Oct 29, 2018


In this episode, you meet Gretchen, my friends and fellow podcaster on her podcast called, Always a Lesson: Empowering Educators. We dive into how she and I met and have developed a fast friendship that extends farther than our love for being edupreneurs, teachers and teacher supporters, and podcasters. We dive deep into our experiences with PLNs, what they are, and how YOU can also create your own to increase your reach, morale, and happiness as a teacher. 


I’ve been there. Feeling alone and isolated and like you’re the only person in the whole world who is feeling this way. Back in 2007, not only was Twitter barely known about and many thought it would fail, MySpace was my Social Media platform of choice, and Facebook had just made the switch from “TheFacebook.com”. They weren’t even an option for teacher collaboration, is what I’m trying to say.

If you’ve heard or read my story, I could have benefitted from an online PLN, Professional Learning Network,  like the many that are out there now. I felt isolated by my ‘team’ and was regularly chastised for sharing out or asking questions about the way things had ‘always been done.’ Unfortunately, that + the responsibilities and stress added to teachers each year, + the human desire for connection within our tribes or communities leads much to be desired, should we not be in an environment where those needs are being met. 


1. Get a Twitter account and either participate or ‘lurk’  in Twitter Chats.

  • First of all, Twitter is what you make it, so if your opinion of it has been soured by nasty tweets that you’ve seen talked about on the Nightly News, you won’t even see them unless you choose to ‘follow’ those people. Here are some educators you should consider following right away, after you create your account: Amber Harper (@burnedinteacher), Gretchen Bridgers (@GSchultek), Matt Miller (@jmattmiller), Kasey Bell (@ShakeUpLearning), Christine Pinto (@PintoBeanz11), Kim Strobel (@HappyStrobel), and Angela Watson (@Angela_Watson). As you follow people, retweet, and comment, Twitter will recommend MORE people who do the same things as you’re passionate about for you to follow.

It’s a great way to surround yourself with positivity and inspiration.

  • Twitter Chats happen typically under the name of a school, a main idea, or an upcoming or live event to create discussion about a topic of choice for that week. Go to Google and search “Twitter Education Chats” to find one that looks interesting to you.
  • “Lurking” simply means participating  and learning from the chat by watching what people are saying without actually answering yourself.  I’ve done this for years without actually knowing that I was lurking, so I found it funny when Gretchen said something about this on our podcast interview.

2. Join a Facebook Group to gain inspiration and support in your field.

They. Are. Awesome! You may already be a member of one, but the whole idea is that a Facebook Group is a gathering of people who have a similar interest in something. Here are a few that I’m a member of: The Burned-In Teacher Group, Technology Tips for Techie Teachers in Elementary, Teach Happy Tribe, The Facebook Education Group, Shake Up Learning Facebook Group, The Primary Collective.

Some of these groups have less than 100 members, others slightly over, but some have thousands of members just waiting to either seek or give advice on the topics that you’re interested in. Some require a request to join (to make sure you’re a good fit for the community) and others you simply join automatically. Most group administrators encourage you to really engage in the group, but if you’re uncomfortable at first and just want to ‘lurk’ for a while (like on Twitter Chats) go for it! You can learn a lot from just watching, reading, or listening to others.

3. Connect with people who you can collaborate with on Voxer or Marco Polo.

You don’t have to wait until you’re home to connect with the most influential people who you meet online on Twitter or Facebook. Ask participants of Twitter Chats and Facebook Groups if they’d be interested in connecting via Voxer (mobile and computer voice walkie-talkie) or Marco Polo (mobile video walkie-talkie). That way, when you have a second and have a question about a lesson, unit of study, or issue you are having with tech (etc) you can ask them from your phone anytime. They will be notified that you’ve been active on the app and they can listen and respond at a time that works for them.

You will have to download either one or both of the apps, depending on our communication of choice. Voxer is also available on your computer.

No matter what form of communication you choose to develop your PLN, it is so important that you find one. Even if you don’t participate every day, knowing that you’ve got a community that wants to support you can increase your morale and feeling that you have others around you who want to support you, especially if you aren’t finding that support in your everyday teaching life.

Join the discussion in our private and free Burned-In Teacher Facebook Group and feel free to share your story, your favorite PLNs, and any questions you have about Marco Polo or Voxer.


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