by: Bethany Thompson

What is a PLN (short version) - Avi Spector's take

Understanding Me


  • 7th grade Social Studies teacher from North Carolina
  • 2nd year teacher (1st year in 7th grade Social Studies, previously taught 5th grade Social Studies and Language Arts)


  • I strongly believe that all students can be successful in school, but we should stop trying to shove students, with their unique personalities, quirks, and dreams, into our own definitions of "success." We need to find a way to connect to students on a personal level, learn their dreams, and then use all of our knowledge to help them on their own journeys by explaining how our classroom activities can get them where they want to be in life.


Short Term:

  1. Increase the use of the networking tools and PLN communities where I am already a member (ex. Pinterest and Edmodo)
  2. Enhance my understanding of how networking tools and PLNs can help improve classroom participation and make me a more effective teacher

Long Term:

  1. Establish strong connections with teachers around North Carolina, the United States and the world, focusing on middle school Social Studies
  2. Increase my use of technology in my classroom
  3. Compile Social Studies lesson plans, course materials, music videos, study aids, games, simulations, and other classroom resources to share within my PLNs

Personal Connections

In the Classroom:

  • Classroom Discussions: By allowing my students to voice their opinions about lessons, group work, simulations, and other activities in my classroom (within reason and while remaining respectful), students are able to feel like they are influencing their own education and helping me become a better teacher for future lessons.
  • Extra Credit Research: To increase student ownership of lessons and participation in class as well as to enhance learning by making the students become the "teacher," I have started a new project where students can earn extra credit for finding Social Studies resources that relate to topics we study throughout the year and presenting them to me for use in the classroom. This project is still in its planning stages and still must be approved by my principal.

In the School:

  • Subject Area Meetings: I meet with my teammate who also teaches Social Studies on a daily basis to discuss how our lessons are going for the day, any adjustments that might be needed for certain activities, and to plan upcoming lessons. While our conversations might take no more than 5 minutes on some occasions, it is helps to have a teammate who can share ideas and make suggestions when lessons just aren't running the way you want.
  • Grade Level Meetings: My whole grade level (10 teachers) and at least one administrator meet every Thursday to discuss how classes are going, new technology, student behavior, and upcoming school events. We use this time to decompress and talk as colleagues about important classroom issues. We also bring FOOD the last Thursday of every month!!!!

In the County:

  • Subject Area Meetings: My county hosts subject area meetings twice each year to update teachers on the latest changes in their subject areas and to provide them with resources and suggestions for future lessons.

Around the World:

  • Member of Pinterest, Facebook, Edmodo, NCSS, and other PLN communities
  • Still actively searching for PLN communities to join and for new connections, not only in the teaching profession, but with members from all walks of life, from diverse cultures and countries to help me and my students grow into global citizens
Basic Info:

  • A free website where users can "pin" items to different boards that are visible to everyone.
  • Boards can be personalized and adapted to allow multiple users to contribute to one board.
  • Users can now make private boards that are not visible to everyone.
  • Pinning is fast and easy and can be done from a smart phone or computer.

How I Use It:

  • Multiple boards for different subject areas: art, math, reading, writing, science, technology, and social studies
  • By following various users or specific boards they own, I can find the latest information and ideas for various subject areas.
  • If I am looking for information on a specific topic, I can search for various pins and boards that meet my needs.

Goals for the Future:

  • Search for boards that I can follow to find more Social Studies related pins.
  • Continue pinning education-related pins to help others who follow my boards
Basic Info:

  • A free website where teachers can post information for their students similar to an online class.
  • Offers different subject area groups where teachers can collaborate on projects, share ideas and resources, and discuss various issues in education.
  • A website used around the world offering chances to talk to teachers from across the globe to work together on projects and ideas.

How I Use It:

  • To share information and resources with my own students.
  • By reading posts from other teachers, I can get new resources for a wide range of Social Studies topics as well as new ideas to help engage my students in the classroom.
  • Responding to other teachers posts and offering suggestions for resources or classroom management ideas.

Goals for the Future:

  • Continue to use Edmodo to enhance student learning and access to Social Studies materials from their homes
  • Put all student assignments given in class and for homework on Edmodo so that students can catch up with late and missing work easier
  • Continue reading and responding to Edmodo Social Studies group and save all resources gathered from this group for future use in the classroom
Basic Info:

  • NCSS is a membership based organization that offers Social Studies teachers grade-level appropriate resources
  • Membership includes access to online magazines, history databases, books, professional development opportunities, and the ability to collaborate with colleagues.

How I Use It:

  • To read the latest research and learn about new resources for the classroom
  • Access members only professional development webinars and information about updates to Social Studies curriculum

Goals for the Future:

  • Participate in more professional development opportunities
  • Contribute ideas for the online magazines