PLCs and PLNs – Go Us!

Over the past few months, I have become involved in two very powerful teaching communities: a PLC and a PLN.  Both of these collaborative groups have changed my teaching in very positive ways, mostly because the premise behind each of them is to gain knowledge through other professional educators, AKA – US!

The PLC (Professional Learning Community)

A PLC begins when a group of teachers get together to share resources, issues, set goals and brainstorm the best ways to reach their students.  It is something that generally is done school wide or district wide as it allows teachers of different subject areas and grade levels to effectively communicate.  The PLC, an idea and practice that has been around for many years, when done right, has been very effective in many school districts across the country.

The biggest focus of a PLC is that it is for teachers and is run by teachers – the actual teachers who are with the students in that disctict every day!  It honors the teacher by recognizing their strengths as talented professionals who are willing to collaborate.  That is why I want to focus on it during our month of appreciating teachers.

Recently, I started a PLC in my district that centers around arts integration.  We call it PLaiC.  This is not a PLC that was mandated by an administrator, but was offered to teachers grades PreK-12 and I am happy to say that several teachers, spread across grade levels and subject areas, have committed their time to the group.  So far we have met twice for an hour each and during those times we have discussed various issues around arts integration and shared lesson plans and activity ideas.  Each time we have felt the postitive energy of communication and collaboration.  Go US!  (Our next meeting is today!)

(If you are interested in hearing more about our group, please scroll down and subscribe to this post’s comments as I will be updating readers on our efforts.)


The PLN (Personal Learning Network)

A PLN is another way for teachers to collaborate, but it is done mostly online.  (Some people would rather use the words Professional Learning Network.)  Social Media has hit education by storm and many teachers are embracing it as a professional tool.

I must admit, that at first I hesitated to even get a Facebook profile, but I did to make a page for The Inspired Classroom.  I really dragged my heels on getting a Twitter account.  But now, I do not know what I would do without it.  It is not because of the gossip I can get about Desperate Housewives or the motivation to stick to an exercise regiment (although those are nice too!), it is for my educator PLN.  Ask any educator on Twitter and they will tell you that the best professional development they receive is on Twitter with their PLN.  Why?  I argue (and many would agree) that this is because the sharing, the ideas, and the support come from other teachers who are as invested in their passion to teach as you are!  My PLN has served me far beyond my expectations.

Every Tuesday, I go to my #edchat “meeting” on Twitter where we discuss various education topics from what we are doing to promote creativity in our schools to ed reform.

Thursday night is the #artsed chat where topics center around arts education.  There are ed chats for music teachers and education reformists, you name it!

Best of all, through Twitter you make specific connections with like minded educators and can continue your collaboration outside of Twitter.  It is through my PLN that I have met and worked with some of our own guest bloggers, made dates to teach at workshops and shared kid-pleasing recipes for dinner!

What’s the common link?

Teachers – collaborating and being able to be the professional experts that they are.  Enough said!

P.S. When looking for a piece of clip art to put with this post, I typed in “teachers” and didn’t come across ONE pic of a group of teachers…what does that say?  Are teachers not thought of as collaborating professionals?  We need to change that!

That leads to our Fifth Assignment for this month:

Discuss PLCs and PLNs with your colleagues or explore them on your own.

  • Would having a PLC be beneficial to your teaching? to your school?
  • Are there people in your school or district with whom you could learn?
  • Would you be interested in creating your own PLC?
  • Would you be interested in creating your own PLN through Twitter or another Social Media platform?
  • Would you like to check out more information?

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Article by Elizabeth Peterson

Elizabeth Peterson has devoted her life to education and to reaching out to other teachers who want to remain inspired. Mrs. Peterson teaches fourth grade in Amesbury, Massachusetts and is the host of www.theinspiredclassroom.com. She holds an M.Ed. in Education, “Arts and Learning” and a C.A.G.S. degree with a focus in “Arts Leadership and Learning.” Elizabeth is author of Inspired by Listening, a teacher resource book that includes a method of music integration she has developed and implemented into her own teaching. She teaches workshops and courses on the integration of the arts into the curriculum and organizes the annual summer Teacher Art Retreat. Mrs. Peterson believes there is a love of active, integrated learning in all children and from their enthusiasm, teachers can shape great opportunities to learn.
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13 Comments

  1. Pam Thompson says:

    Great post. This is definitely where most of us get our professional learning from. I think leaders are finally getting the message that we need to make time for teachers to collaborate, both within their own schools and in a wider context. I didn’t “get” twitter at first, but I’m now very glad I persisted with it. I’ve learned so much from some of the other educators on there.

  2. Outstanding post (& photograph). You have captured the benefits of PLN and PLCs.

    I feel that every educator should have a PLN and be involved in a school or district based PLC. It is a great way to share ideas, build lessons and the children will definitely benefit from this collaboration.

    Technology is linking us in ways that we never imagined possible. We have become a web of global interconnected minds.

  3. Elizabeth says:

    Pam – Thanks for your comments. It amazes me every day how much I learn from my PLN and from other teachers. We are our greatest resource! Glad to now have you in mine!

    Jerry (@Cybraryman1)- You have been an integral part of my PLN! Thank you for all you do for educators who are online!

  4. tom perran says:

    Excellent post, Elizabeth. The PLN that I have developed through Twitter is over 500 members strong. It is a source of constant growth and enlightenment for me. I have the opportunity to share ideas and resources with educators from around the world on a daily basis. These resources are then shared with my PLC at school to broaden their impact even further. Everyone should take part in PLCs and PLNs. Thanks for spreading the word!

  5. Cathy Brophy says:

    You and I go way back and it is so nice to see that you are continuing your work with PLC’s the way they were intended! This article is so timely. I was writing an article about #edchat for our NHSTE Connections newsletter, and talked about how Twitter’s #edchat was like a PLC-and that you could grow your Personal Learning Network , or PLN, through #edchat discussions-and other education discussions that take place!
    The key for me is that they are voluntary and democratic-open to anyone that wants to learn and grow in their craft.

  6. Ted Souppa says:

    I have just discovered my PLN through Twitter. I agree, that I have learned much through my PLN already and now see some of the benefits of learning from a national/international network of teachers. It led me here…

    Ok, I have seen the administration mandated side of PLCs and although the intentions were good, we ended up being micro-managed…which made us lose sight of the core value of the PLC, help each other help our students. I have also seem the commercialization of the PLC concept, which is pretty ugly. The administrator that began the PLC movement at our school took groups of teachers on trainings around the country, which sounds nice at first. However, he blew through hundreds of thousands of dollars in title-one money and all the presentations led to connecting rooms of vendors pedaling “new” and “innovative” programs for schools to purchase.

    “Teachers – collaborating and being able to be the professional experts that they are,” is exactly what a PLC should. My school still calls our weekly grade level meetings, PLC meetings, but they have become just grade level meetings. We discuss paperwork, new policies, and paperwork…when we should be talking about our students and what we can to better by them and for them. I am going to be grade level chair next year. My number one goal is to make us back into that PLC we were intended to be and want to be, for that matter. My PLN is going to help much with that during the next several months.

    Now, I just need to get my teachers on Twitter and I will have them…

  7. Elizabeth says:

    Tom – Thanks for your comment. I agree that PLNs help us grow, as you said, daily. It’s almost like we can’t escape the other educators online who are always positive, supportive and insightful. It’s also great to keep on top of important ed issues. I find that each day, my PLN gives me updates on all things that are going on in their area of the world – good and bad. It helps keeps me in check.

    Cathy – I love that Twitter has reconnected us not only as we write 140 characters of a microblog, but as we plan to work on things together this summer! Can’t wait!

    Ted – Sounds like reality has gotten in the way of your school PLC. It’s hard to, but necessary to return to the core values of a program every once in a while. Otherwise they get diluted by what you said: policy and paperwork instead of the kids.

    On the other hand, in a PLN we have control over our group. No administrator or politician has mandated it so it is truly for us, by us. (Yes, we may choose to follow an administrator or other professional as part of our PLN, but that is our choice.)

    That’s what I love about my PLaiC group. It was something I created in the school with the approval of administration. From there, teachers come to the group voluntarily and we design our time together to be for what’s important and what will have the biggest impact on us and ultimately our students.

    Good luck with your being grade level chair. Hopefully, your clearer vision of what a PLC is supposed to be will help direct the group!

  8. Melissa says:

    I could not agree more with many of the things that you said in this post! I really agree with this comment: “this is because the sharing, the ideas, and the support come from other teachers who are as invested in their passion to teach as you are! My PLN has served me far beyond my expectations”
    I feel like I have grown so much in my teaching and technology integration ideas as a result of my PLN (both online and “in real life”). For example, just this morning, I was struggling deciding what to write about for a required blog entry. I looked at posts from members of my PLN to start my day today, and I found a topic that interested me enough for a blog post. That was not the reason that I looked but it was a benefit from surrounding myself with people to learn from.

  9. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you for your comment, Melissa and I’m so glad you are in my PLN. We learn so much from each other as we simply read a 140. And sometimes it leads to some great material online…like your website!

  10. Ryan Malany says:

    Great post! Congratulations to you on all of your personal professional development!

    I’m interested to hear how you got your PLC started? Was it an open invitation to your district/school? Did you cap the number of participants? Did the PLC choose the topic once the group was established?

    Again, best of luck!

    • Elizabeth says:

      Ryan – Thank you for your comment. The PLaiC that I started was predetermined to be centered around Arts Integration. After OKing it with my principal, I send out a blanket email across the district and got a response from about 7-10 teachers. We have about 5-7 teachers come each week. It is voluntary…

      Also, before any of this, I knew there was an interest. I had give a couple of workshops at my school based on my book (music listening/integration). So, I knew there were teachers who were already interested in discussing arts integration. There was no cap. Maybe someday we’ll be so big that we need to have two (or more) sessions…. Now, that would be cool!

  11. Elizabeth says:

    Check out this GREAT concept of an UNconference. Can you see your district or school doing this? I’m going to ask my administration today!

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