This will be my 15th year of teaching coming up, and I have learned so much the past three years compared to all of my previous years of teaching. The difference? Building and engaging a professional learning network (PLN). Connecting with fellow educators from around the world via Twitter, Google+, Voxer, Pinterest, and attending conferences (on my list for this coming year is to attend at least one edcamp) has not only given me new ideas and a much deeper knowledge base, but it has also deepened my passion for teaching and learning.
Building my PLN has been the single best thing I have done in my career so far for me and my students. After participating in Twitter chats like #paedchat, #personalizedpd, and a few others, I went into work excited every day this year past year, and I cannot wait for the next school year to begin. There was not one day I did not feel like not going in. There was not one "mental health day" I felt I needed to take. There was not one question that I did not think that could not be answered by someone in my PLN. There was not one hurdle I did not think that could not be overcome with the help of my PLN.
So with all the fantastic ways collaborating and communicating with others has affected me, why would I not allow my students the same opportunity? If collaborating and communicating with others is such a positive and meaningful experience, why keep it to ourselves? Why are we hesitant to give up that control in our classroom? Why keep our students from working together on a regular basis when employers want employees who have good interpersonal skills and the willingness to listen and work with others?
Imagine if students were excited to come into school every day to collaborate, communicate, and learn. Imagine if students did not feel the need to try to pull the old Ferris Bueller sick day. Imagine if students felt that no question was too hard for them because they knew they could rely on their PLN to help them through. Imagine if they truly had the love for learning. Imagine if they felt they wanted to go to school, rather than had to go to school.
This coming school year, I want to help my 6th grade students build their PLN of sorts. I want to begin to show them how powerful collaborating and communicating can be, and how relevant their learning will become as a result. To help my students get started on their own PLN, I intend to use Google Classroom, Padlet, Kidblog, and try to do a few Mystery Skypes and Google Hangouts. The more they can make strong, positive connections, the more they can begin to feel that connection to their learning.
If one is not part of a PLN, it might be difficult to understand the impact it can make. In order to understand how powerful a PLN can be, one has to become part of one. Take some time at first to checkout different social media outlets and different topics of your interest and then engage. Sure it will feel uncomfortable at first, and it might take one out of one's comfort-zone, but that is a good thing. That is where the growth is, and your students, even Ferris, will thank you for it.