If you live in an urban area, near a university, or work in a large school district you may have access to lunchtime brownbag meetings and idea exchanges. Professional educators with a common interest sit down and share ideas and resources with each other. I am often envious of English teachers who have fellow faculty members, who are teaching the exact same content, to share thoughts with.  Librarians and Arts teachers seldom have access to a team of fellow colleagues faced with the same issues. And if you live and work in a rural community, you will rarely have access to group of contemporaries meeting to discuss new ideas and resources.

I have found that by creating an online Professional Learning Network (PLN) I am still able to discuss new ideas, share resources, and promote current uses with individuals interested in information resources and educational technology. If you don’t have the luxury of a diverse group of professionals to meet with in person, you can do the exact same thing (minus the face to face interaction) via blogging and microblogging services. The first step is to set up a Twitter (or other microblogging) account and find a dozen educators and other professionals with common interests to follow. Read their updates daily and begin sharing your ideas. Soon you will have followers and the ability to hold your own idea exchanges with your new PLN from the convenience of your home or office or even a park bench via your web enabled smart phone.

Your next step is to set up a Google Reader (or other online aggregator service) account and find twenty educational blogs to follow. Google Reader allows you to access several blogs in one location. It’s like the blog updates get delivered directly to you. You can also share blog updates with Google friends, access new updates via your smart phone, and mark your favorite updates in order to review at a later date. I started off by subscribing to dozens of education technology blogs and found that some were either boring, repetitive, or not my cup of tea- so I unsubscribed to them. It’s an easy way to continue building your online PLN.

We have also been thinking about guiding students in the creation of their own PLNs. Who are the people they want to be in contact with? Once your PLN is established, imagine how you can share that information and experience with your learners. Students can make connections between faculty members, fellow students, and learners out in the world that they have not met face to face.

Your To Do List:
1. Create a Twitter account and follow “inspired_clsrm” “pamlibrarian” “TICepeterson” and “brophycat”.

2. Create a Google Reader account and add subscriptions to “The Inspired Classroom,” “Seth Godin’s Blog,” and “Webblogg-ed.”

3. Take the next step and interact, leave some feedback, or start your own conversation. Start today by leaving a comment on this blog! Who should we be following on Twitter? What is your favorite blog to read? How do you build your own online PLN?