You see the people in your school building every day, and most likely work with grade and subject-similar teachers to plan and share ideas regularly.
That’s a great start, but to build a truly successful professional learning network (PLN), where you can both contribute and grow, you need to add several other key players to your support system. Here are a few types of people to seek out to enrich your network.
1. Colleagues from within your district – but outside of your building.
This is an easy place to start. Whether your school is 1:1 or your teachers share class sets of devices, these connections are dealing with the same level of technology integration. Together, you can lament the difficulties, posit solutions, and share lessons and units that you can implement.
2. Colleagues in instructional support positions.
Including educators who work with the same content and/or grade level is a no-brainer, but also consider administrators, librarians, counselors, instructional technology resource teachers and many others. These people tend to share information that can apply to many groups in cross-curricular fashion, and can suggest resources for building lessons that you might not have even considered, like public library materials or the ISTE Standards.
3. Colleagues from surrounding counties.
You know those great teachers who you cross paths with once or twice a year at local conferences? If your contact ends there, it shouldn’t. The people in the neighboring districts will have the same state standards and tend to have similar funding issues, demographics, etc. Because you’re in a similar boat, there is a lot to learn from one another, and the added benefit of building relationships will give you a leg up should you need to collaborate or network for a new position.
4. Those ahead – and behind.
It helps to have people who are in the same place as you, but you can also learn a lot from someone working in a county that’s just a year or two ahead of yours. The issues they are dealing with and the successes are they experiencing can help you figure out what’s on your horizon. Likewise, you have gained a lot of knowledge getting to where you are on your tech journey. Share useful wisdom to teachers from counties that are a year or two behind your district, and return the favor!
5. To tweet or not to tweet?
Whether you prefer Twitter or any of the other sites out there, social media is an important part of any PLN. Feel free to lurk at first. You can find lots of useful tools and information just by reading other’s posts, and it will help you build the confidence to start posting your own great tips and tricks. If you’re not a Twitter fan, consider Pinterest, Youtube, Google+ or any of the ISTE Professional Learning Networks as a great launching point.
Whichever program you choose to use, whichever way you connect, there are a wealth of professionals out there waiting to learn from and with you!
Gillian Wilson is a lead technology integrator for Chesterfield County Public Schools. Before joining the technology team, she taught middle school history and language arts for nine years. She is a Google Certified Educator, a member of the clinical faculty at Virginia Commonwealth University, and served as the conference director for the first ever #GoOpen Virginia Regional Summit, the largest OER summit at the time.