Steven Weber

Superintendent or Asst Super

Fayetteville, AR

Interests: Curriculum design and...

  • Posted 2 Years ago
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IDK - The Reason Every Educator Needs A PLN

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Why do I need a professional learning network (PLN)? The answer lies in “IDK” (I don’t know). How often have you used the phrase IDK? Educators need each other because we simply cannot have the answer to every lesson, have a deep understanding of all instructional strategies, or keep up with the emerging online resources that support teaching and learning.  Have you ever noticed that the teachers who seem to have all the answers are not able to reach all of the students?

Have You Ever Said:

  • I don’t know how to use VoiceThread.

  • I don’t know how to teach in a blended learning classroom.

  • I don’t know how to create a blog for my sixth graders.

  • I don’t know how to create a rubric for the videos my students will be making.

  • I don’t know how to start Genius Hour in our class.

  • I don’t know how to participate in a Twitter chat.

  • I don’t know how to flip my biology lessons.

  • I don’t know how to teach if we ditch the desks.

  • I don’t know how to support students with specific learning styles.

  • I don’t know how to develop quality formative assessments.

  • I don’t know how to how to become a Digital Leader.

  • I don’t know much about professional learning communities.

  • I don’t know how to support a struggling reader.


A professional learning community is a place where educators can be vulnerable. Rick DuFour shares that in a professional learning community (PLC) educators support each other. There is a difference between the teacher who says, “These are my students” vs. “These are our students.” If a PLC is within a school, a PLN is international. A teacher leader in Indiana will share ideas and resources with a teacher in South Carolina, because, ‘these are our students.’


Where Can I Find a PLN?



Twitter Chats have become the cornerstone of my reflection and professional development. I have grown more from Twitter Chats than any other form of professional development. I still enjoy a face-to-face conversation at a conference, but Twitter Chats happen in real time. If you are new to Twitter Chats, I highly recommend a new app called Tweechme. The app is available for $0.99. It outlines a Twitter Chat schedule, shares how to participate in a Twitter Chat and provides videos for educators who are new to Twitter. There is also an opportunity to request a Twitter mentor. If you do not purchase the app, you can also view a free Twitter Chat schedule at Official Twitter Educational Chat Schedule, courtesy of @cybraryman1.



Voxer allows educators to post pictures, share resources, leave voice messages, and post text messages. You can form a group with your grade level team, with educators in other states, or with your mentor. Voxer has great potential for educators as a reflection tool. An online document lists several educators who are on Voxer and it cites education topics they are passionate about. You may join a group that discusses Whole Child Education or another group that shares ideas about Genius Hour. Reflecting is as simple as leaving your thoughts by voice or text. Brad Currie, a blogger, tweeter, and ASCD Emerging Leader wrote, “The great thing about this experience is that participants, including myself, can hear the emotion that others bring to the discussion. It's one thing to read a tweet and a whole other thing to listen to someone speak to a particular topic. That's why Voxer is so unique.”



ASCD EDge is an online community of educators.  You can post a blog, read and respond to blogs written by educators, participate in groups, or post a question.  Groups on ASCD EDge focus on a specific topic such as whole child, leadership in schools, assessment for learning, financial literacy, and middle school science.  ASCD EDge may be the best place to begin your journey.  It is easier to find educators with common interests than it is on Twitter or Voxer.  Several of the educators I communicate with on Twitter are people I met through ASCD EDge.  Since its launch in late 2009, the ASCD EDge social networking community for educators has drawn more than 70,000 people from 149 countries. ASCD EDge hosts more than 2,700 blog posts and 200 groups, with more added daily.


The Power of a PLN

More schools are moving towards blended learning, bring your own device (BYOD), and 1:1 classrooms.  Teachers did not learn how to teach in a blended learning classroom, so there will be several times throughout the year that a teacher says “IDK.”  Another example of change in schools is learning space.  You may want to transform the learning space in your classroom, but you don’t know where to begin.  In 2014, Erin Klein, Ben Gilpin, A.J. Juliani, and Tom Murray created the Classroom Crib Challenge.  This is another example of a PLN.  If you choose not to participate in the Classroom Crib Challenge by posting a video of your learning space, you could still learn how to create a different learning environment for students by watching the videos and following the teachers on Twitter.

The next time you say, “IDK” go to your PLN.  A PLN should be a safe place where you can ask for support.  You can post a question on Twitter, Voxer, or ASCD EDge 24/7.  The topic that is a struggle for you may be another educator’s passion.  Social media provides educators with a way to find answers and support.  When you ask for help, you will find strategies and resources that you never knew existed!  Where do you begin?  Begin with IDK!

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05 May 15, 12:33 PM

This is part of what Mike Fisher and I included in our book - Upgrade Your Curriculum: Practical Ways to Transform Units and Engage Students. We recommend creating "Orbits of Ability," which can be in person and digitally using PLNs! Thanks for your passion and post, Steven!

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