Having a great Professional Learning Network (PLN) can be a huge asset in education. I still cannot believe how quickly I can find answers, advice, or just gain validation for one of my ideas through my PLN. It is also refreshing to gain a fresh perspective from professionals in education outside of my own district. All too often when we work inside the box, it is easy to follow suit with what has been done before. “We cannot change because that is what we have always done!” The dreaded verbiage in education that tries to defeat the change agents within our field, and rip out the hearts of our youngest most passionate teachers and students.
Personally, I explore ideas, gain aspirations and excitement, and am able to bounce my own ideas off of my PLN and I get that extra layer of reflection that I might not get within my own organization. It’s one of the most valuable tools in my teacher’s toolbox. It certainly helps me to Teach & Lead Like a Pirate, and maintain The Innovators Mindset! (Thanks to @burgessdave, @burgess_shelly, @BethHouf and @gcouros for their novels and inspiring weekly Twitter chats #tlap & #immooc)
Twitter is a great social media tool for building your PLN. So is Google+ if you live within the GSuite ecosystem. Just remember it takes time to build a rockstar cast for your PLN. Don’t beg for followers and get stuck up on how many people follow you either. It’s not about the numbers, it’s about the quality conversations. I’d much rather have only 300 followers and have deep thought provoking discussions, rather than 10,000 followers and have to sift through the crap to get to anything worth reading. What’s the point? I didn’t join Twitter to become famous, I joined to become a better educator and leader. It’s about personal growth in the end. (For more Twitter etiquette tips, you may want to check out the blog posts Understanding Twitter A 4 part series by Chocolate Moosey.)
Twitter isn’t just about following your favorite celebrities, or those individuals just out there promoting themselves over and over again. Building a PLN that will work for you and bring meaningful conversation to your life takes work. Make sure you are following people that share in your vision, or that stretch your thinking. Unlike other social medias, you also do not have to follow somebody that follows you either. Just follow those that will inspire you. Look for recommendations from others which could be tweeted on #FollowFriday or during hashtag chats that interest you. (A great resource to find Twitter chats that may interest you and their schedules can be found on the website Participate.com)
Another personal tip for managing your social media accounts; I also keep my personal life in separate social media outlets. For me, Facebook is for my family, friends and life outside of education. Twitter is for my professional discussions and growth. I do not mix them, so I will not follow a professional athlete, or sneaker company, on Twitter even if they were to follow me. Even if it is entertaining, you want to build your PLN to best suit your desires and conversation. Create a network of people that you value their conversation and input. Eventually you too can build a dream team of educators that will be invaluable to you when it comes to seeking that spark.
A comical example of who not to follow can be seen below as our tech team spoofs Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake in the #Hashtag sketch from The Tonight Show. Enjoy!