7 tips for teachers building collaborative, fearless PLNs

4. Approach PLNs with curiosity

Look at your PLN as a source of inspiration to connect ideas. Life is not linear; we move side to side, one step back for two steps forward. Some of the biggest leaps forward can come from a setback (consider the pacemaker and Post Its). As you stay informed and build your PLN, remember that inspiration and ideas do not emanate from education related networks alone. Inspiration comes from many different places. For example, we like looking at Kickstarter projects or Kiva for real world activities to incorporate into our classrooms. It’s about being inquisitive.

5. Share
Take time to share and ask others to work with you and to innovate, reflect and share together. This seems to be the most difficult step for some. Reach out and ask someone if they’d like to work on a project. Equally important is giving back to your PLN and your community. Consider presenting at local, state, and national conferences. ISTE’s Annual Conference is a wonderful opportunity, but so are state affiliate conferences. ISTE affiliates are in all 50 states, and around the world, and provide wonderful opportunities to connect and collaborate.

6. Collaborating means failing sometimes
Our final thought is about failure. Too many times people are afraid to fail. Collaborating on new ideas, new projects, or new strategies will involve some amount of failure. Reflecting on failures and successes only improves your practice. Failure is not the end of a project, but a learning opportunity. Your PLN is not only a place for inspiration and making connections, but sharing what you’ve learned. You might be surprised how much support and feedback you get!

7. Stick with it
Collaboration can be complex. The process can be time consuming and it takes effort to establish and build connections, but the rewards of new relationships and professional growth are well worth the effort. Collaboration is a 21st century skill we’re developing in our students. It’s important for them and it’s important for us. We need to be their role model and mentor and to continue to model a positive digital presence for them. Coincidentally, the collaboration for this article stemmed out of a casual long distance conversation between two friends and colleagues. See how easily that can happen?

Randy Hansen is Program Chair, Instructional Technology at University of Maryland University College and President, Teacher Education Network, International Society for Technology in Education.

Nicole Zumpano is a technology coach in Chicago Public Schools and an Adjunct Professor at Dominican University. Connect with the authors on Twitter @RandHansen and @nmzumpano.

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