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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Resources for Growing Your Professional Learning Network

Where do you find time for brainstorming with colleagues? Whether collaboration takes place in well-organized professional learning communities or on the fly in hallway chats, chances are it doesn't happen often enough during the regular school year.

Yet research shows that networking with fellow teachers is time well spent. In a recent survey, Teachers Network found that 80 percent of teachers said network participation encouraged them to remain in the classroom, while 90 percent said that networking improved their teaching practice.

A personal network doesn't eliminate the need for high-quality professional development, but it does offer a powerful antidote for classroom isolation.

Neil Stephenson, who blogs at Thinking In Mind, offers this quick illustration to show the power of networks: "One day, I see kids in our school doing a really cool looking art project. I ask the teacher what they're doing, and it turns into a great blog post. Some teachers in another school read the blog post and would love to know how the project is put together. Through Skype, we're able to have the three teachers have a 15-minute chat, and everyone goes away amazed by the possibilities of these new tools."

By taking advantage of opportunities to connect with colleagues, both face-to-face and virtually, you can grow and nourish your personal learning network. Then, when school resumes in the fall, you'll have an expanded brain trust to draw on when you need help finding resources, want access to experts, or desire feedback from trusted colleagues.

Online tools allow you to build a far-flung network. Heard of Twitter but haven't tried it yet? Sign up for a free account and join the legions of micro-blogging educators. (See the Edutopia resource, "How to Grow Your PLN with Twitter.") With Skype, you can use your Internet connection to call, chat, or videoconference with any other user who's online, anywhere in the world. Don't be surprised if summer Skype chats with colleagues get you thinking about connecting your students with faraway classrooms or remote experts.

Edutopia Groups offer another place to expand your network. Jump into an existing discussion or start a new one. If you're new to this community, get started at the community bulletin board.

This tip comes from our Summer Rejuvenation Guide. Download it today:

Summer Rejuvenation Guide: Whether it’s reading a good book or starting a new hobby, this resource-packed guide highlights 10 fun ways to spend your summer.


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