The Educator's PLN

The personal learning network for educators

Many of us are true believers in being "Connected Educators". We believe in sharing and collaboration. We believe in the collective idea. Other educators need proof, or stories, and anecdotes in order to have a reason to connect. 

Please share with us in this discussion forum a personal experience that you have had as a connected educator. What personal experience has reinforced, or at least validated your decision to be connected? What personal experience has affirmed your commitment to this or any social media, collaborative community for educators/learners?

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In mid-January I set up a Google map for our school. My hope was to get 100 schools to drop a pin on the map to show the location of their school. We wanted to see if we could get 100 schools to do that before the 100th day of school, about 10 days later.

I only used Twitter to spread the word. I tweeted on different days and at various times of the day to catch educators in different time zones.

We got about 130 schools from all over the world within that time! There were none represented from South America.

When I first set up the map, I shared the link to it with the teachers in our schools, grades K-8. Many of the teachers visited the map with their students over those 10 days to observe what was happening. Amazing discussions ensued in the classrooms. Where were the schools? How were they the same or different from ours? Why were there not any from South America? Are they on summer vacation? Why now, when we're in winter? We heard that schools in China couldn't participate because Google isn't allowed there. Another great topic for discussion with older students!

One of the best takeaways was how my colleagues witnessed the power of Twitter and of being connected. Some have appealed to me to use my PLN to help them with projects since then. And now, many of them are building their own PLNs as well.

All because of a map.

I feel my thoughts on this subject are apparent in a post I wrote , "My PLN is My Education BFF! from my blog "Diary of a Public School Teacher!":.  I have met so many wonderful educators! I have learned so much from them. My teaching has changed enormously because of the people I have met connecting through Twitter, Google+, various websites, blogs, all the ways I use to reach out to others.  My students have been the fortunate recipients of this knowledge. I have found that I also have ideas to share that have helped educators.   It's amazing what connecting has done for me!

I have been a connected educator for exactly four years. Two experiences come to mind when I think about why being connected means so much to me. The first story is a project I came up with three years ago. I had been active on Twitter for about 8 months and I was completely sold on how it could be used to connect educators from around the world. As a teacher from rural Nebraska I felt very isolated. I wanted to do something to demonstrate the power of Twitter so I came up with the ISTE Newbie Project. The basic idea was to get people from my personal learning network to make a small donation to send someone from our network to the International Society for Technology in Education's annual conference. The first "ISTE Newbie" was Richard Byrne who is the well known author of the blog FreeTech4Teachers. The project was so successful that I did it again in 2010 and 2011. The fact that a teacher from a small town in rural Nebraska could help raise over $5000 is a prime example of what we can do when we are connected.

The second story that really drives home the power of being connected is an opportunity that I was given recently. I was invited by Discovery Education to participate in the Beyond the Textbook forum. I joined Tom Whitby and nearly two dozen other educators in Silver Springs, MD to discuss the future of where textbooks is headed. I had the opportunity to be part of that discussion because I am connected.

I know I said I only had two things to share, but really the single most important thing that has validated my decision to become a connected educator are the friendships I have formed with people. For the longest time I exchanged tweets with a woman from the other side of Nebraska named Kristina Peters. I met her at an event that we both attended in Philadelphia a little over a year ago then we met again at our state tech conference last April. We became good friends during ISTE last year. She is now one of my best friends! If it had not been for Twitter we never would have met. There are dozens of people in my network that can share stories very similar to this one.

I'm excited to finally be part of a PLN. Thank you.  I've been dipping my toes in the Twitter water and now feel confident to start connecting.  I connect in person in the UK with fellow headteachers. I love to read Michael Fullan and am working collaboratively with local colleagues.  I hope to work collaboratively in this learning space too.  I've used a tweet from Tom to start my leadership blog.  Thanks Tom. 

I believe that the basic premise behind collaboration on networking site can be defined on two basis:

  1. People awareness as it helps in sharing knowledge that can benefit each other and the company. 
  2. Companies excel when that information is findable, sharable, and expandable. It brings customers, employees, and partners together to make customers more successful with a set of products or services.

I have been on networking sites for quite some time now, and I am a part of lot of forums with teachers from all over the world in them. It has helped me to widen my scope in teaching as I come across so many methods and tools used by others. Their experiences helps me learn and experiment. I have become more open to new ideas and they are really working well for me and my students. Also we have Skype chats and group chats online that are helping me to discuss my teaching issues, problems and get a view point of fellow teachers. Such collaborations makes a person grow in his/her field. 

I've come to realize that inmates are students too.  Many of them truly want to learn how to become responsible, productive members of society but simply lack the tools to do so.  Mentoring is crucial in the life of an inmate.  One former inmate shared with a group at the Salvation Army how much she enjoyed receiving letters from people who believed in her potential to overcome the bad habits that led her to prison.  We're all vulnerable to negative influence and need to have people in our lives who can come alongside us and show us how to improve our social skills and develop vocational skills that make us more employable.  One letter from a caring individual can work wonders in the life of an inmate who feels cast aside and forgotten by society.

I do remember when i started my pre-school and the way I brought it up to this level where people can actually know us is all the hard work and the connectedness that I had put in all these years for my profession which I love the most. I really felt connected to all the kids that used to come and also to the staff members as we all worked as a team and never left any stone unturned to achieve excellence.

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