By now the term professional learning network (PLN) is used very often, but much of the time it refers to the virtual type, meaning our online colleagues and networks. Being a media specialist can be a lonely profession and it’s not uncommon to feel like we’re siloed. As I have moved from being a classroom teacher into teacher leader positions, I’ve noticed it can get lonely and I find myself looking for a face-to-face tribe. Although I find this at conferences, they are infrequent and expensive.

So how can media specialists get out from the media center and network with like-minded educators without flying to ISTE or AASL? By getting involved in the “unconference” movement. Here are three different ways to do just that!

1. CoffeeEDU
I first encountered CoffeeEDU as “CoffeeCUE” and thought, “Cool. I like coffee.”

Fast forward a few months and it’s changed my professional life. Because of my current work, which involves working with educators in almost two dozen schools, I have a small peer group. Before moving to this position, I ran across the CoffeeEDU model and decided to attend a meetup—and instantly loved how this meetup, with no agenda or formal presentation, was more like a support group than a professional learning event. Despite that, I learned more in one hour than I had in several all-day formal sessions. I was hooked and soon organized my own local CoffeeEDU meetup closer to my home.

How to build a face-to-face #PLN in 3 easy steps

Every month, at CoffeeEDU, attendees get to spend time with area educators in a relaxed atmosphere away from the school and/or office. In this “safe space” we share the trials, triumphs, and tumults of our work with a group that both understands and shares the same mission. Here, I learned to cater training sessions to the trainees, not around the tool. We relish our time together as we regroup and rebuild before going back to our respective fields of battle.

Ready to host your own CoffeeEDU? It’s a great way to build community at your school or to network with other media specialists and educators.

About the Author:

Ge-Anne Bolhuis (BOWL-house) has served as a classroom teacher, computer skills teacher, and school-level instructional technology coach. She currently serves as the instructional technology specialist and media specialist liaison for Whitfield County (GA) Schools. Online, you will find her on Twitter as @gabolhuis.


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