solicit feedback when you are facing a challenging problem in the classroom and need advice.

Classroom 2.0


Connecting with Others You can use your PLN tools to connect with a global audience of educators worldwide. You can find collaboration partners, mentors, and individuals that will give you advice, share resources, and provide feedback.

Edmodo

Learning from Others Don't waste your time waiting to attend a conference to hear about best practices and what works/doesn't work for teachers in the same position as you. Use social bookmarking tools and RSS readers to stay up-to-date on the latest news, theories, and ideas from teachers around the world. You can quickly skim hundreds of articles/blog posts, read the ones relevant to you, and try the ideas suggested in the articles in your classroom.

RSS Reader


Sharing Your Expertise One of the great things about building a PLN is that communication is a two-way street. You learn from others and then you get to share your voice. People that add you to their network learn from you. So you get to help shape your PLN as much as the educators and resources you connect with. What should you share and how? Here are some tips: • RSS Readers - add comments to blog posts • Social Bookmarking - share annotated bookmarks with your group • Twitter - share links, resources, respond to other educators' tweets • Edmodo - respond to other members' requests for ideas, resources, feedback • Ning - share best practices, lesson plans, and other success stories in a blog or discussion forum, share your advice in chat rooms


PLN Tools Information Aggregation The information aggregation type of professional learning network is when you stay up-to-date on new information and best practices by following multiple websites and news sources. Tools: • RSS Readers • Social Bookmarking

Social Media Connections The social media connection type of PLN is when you use social media tools to connect with various individuals around the world. These social media tools include social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter), affinity-based group sites (Ning, Wikispaces), and real-time interaction tools (online chat rooms, instant messaging, Skype, Second Life). While, Ning, Facebook, and Twitter have real-time interaction capabilities, it is common to use these sites for asynchronous learning where you post a question to a community discussion board or send a message to another individual and check back at a later time to find a response. These sites are less demanding on your time because you can write or respond to posts whenever you have free time in your schedule. These sites also provide a space for collective knowledge where teachers can find support from large groups of individuals that pool their answers to find the best solution to a problem. Tools: • Twitter • Edmodo • Ning


Information Aggregation: R RSS Readers RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds allow material from one website (i.e., New York Times Education Column) to be read on other websites (i.e., Google Reader). RSS readers use RSS feeds to collect new posts, articles and updates from websites that you identify as valuable and “push” this information to you via the RSS reader. RSS readers will save you time since you no longer have to visit each individual website and check for updates. You can rapidly skim thr through ough hundreds of articles in RSS readers and click on the ones that are most interesting or useful to visit the website where the post originated and read the entire text.

RSS Readers • Google Reader • Bloglines


Building a RSS Reader • Watch the Google Reader video to learn more about setting up a RSS reader • Watch one of the following: RSS in Plain English or RSS for Educators • Setup your own RSS reader (use Google or one of the other readers listed above) • Subscribe to 3-5 blogs, websites, or news sources (use the "Blogs/Sites to Follow" section to find websites)

Blogs/Sites to Follow There are thousands of blogs, websites, podcasts, and even image streams (think Flickr) to add to your RSS Reader. Start small (3-5 subscriptions) and organize your subscriptions into folders (see video above to learn how to do this). Here are some great sites to add to your RSS reader: • EduBlog Awards:Top Individual Blog List • 41 Great Blogs to Follow by Subject Area • 100 Best Blogs for Teachers of the Future • Edutopia • PLN Starter for Elementary Teachers

E-Mail RSS Feeds • Smartbrief Daily e-mail Newsletter • Smartbrief Daily e-mail Newsletter (Accomplished Teacher) • Smartbrief Daily e-mail Newsletter (EdTech)

Readings • Smart-Briefing and Zite-Seeing

Refining the RSS Reader After you use your RSS reader for a couple of weeks, think about which of the following statements applies to you and refine/add to your RSS reader: • My RSS Reader is just right (I feel comfortable reading through all of my resources). • My RSS Reader is overwhelming (I've subscribed to too many resources, there are too many posts to read). o Read How Can I Organize My RSS Feeds So They're More Manageable • My RSS Reader needs more resources (I want to learn more, I didn't spend enough time using my RSS Reader). o 100 Best Blogs for Teachers of the Future o 100 Most Inspiring and Innovative Blogs for Educators o 50 Must-See Teacher Blogs Chosen By You


Information Aggregation: Social Bookmarking Social bookmarking is a way of collecting, organizing, and sharing your bookmarked websites. When you use a social bookmarking tool like Diigo, you can highlight interesting text on a website, tag it, and then share it with a group. You can see the websites and highlights that the other members in your group share, which is another good way of staying upto-date on the latest news in the field of education.

Diigo Groups When you join a group, you can share bookmarks with all of the group members (see image below). You will also receive a daily or weekly e-mail (depending on your settings) with all of the resources shared from the group members. This is a great way to stay up-to-date on recent news that is relevant to the group you join. • ED PLN • Classroom 2.0 (edtech) • K-12 Groups

Sharing a Bookmark with a Group


Using Diigo • • • • •

Watch the Diigo video and browse the Diigo powerpoint Sign up for a Diigo account Join our group (ED PLN ) Install the Diigo toolbar or diigolet Highlight, tag, and share 3 interesting resources with our group (ED PLN ) – watch this video to learn how to share a bookmark: http://help.diigo.com/mygroups-turorial/share-bookmarks

More Resources • • • •

Diigo Educator account for your class 10 Reasons to Use Diigo Social Bookmarking in Education with Diigo Social Bookmarking in Plain English (YouTube Video)


Social Media Connections: Twitter What can you learn from 140 characters? A lot! Check out this short video: Twitter in 60 seconds to learn about the benefits of using Twitter as an educator or read one of the following articles: • Teachers Take to Twitter to Improve Craft and Commiserate • Twittering, Not Frittering: Professional Development in 140 Characters

Using Twitter • Watch the Quick Take Tutorial: Twitter for Education (6 min) presentation by Susan Brooks-Young • Watch the Twitter YouTube video • Click through “What is Twitter and Why Should I Use it?” (Slideshare) • Register for a Twitter account • Follow at least 3 people • Explore 3 education hashtags • Write one tweet and add a hashtag (i.e., #edchat) at the end

Hashtags Hashtags (#) allow you to categorize your tweets and connect them to popular terms. If you are writing a post about curriculum, you can include the hashtag #curriculum at the end of your tweet. Anyone who searches for the term "curriculum" will see all of the posts that include the #curriculum hashtag. Educators are using hashtags to connect with similar individuals around the world (i.e., #edtech, #latinoed, #kinderchat). Using a hashtag also helps your tweet reach a wider audience. #edchat is a weekly Twitter event where thousands of educators login to Twitter on Tuesdays to discuss the topic of the week using the hashtag. See the live feed of #edchat on the right. To follow hashtags, you will need to search for the hashtag in the Twitter search box or use a 3rd party platform (more information). Here are some more hashtags to include in your tweets: • Education Hashtags • Educational Hashtags and Live Channels • The A-Z Dictionary of Educational Twitter Hashtags • 20 Hashtags Every Teacher Should Know About


People to Follow Following people on Twitter means that you are interested in what they have to say (your news feed will include all of your follower's updates). It's a great way to connect with people. Many times people that you follow will follow you back. Be selective in who you follow (don't follow everyone or else you will be overwhelmed with tweets). To start, select 3 people to follow (1 thought-leader in Education, i.e. Diane Ravitch, 1 teacher in your subject field, 1 other). Then as you get comfortable using Twitter, follow more people. Here are lists of great educators to follow: • Twitter4Teachers wiki • 25 Top Teachers and Educators on Twitter • 10 Teachers to Follow on Twitter • 50 educators to follow • Top 20 Education Influencers You Need to Follow on Twitter in 2011...and Why

Readings/Additional Sites • • • • • •

Getting Started with a Twitter PLN (infographic) mom, this is how twitter works 100 Ways to Use Twitter in Education Twitter as a PLN (Scoop.it) 5 Twitter Newbie Mistakes to Avoid Twitter for Newbies


Social Media Connections: Edmodo Edmodo is a social networking site with a layout and design very si similar to Facebook. Edmodo has over 6.5 million users and hosts online conferences called EdmodoCon with thousands of attendees. Every member has a profile page that displays groups, communities, and latest posts. Members can also upload a profile picture and nd share links and videos. Each member has a personal library and can add resources shared from other members. Members can view their libraries from anywhere (home, school, while traveling) through the Edmodo website, which allows members to stay connected 24/7 to the resources they have identified as useful. Edmodo Overview

• • • • •

Facebook-style style interface Join subject communities Quick responses from members Create class groups (assignments, quizzes, grades) Personal library to collect resources

Using Edmodo • Watch the Intro to Edmodo video • Register for Edmodo and setup your profile page • Join at least one subject community (click on the "post to this community" button so you can post there in the future, since there is a 7 7-10 day waiting period before you can post). • Explore Edmodo and the various subject communities

Readings/More Information • • • • •

Edmodo Help Center Edmodo Webinars Edmodo Users Guide (pdf) Edmodo Teachers Hub Wiki Edmodo Resources


Social Media Connections: Ning Ning provides ides a fully developed social networking group space with various tools and features, including chat rooms, discussion boards, profile pages for members, interest-groups, groups, video and photo upload capabilities, and widgets that allow individual members to customize tomize their profile pages. Administrators can change the design, layout, and tools offered within their website.

Ning Overview

• • • • •

Instantly chat with other individuals on the website Join special-interest interest groups Individual and entire-site site discussion forums Upload photos/videos Add personalized RSS feeds to your profile page

Using Ning • Watch the Building a PLN Part II: Ning video • View the introduction to The Educators' PLN video • Join one of the following Ning sites: o Classroom 2.0 o The Educator's PLN o Teacher 2.0 o Social Studies Chat o The Flipped Network o Making Curriculum Pop o Art Education 2.0 o Student 2.0


7 Degrees of Connectedness How comfortable to you feel participating in your PLN? Read the Seven Degrees of Connectedness infographic below:


Growing Your PLN Interested in expanding your PLN beyond the 5 tools in this e-book? Check out the following links: • Your Personal Learning Network Made Easy • Educational Networking - List of Networks • Educational Technology Guy - Create a Personal Learning Network • 85+ Resources: Educator Guide for Integrating Social Media • Teachability Educator Network • 33 Tips for Becoming a Connected Educator

Connected Educator Map Now that you know the basics of creating a PLN, join the connected educator community by adding yourself to the map: http://goo.gl/maps/MnYE5


References

Rosenthal Tolisano, S. (2012). Seven Degrees of Connectedness. Retrieved July 27, 2012 from http://langwitches.org/blog/2012/06/07/seven-degrees-of-connectedness/. Trust, T. (2012). The Connected Educator: Building a Professional Learning Network. Allison Rossett’s blog. Retrieved August, 4, 2012 from http://www.allisonrossett.com/2012/07/17/the-connected-educator-building-aprofessional-learning-network/. Trust, T. (2012). Professional Learning Networks Designed for Teacher Learning. Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, 28(4), 133-138. http://www.iste.org/Store/Product.aspx?ID=2481 University of Idaho (2012). What is Information Literacy. Retrieved June 5, 2012 from http://www.webs.uidaho.edu/info_literacy/.


Guide to Building a Professional Learning Network