Saturday, February 01, 2020

I love the #DEN

This article originally appeared in the Discovery Education blog "Kathy Schrock's Katch of the Month" in February 2020 and is re-posted here with permission.

The use of social media is commonplace for educators nowadays. I interact daily with teachers on Twitter, which is my social network of choice. I monitor each person that follows me and make sure they are educators that are going to be interested in the things I post about. I think the most important component of a Professional Learning Network (PLN) is to both know the audience you are engaging with and who, in that audience, you can turn to for ideas and support.
Part of being a good PLN member is giving back to those your follow. Educators are so creative and, when they share their successes with others, we all become better teachers!
Hashtags on Twitter help educators participating in Twitter chats, or interested in a particular topic, to hone their PLN. For instance, a simple search on any of these subject-specific hashtags will provide teachers with a ton of information and, more importantly, find others in their same area of interest to follow. (You don’t need a Twitter account to search Twitter. However, once you discover the wealth of support of the educator PLNs, you will join Twitter!)
Once teachers find others with the same passions, they continue to grow as educators as they share ideas, thoughts, successes and failures.
In addition to mainstream social media channels, many companies provide a platform for their users to grow their PLN, too. Discovery Education has listened to its users and developed multiple ways the educators can participate in a PLN.
A little history. Back in 2007, when the virtual world Second Life was being discovered by educators, I joined an island, Eduisland II, and conducted professional development in this virtual world along with Will Richardson, Ian Jukes, David Warlick, Doug Johnson, Annette Lamb, and Alan November.
Discovery Education soon created a meeting place on the island and educators from around the world came to meet-up, discuss educational issues, and learn more about Discovery Education Streaming. Even in those early days of social media, Discovery Education was creating spaces for their Discovery Educator Network educators to collaborate!
The Second Life initiative is only one part of what has been a long history of Discovery Education creating ways for their teacher’s network to connect. As outlined in this 2018 article,
The Discovery Educator Network, or DEN, was launched in 2005 to connect educators who were using Discovery Education with others around the world. Initially we used a blog ( as our primary communication tool to share about events and resources with our community members. However, over time, we found our members wanted more ways to stay connected and share with each other. For example, a couple of DEN members took it upon themselves to form a private Facebook group where members could connect. We saw the need and created the DEN Online Community to provide our members with a place to learn, share, and connect.
The current iteration of the PLN initiatives on the Discovery Education site is the “DEN Friends” area. Educators can ask questions, collaborate on classroom tips and tricks, and share great resources that exist both inside and outside of Discovery Education.
The DEN Community also includes another way teachers can grow their PLN face-to-face! Discovery Education provides professional development at conferences and school districts, as well as offering a summer week-long institute for Discovery Educator Network teachers who apply to attend. These trainings are not just about how to navigate the Discovery Education online holdings, but are more about how teachers and students can use all these resources to support teaching and learning in a meaningful way. Having attended a few of the on-site trainings and the Summer Institutes, I can tell you that I came away with tons of new ways to create formative and summative assessments both suggested by Discovery Education staff and the creative teachers attending the sessions!
The Discovery Education site includes a great overview of the DEN Community here. As a DEN member for many years, I have made life-long friends with teachers from all over the world. I know who to go to when I need help with a problem or want to share an exciting new resource I have found. I love seeing my DEN friends in person at conferences and catching up over coffee (or a trip to Culver’s) and learning about the exciting ways they are expanding the creative use of Discovery Education resources in the classroom and in their professional development of others.