Professional development and networking are vital in any field, and that's especially true for educators.
Whether it's coming up with fresh ideas for lesson plans and classroom activities, seeking mentorship and support from veteran educators, or cultivating resources for technology integration or for meeting state standards, teachers need one another's expertise.
That's why working with other educators in personal learning networks (PLNs) has become as important in an educator's day as the time he or she spends teaching in class.
Below is a short list of PLNs that already exist, followed by some resources to help teachers build their own
- The Educator's PLN is a Ning site (or online platform for creating your own social network) that facilitates connections between educators. It features a slew of resources such as downloadable podcasts with education leaders as guest speakers, discussion groups with specific purposes like exploring the iPad's use in the classroom, and links to relevant blogs, videos, resource lists, and events.
- Powerful Learning Practice is a professional development program for progressive-minded educators. Its year-long curriculum provides cohorts of teachers with new ideas and hands-on practice in order to bolster their tech knowledge and aptitudes, rethink classroom activities to make them relevant for today's students, find other teachers with similar goals, and build their own tech-rich learning tools. It isn't free ($1,500 per person for a year of professional development in a school or district team or $1,000 as an individual), but teachers can usually earn education credits for their participation.
- Classroom 2.0 is designed for those interested in sharing ideas and resources about using Web 2.0 and new media in education. This means connecting with colleagues, finding out about events, joining different groups, attending Webinars every Saturday, or simply discussing everything from online projects to financial literacy to smart phone apps.
- EdChat began as a Twitter conversation for educators and has now expanded to a PBworks wiki that encourages the ideas spawned on Twitter that translate to practical advice. To get involved in EdChat on Twitter, search for the hashtag #edchat and join in the conversation. EdChat participants can also visit the success stories page, participate in two live conversations every Tuesday, and join the EdChat group at the Educator's PLN.
- edWeb.net is a free online social network that lets educators connect with colleagues, collaborate on goals and projects, form their own professional learning communities, mentor one another, and practice using a slew of new technologies. Specific initiatives within the network include a game-based learning forum that will bring teachers together with game developers to explore best practices and further the discussion -- and the field.
Resources for Building or Finding Your Own
These Edublog and WeConnect posts, both compiled by teacher and blogger Shelly Terrell, present a pretty exhaustive, multimedia-rich list that allows teachers to explore what a PLN is, why they should care, the research behind it, and step-by-step instructions on how to build one.
For an even bigger list of online teacher networks, visit EducationalNetworking.com'smaster list.
Educators, which learning networks do you belong to? What value have you found from collaborating with your peers?