Opinion
Education Opinion

Supporting New Teachers to Build a PLN

By Lisa Dabbs — March 31, 2018 6 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Hi Readers,

Over the last few years, I’ve worked hard to build my Personal Learning Network on Twitter. When I first jumped into the space in January 2009 it was very different. Now as the years have moved forward, I know that it’s a much more robust and engaging community. The value of having a PLN as an educator is priceless. Christine and I thought it might be cool to break from our regular conversations and share a bit about how we’ve built our own PLN’s and give some tips to our readers on how they might want to build theirs.

From Christine:

Why Build a PLN?

Joining Twitter was the best thing I (Christine) have done for myself personally AND professionally. I know that this may be a shocking statement to read. My “why” story speaks volumes, but first I need to share about how I came about learning what a PLN (professional learning network) was. I joined Twitter about three months into my teaching career. I was attending my first technology conference and the presenters kept saying to follow them on Twitter. Twitter? Isn’t that where people post about what they are doing every minute and follow celebrities? I had to check it out for myself, and THAT is when I discovered the EduWorld that exists on Twitter. I learned that there were hashtags that revolved around ideas, subject areas, grade levels, etc. Communities live within hashtags and that is how you connect with people who share a common passion or interest. Educators post to hashtags and if you like their ideas, you follow them! THAT was the start of me building my PLN.

So, why was joining Twitter and building a PLN such a big deal for me?


  • In one of my first tweets, I caught the attention of someone well known in the EduWorld: Alice Keeler. I shared that my transitional kindergartners were going to be trying out #GoogleClassroom, and Keeler found me on the hashtag. I learned that little kids were often underestimated with what they CAN create with technology. I started sharing ideas on the hashtag I founded: #GAfE4Littles. My collaboration with Keeler led to us writing our book: Google Apps for Littles: Believe They Can.

  • My first teaching assignment was temporary and I was left looking for a job. I attended Arcadia Unified’s Innovation Summit. I shook hands with the Chief Technology Officer for the district and he shared with me that he knew who I was and what I was doing with my students because of what I shared on Twitter. My interaction with him, along with some other connections, led me to get an interview when more kindergarten positions opened up... and I ended up getting a teaching job in Arcadia Unified!

  • After my first full year of teaching, I had the drive to try more new things with a new school year. I moderated the first #SlowFlipChat for a #GAfE4Littles chat, and it was there that I deeply connected with another teacher’s ideas: Jessica Twomey. My connection with Jessica’s ideas has evolved to us co-teaching as our students have an ongoing collaboration, us joining forces and moderating the #InnovatingPlay #SlowFlipChat, and us forming a special friendship.

Twitter serves as a platform for making connections with others; offering educators a place to build a professional learning network. You have absolutely no idea what possibilities can open up because you ARE on Twitter and building connections with others. By having a PLN, you are expanding your horizons by acquiring more ideas, collaborating, receiving feedback, pursuing interests, hearing perspectives from a wide audience, sharing with your students and SO MUCH MORE!

From Lisa:

How to Build a PLN with Twitter?

New Teachers, I ran a chat called New Teacher Chat #ntchat for seven years. My hope when I conceived of the chat was to support you to connect with educators worldwide and to grow your PLN. The chat was practitioner focused and I put my heart into it BUT, it didn’t grow as I’d hoped. Why? Sadly as it turned out, new teachers just didn’t show up for the chat! Research shows that for some reason there are very few “new teachers” hanging out on Twitter. As I share this today, my vision is that if you are a new teacher you will consider joining Twitter, staying there and taking advantage of all the resources it has to offer.

Twitter is a 24/7 “teachers lounge” where connections with educators from around the world are available to not only support you but to offer you perspectives on your work as a practitioner in the classroom.

Here are my five tips on how to build and cultivate your PLN:


  1. Start a Twitter account and make time to follow a few educators- As an active Twitter user, I want to guide you to jump on the Twitter web client, create your Twitter bio and add an image to it. Taking the time to develop and create a thoughtful bio with your name, your position, your passions, and interests, makes for an interesting and engaging YOU. You’re also more likely to build a following of like-minded professionals in your same field. Let folks know as soon as you’ve created your account so that others can find and follow you!

  2. Start Following Other Educators- Twitter will automatically suggest people to follow when you first sign up. However, you’ll want to start to follow Twitter accounts more closely matched to your interests. Get suggestions from friends already on Twitter or look for hashtags connected to grade levels or topics that interest you and find people tweeting and using those hashtags. Give them a follow and in time you’ll be on your way to getting connected.

  3. Start tweeting and retweeting- Twitter is a great place to learn and grow your practice and as you get started crafting your tweets don’t forget to reach out for help. You’ve got up to 280 characters to use so that’s plenty of space to share links to blog posts, articles and add images. Early on you’ll make a few mistakes, but don’t worry. You might forget to add a hashtag, or misspell a word—but Twitter followers won’t mind. Come across a tweet that you love? Consider retweeting that post to your followers. Retweets are a way of giving a virtual “high five” to your followers and they are always appreciated.

  4. Follow hashtags-Twitter is a busy place with lots of tweets that create lots of noise. As a new teacher, new to Twitter using a #hashtag is a way to collect tweets that you’re interested in using as a resource or to connect to followers. A hashtag acts as a simple way to curate and find tweets and resources categorized by a topic or phrase. Tweeting with a hashtag such as #teacher, #education or #ntchat, helps your message to become part of a larger conversation. When you add a relevant hashtag to your tweet you’ll automatically reach anyone who is following the same hashtag. It’s a great way to become more closely connected with educators worldwide who can support you.

  5. Join education chats- My early journey on Twitter started with participating in one of the largest chats for educators called #edchat. You can read all about it here. I was new to chats at that time but found that it was SO huge that I felt like I was truly lost. I “lurked” on the chat for a while before I was brave enough to jump on! But what it taught me was that there were thousands of educators like me eager to grow, learn and support their practice. I soon discovered many more chats and joined in when I could. Can’t say enough of how the power of joining a chat can support you and grow your PLN.

There are SO many more wonderful ways to use Twitter to build your PLN and I encourage you to read more about it here. Give yourself permission to explore ways that feel right for you. Before you know it, you’ll see your circle expand and collaborations grow.

Questions? Feel free to leave a comment or tweet me @teachwithsoul!

Lisa

Image from Unsplash.

The opinions expressed in The New Teacher Chat: Advice, Tips, and Support are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP
Education Massachusetts National Guard to Help With Busing Students to School
250 guard personnel will be available to serve as drivers of school transport vans, as districts nationwide struggle to hire enough drivers.
1 min read
Massachusetts National Guard soldiers help with logistics in this Friday, April 17, 2020 file photo, at a food distribution site outside City Hall, in Chelsea, Mass. Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, activated the state's National Guard to help with busing students to school as districts across the country struggle to hire enough drivers.
Massachusetts National Guard soldiers help with logistics in this Friday, April 17, 2020 file photo, at a food distribution site outside City Hall, in Chelsea, Mass.
Michael Dwyer/AP
Education FDA: ‘Very, Very Hopeful’ COVID Shots Will Be Ready for Younger Kids This Year
Dr. Peter Marks said he is hopeful that COVID-19 vaccinations for 5- to 11-year-olds will be underway by year’s end. Maybe sooner.
4 min read
Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research in the Food and Drug Administration, testifies during a Senate health, education, labor, and pensions hearing to examine an update from federal officials on efforts to combat COVID-19 on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 11, 2021. On Friday, Sept. 10, 2021, Marks urged parents to be patient, saying the agency will rapidly evaluate vaccines for 5- to 11-year-olds as soon as it gets the needed data.
Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research in the Food and Drug Administration, testifies during a Senate health, education, labor, and pensions hearing to examine an update from federal officials on efforts to combat COVID-19 on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 11, 2021.
Jim Lo Scalzo/AP