By Hadley Ferguson
Don’t put yourself out on a limb. Build a professional learning network
and watch links, blog posts, and other resources come to you.
Ayear ago, I had no idea what a PLN was. Before I built my profes- sional learning network, I did all my learning by myself. If I needed to understand something for a new unit, I researched it on my own.
That was before I discovered Twitter, the virtual meeting place where your
PLN comes together.
A PLN is a community of individuals around the world who are learning
together. They can start out as strangers, people you couldn’t pick out in a
crowded room. But Twitter helps these strangers come together to create a
community built on communication and collaboration dedicated to making learning and education the best it can be.
Take Time to Build Your Community
The first thing to know is that developing a PLN on Twitter takes a commitment—not necessarily a huge one, but it does take some time. It is a bit
like starting a new friendship: You cultivate a relationship by chatting over
coffee in the faculty room or sharing an anecdote in the hall. It is the kind
of commitment that causes you to pause rather than walk on, and that’s
what it will take to develop and maintain a PLN using Twitter.
The amount of time you set aside to build your PLN depends on you. It
can be 10 minutes a day or an hour on a Saturday, but it is necessary, or you
will never begin to learn from the people you are following.
As with any process, it can be broken down into several steps:
Set up your account. Once you sign up for a free account on Twitter, you’ll
be asked to write a 140-character bio and post a photo. It is important that
you have a photo or avatar rather than simply the Twitter-bird default.
That image makes you more real to your PLN. Also, make sure that you
include in your bio what you are interested in, as people who are deciding whether to follow you will look at that to get a sense of what you care
about. Mine reads: “History teacher, tech enthusiast, lifelong learner, Mom
Learn to follow. Following someone requires nothing more than clicking
the Follow button. Twitter then notifies that person that you are following him or her. It’s a bit like offering a compliment. It means that you are
interested in what he or she thinks. Generally, they will check out your
profile and decide whether they want to follow you too.
When the people you follow post something, it shows up in your Twitter stream. Choose people you want to learn from. I look for educators,
history teachers, and middle school teachers. You can search for a person
you know in the Twitter search box, or you can search for keywords and
find people who are interested in the same topics. Check out the person
A PLN is a community
of individuals around
the world who are
They can start out as
strangers, people you
couldn’t pick out in
a crowded room.
But Twitter helps
come together to
create a community
built on communication
dedicated to making
learning and education
the best it can be.