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4 ways to get the most from your PLN

By Team ISTE 1/31/2018 Professional learning

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You’re a young educator and you’ve just joined ISTE. Now what?

That’s exactly what Jessica Shupik, assistant supervisor of education programs for the New Jersey Department of Children and Families, was asking herself a couple of years ago when she became an ISTE member. “ISTE is an enormous organization, and I came into it knowing I wanted to network to get a job, but I didn’t know how to do that,” she recalled.

So she spent time online reading about ISTE Professional Learning Networks (PLNs) and figuring out how, and where, to get involved. She caught on quickly, and now she’s the chair of the ISTE STEM Network.

Along the way, she realized she could help streamline the process for other newbies and for those seeking to get more out of their PLNs.

Here are some of the ways Shupik sees PLNs as game-changers:

They help you find a job. ISTE PLNs offer a vast networking opportunity, which Shupik used to connect with educators who had the same job she was interested in. Explore the networks to find someone local, someone in the areas you’re willing to relocate to or someone who has your dream job. Then connect with them.

They can improve your practice. Need an answer right away? Looking for tried-and-true classroom tools? Turn to ISTE PLN discussion boards and pose your query. Shupik frequently posts questions for the STEM Network and on ISTE Commons, which is open to nonmembers as well as members.

“It’s very collaborative and very global,” Shupik says. “And these educators have been doing what I’m doing for a long time.”

They are a place to crowdsource feedback and solutions. Have a lesson plan or even a full unit in mind but wondering if it will work? Share it with your PLN and ask for feedback.

They help you develop relationships. Teaching and professional development are all about relationships, so build virtual relationships through the PLNs. Those relationships will open a door to a year-round network of experts as well as face-to-face connections at the ISTE Conference & Expo and other events.

“The more you get involved, the more help you get,” Shupik says.

Interested in finding out more about leveraging PLNs can watch Shupik's ISTE Professional Learning Series webinar “Working Your ISTE Networks Like a Pro (When You’re Really a Noob)." You’ll:

  • Learn how to easily navigate the ISTE PLN system.

  • Find out how to personalize their PLN experience.

  • Learn how to work your ISTE PLNs like a pro.

  • Understand the importance of strong networks.

(This is an updated version of a article that appeared on the ISTE Blog on Oct. 20, 2016.)

Julie Phillips Randles is a freelance writer and editor with 30 years of experience writing about education policy, leadership, curriculum and edtech.


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