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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Informal Professional Development and Personal Learning Networks.

Informal Professional Development and Personal Learning Networks.

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What purpose do informal Professional Development and Personal Learning Networks play in today's educational system?

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Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Director of Social Media Strategy and Marketing @Edutopia, edcamp organizer

Hi Mitchell,

As I'm sure you'll agree, professional development(pd)/personal learning networks(pln)'s play such an important role in education. In fact, we feel so strongly about this, we've labeled it as one of our core concepts. We also have a plethora of resources for you to peruse on this subject.

Great teachers help create great students. And I'm sure if you surveyed some successful teachers, you'd find most of them have a PLN of some sort.

Teachers/Administrators/Parents - If you're not on Twitter, I urge you to do so. It's been an invaluable resource for us as an organization (we're lucky to be involved in such a supportive, inspiring PLN).

Still don't believe me on the power of PLNs? Check out this resource from Beth Still (@bethstill - who's also part of our PLN) on PLNs. Tons of resources for you to get started today.

Chad Sansing's picture
Chad Sansing
Charter school humanities teacher for non-traditional middle grade learners

I joined the Twitter PLN this summer and quickly found myself more knowledgable than ever before about a cross-section of education topics from policy to pedagogy to technology. As a direct result of the PLN's resource-gathering and professional-development power I now blog about education reform, I've worked to go nearly paperless in my classroom, and I've structured more authentic work involving mentors from our community who come to class once or twice monthly to coach students on different aspects of the students' filmmaking work such as A/V production, documentary filmmaking, writing, and shaping films for middle and high school audiences.

The PLN is the one of the most exciting professional development opportunities I have ever taken advantage of and it's constantly updating and renewing itself.

Spread the word!

Donelle O'Brien's picture
Donelle O'Brien


I loved reading about how being active on twitter has made a direct impact on the way you choose to run your classroom. I've been on twitter for such a short time but it has made a difference for me already. I agree that having an active PLN is an excellent way to grow professionally. What challenges do you (or anyone reading this)face in keeping up with your PLN with a busy teacher schedule?

Erika Saunders's picture
Erika Saunders
6th-8th Special Ed, LS & Mentally Gifted teacher

I'm always looking for information out there on how I can become a better teacher, how I can better help my students. I started by joining a few organizations. Now, I only have 2 memberships (of course Edutopia is one!) but get MOST if not ALL of my information on line! I love sites like Edutopia that has so much information. I'm able to connect to so many resources, websites, free ebooks, articles, blogs, webinars, Facebook pages, and now Twitter - Thanks Donelle for the suggestion!

There's so much great stuff out there. I'm so glad there are places where you can easily find it and network with others!

Binibining Diwa's picture
Binibining Diwa
English teacher and writer for teacher's magazine, La Union, Philippines

In my country, the Philippines, teachers, especially those in public schools, rarely have the opportunities for professional development. Most no longer pursue advanced studies or establish personal learning networks. I think online PLNs through websites, Facebook pages and Twitter are perfect alternatives to face-to-face professional development networks in my country for many reasons.

One, PLNs online address the problems of lack of opportunities as well as accessibility of seminars, conferences and even advanced studies.

Two, many teachers are already connecting online through social networking sites. All that is required is for them to seek and find online places like for them to start their online PLNs.

Three, online PLNs allow real time updates and a larger community for open forum. Unlike face-to-face fora, there is so much more one can say online and also so much more to hear and learn.

This is a great topic! I will surely write about this in our teachers' magazine!

Deb Selanders's picture
Deb Selanders
Second grade teacher from Globe, Arizona

Hello Binibning. My mother was raised in Manilla, and was a Prisoner of War in WWII. She speaks fluent Tagalog.

I am currently enrolled in a Master's Program for Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment. I am in my third year of teaching.

What exactly happens during a Twitter or Facebook professional development. I am just learning how to blog. I am 55 years old, and I had to do a blog for my course.

How do I get into a PLN on Facebook. I have a Facebook account, but I have only used it to keep in touch with my son and daughter.

I am highly interested in learning about how this all works.

I indeed have much to learn.

Donelle O'Brien's picture
Donelle O'Brien

Hi Deb,

Twitter is a great place to grow professionally in that you can connect and learn from other teachers. They often send links to great articles or resources that can help you in your teaching experience. Have you signed up for twitter yet or started following teachers? Let me know - I can send you a list of a few people to start following that I've learned a lot from.

Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Director of Social Media Strategy and Marketing @Edutopia, edcamp organizer

I second what donelle said. Twitter's the most effective way I've seen for educators to network. I run edutopia's Twitter account and I'd be happy to connect you with like-minded educators.

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