Saturday, March 22, 2014

Professional Learning Networks: #LeydenPLN
"A connected 21st Century educator is an educator who is digitally literate, or at least open to learning the technology needed to basically connect and collaborate with others. It requires at the very least the same openness to learning as we ask of our students. It is a life long learning mindset. Connected educators find a value in, or even a moral imperative to share ideas and sources with others. They also trust enough to openly ask for help of other connected educators."  -Tom Whitby, "The Connected Educator Culture."

This quote from Tom Whitby generally encapsulates why I'm on Twitter and Google Plus, why I follow blogs, and why I call myself a connected educator. For me, it's a "moral imperative" to share resources and ask for help when I need it. It's a crucial part of my Professional Learning Network (or Personal Learning Network, or Personalized Learning Network, or whatever you want the "P" in "PLN" to stand for). My PLN also includes the personal relationships I've built with my colleagues at Leyden and in other districts.

A couple years ago when we first started using Twitter and hashtags at Leyden, we invented #lhs212 to tag tweets that might be of interest to Leyden staff. We didn't know exactly what that would be: personal, professional, or whatever. My main use of Twitter has been to forward articles and thoughts of a professional nature- resources that one might be able to use immediately in the classroom, things that could spark a "left turn" in how someone thinks about their practice, or to highlight national or statewide educational issues. What we were trying to do with #lhs212 was start a Professional Learning Network for Leyden staff, although anyone is welcome to join in.

While I still like the #lhs212 hashtag and I plan to share resources of more general interest to Leyden teachers and staff, I'd like to start a hashtag specifically for the Leyden Professional Learning Network: #LeydenPLN.In contrast, the #LeydenPride hashtag has been incredibly successful, but it's geared toward highlighting positive aspects of Leyden shared by adults and students, and amplifying student voice.

#LeydenPLN is intended more for professional resources and conversations. Not that students aren't invited, but they might not be as interested in this hashtag as they might be in #LeydenPride. I'd like to start to use this hashtag to highlight professional resources for Leyden staff members, and I hope you'll start using it too. The more we use it, the stronger that network is going to get.

Not on Twitter, but looking to get your electronic PLN started? 
If you're NOT on Twitter (yet), here are a couple ideas to dip your toes in the water.

1. Subscribe to a Paper.Li paper. Paper.Li is a tool that I've been using to curate some of the resources that come through on my Twitter feed daily. You can subscribe with your email, an you'll get a notification in your inbox. No need to have a Twitter account, you just click on the link and has a clean, newsletter-sh feel to it. You can also create your own papers, based on searches that you specify.

Here are two that you can subscribe to:

  • The Best of the #LeydenPLN Community. This page pulls tweets from the hashtags #LeydenPLN, #lhs212, and from a list of identified Leyden Twitterers. 
  • The Leyden ASCI Daily. This pulls stories from the people and organizations that I follow. Generally education related, but some politics gets mixed in there. 

2. Another Idea: Join Google Plus
Google Plus is a great resource for educators. It's a little more visual and Facebook-like (sorta) than Twitter. PLUS, it has hangouts AKA Skype on Steroids. Here are some ready made ways to get started finding your PLN:

  • My edu circle: Click here for an easy link to add a bunch of people to your circles in one step.  If you haven't joined G+ yet, it will prompt you. This circle has some Leyden folks, some local educators, and some nationally known names. 
  • Some interesting Circles for educators to follow. Again, you click on the link and you can add lots of people to your circles. 
  • Communities! In addition to following individuals, Google Plus Communities are spaces that bring together people with specific common interests. You don't have to follow everyone in the community, so it brings in people that you might never have come in contact with. For some starters, click on a link and go to these communities:
  • A "Leyden PLN Community" is coming soon. 

So, if you have somehow made it to the end of this blog post, I encourage you to get connected. There are plenty of easy ways to get started, and once you get going you'll never stop.

-Mikkel Storaasli

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