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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I just wrote a blog about how my PLN helped me grow as a person. "Why I Love my PLN"  As I mention in my post, there are times when I need facts, and for that I turn to Google or some other search engine.  However, when it comes to needing words of encouragement, I'm wanting to share a victory, or I'm wanting to find a better way to do something, I turn to my PLN.  Every week I tweet out a question and I'm always amazed at the thoughtful responses I get back.

I do remember a personal experience that really drove home for me what it meant to be a connected educator. I was attending a 2011 Teaching and Learning Conference in NYC at the Hilton Hotel. There were three floors of the Hotel being taken up by the conference with about 8-10,000 attendees. One of the highlights of the Conference was a closing keynote by Dr. Diane Ravitch. I love and respect this woman and everything she tries to do in defense of teachers and the profession of Education. I made it into the session before they barred the doors while citing fire hazard regulations. The rousing call to arms, Katy-bar- the-door speech lasted an hour. Time passed very quickly, and I wanted to at least walk up and say hello to Dr. Ravitch, who I followed on Twitter. The line wasn't that long about 5 or 6. It took a few minutes but I made it to the front and approached Dr. Ravitch who spoke first, and before I had a chance to say anything, she said, "Tom Whitby, we meet in person at last." I never expected to be recognized by an education luminary. That, for me,  underscored the power of being connected.

Right before Thanksgiving this year I attended a conference in Rochester, NY. I was scheduled to present our school district's iPad initiative. I went in focused on the presentation but was almost overwhelmed with information from that weekend.

It was at this conference where I created a Twitter account as well as The Educator's PLN. Since November, our district has had some Professional Development...a conference or two that I attended, as well as conference days within district...as a connected educator, I have access to Professional Development on Demand. 

On a nightly basis, I can check out what other best teaching practices professionals from all over the world have been using. I have been sharing with others my own best practices. Twitter and the Educator's PLN have helped me grow as a teacher and as a learner. I have also started sharing these great resources with my colleagues. As someone who constantly wants to improve their teaching, why would you not want to be a connected educator?

The first time I really felt "connected" was when I first started tweeting and looking for people to follow. One night I stumbled upon a retweet that took me to Adam Bellow's Tech Commandments Video on YouTube. I thought it was one of the best presentations I'd seen in a long time. So much so, that I emailed him and asked him to come down to Florida to share his "Commandments" at our State Adult Education Conference. Adam was our Keynote Speaker and ROCKED! THAT'S when I felt really connected!

It is hard to define one experience that has my solidified the importance of being connected in my career. However, I can say that it is my Personal Learning Network that has led me to grow and seek innovative ideas in education. I have had the opportunity of meeting various speakers and educators from my PLN at various conferences. My PLN has helped me with research for my dissertation and helped me solve problems in my various positions. Although I have not been as active this year, I have learned a lot from reading posts by connected principals while fumbling through my first year as a building principal.  I have enjoyed learning from people all over the world.  It has also been awesome having support from other connected educators when sharing Twitter or other sites with teachers in my region.  I look forward to becoming more connected and sharing innovative ideas from my school as I grow in this new direction of my career while still sharing my love of ed tech!

When some members of our #sschat group were putting the finishing touches on presentation proposals for the National Council for the Social Studies one of our group suggested we do one on Twitter, PLN's and #sschat. We contacted each other and there were soon six of us working on the document together. After about 2 1/2 hours, we were done and it was submitted. It was quite the adrenaline rush but we all felt so connected. Not to long after that it was accepted and we all met for the first time in Washington D.C. where we presented to a standing room only crowd. I have never felt so connected and am very proud of our group. We owe it all to Twitter, social media and the amazing educators we have met along the way. 

I had a powerful experience to being a connected educator when I went to ISTE in San Antonio several years ago. I had been connecting with many educators on Twitter and Nings that year and when I met them face to face I was confronted with the fact that I wanted to hug these people who I had never met before. On the one hand it was inappropriate to do such a thing because this was the first time meeting them in person, and yet I had learned so much about these people and the challenges they faced both personally and in the classroom that I felt closer to them as colleagues and friends than I did with the teachers next door to me at my school.

I've had this feeling as well! I do hold back on the hug, but the desire is there.

I couldn't agree more.  In fact, I think I shared the very same sentiment with you Bonnie in front of a large group of teaachers , when I first met you live during your excellent PLN presentation at VTFest last year.  Thanks Derrall  for giving voice to the strength of these connections.

I have had a number of experiences in the last year or so that have left me feeling very connected. However, it was not until I found out the power of twitter as a professional tool that I have truly made the jump to feeling connected to fellow educators outside my district, province and country. It is amazing to hear some of their stories, read their articles or travel to excellent links that they provide. The other day, after being on twitter I asked my principal to have permission to get the techs to add Google Chrome to my desktop. When asked why I stated that instaGrok does not work on the explorer platform. The next question was what it that? I realized then that I was finding out about things ahead of many colleagues who are not in the loop with respect to tech advances. This made me feel truly connected. I sent him the link and am awaiting approval - the techs are in our school tomorrow and I am hoping that they will drop in and install Chrome - then I will be able to start using the power of Grok and get to demonstrate it for my colleagues.

It's a great question Tom. The first time I clearly realized the power of being connected was learning about and winning the Discovery/CDWG $50,000 sweepstakes for my school. A Twitter colleague would send a daily message that he was entering the sweepstakes. Every time he tweeted, I entered the sweepstakes too.

A second time I clearly saw the power is the increase in the number of conferences I have attended that are free, inexpensive, or that I was invited to as a guest of a speaker. Additionally, it is rare that I go to a conference and feel like the only person who came alone and knows no one.

I continue to affirm the commitment every time I find a great partnership with another teacher for my students. I have had countless great experiences (and a few duds). Regardless, I never would have had those opportunities without being connected.

Finally, I've had the opportunity to present at different events and have had the fortune to meet a group of educators who have run an EdCamp in New York City over the last two years.

To see the whole string that I laid out in 2010, take a look at this old blog post: http://njtechteacher.blogspot.com/2010/10/social-media-benefits.html

My most powerful experiences as a connected educator came through interaction with the #mfltwitterati, a group of modern language teachers largely in the UK who connect through twitter. However, it didn't stop there, I soon connected to educators worldwide.  I found online a real community the likes of which i would have embraced had it existed when i started my teaching career 30 years ago! My connections through twitter, nings, blogger etc have really enriched my professional life as I feel at the hub of innovation again, connected globally and able to participate in debate and discussion about things that mean a lot to me: quality educational experiences and lifelong learning :)

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