Join a community to boost your creativity

When you think of creativity, community may not be the first thing that springs to mind. Creative people have a reputation for being eccentric loners who make art in isolation. According to recent research, however, your community can have a huge influence over what and how you create.

And becoming part of a tribe — such as ISTE’s Professional Learning Network (formerly known as special interest groups) — can give you access to resources for innovation that you can’t get on your own. They can also help you curate those resources based on your shared interests.

“I consider my community my primary form of professional development,” said Chicago Public Schools library manager Lisa Perez, who attended Saturday’s Communities Networking Fair to participate in the Librarians Network activities and learn more about the Administrator Network. “It allows me to stay on the cutting edge. You can customize based on your particular needs and interests. For example, I just came from the Global Education Summit because I’m writing a grant about that, so I reconnected with those people. You can connect with whomever you need to at a particular moment in time.”

Consider these four essential innovation boosters that you can get only from a group:

Collaboration. If you’ve ever experienced the thrill of a successful team brainstorm, then you know that the collective mind can be a powerful force for good. When your ideas collide with someone else’s, often the end result is something that neither one of you would have thought up on your own. And, just as your students need to practice their collaborative skills to prepare for their future careers, educators’ professional success increasingly depends on their ability to work with others.

Resource and idea sharing. Few educators feel there’s enough money in the budget for everything their classrooms need. Fortunately, there’s a vast web of free resources out there — lesson plans, tools and apps, tutorials, inspirational stories and much more — if you can find them. Let your PLN crowdsource solutions to your problems and curate the best resources for you via Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram or ISTE’s new member resources library.

Networking. Think of your PLN as your own private PR company: It can help you spread the word to get the recognition — or the funding — your innovative project deserves. It can connect you with new partners. It can even help you find your dream job. To make the most of your time in Atlanta, read Beth Stills’ tips for networking at ISTE 2014.

Support. It’s not easy spearheading an innovative project. Members of a community can divide and conquer the many tasks involved in starting something new to ensure it gets done faster and better. The support you get from your PLN can be emotional too: When things go well, you’ve got someone to celebrate with, and when it gets hard, you’ve got a shoulder (or two) to cry on.

If you’re at ISTE, you’re already a member of a well-established — and welcoming — professional learning network. So dive into the collaboration this week at a meetup, playground, birds-of-a-feather session or social event. You’ll make some new connections, and you just might learn something new.

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