The Power of a PLN

As I prepare to do a GHO tomorrow during #ST4T with my fellow Full Circle PD crew on building a PLN, I look back and ask where would I be without a PLN? How has my PLN influenced and helped me?

Like all connected educators , I have a story to tell about how and with whom I connected. Mine started by following a few news media outlets and then wanting to connect to other second grade teachers. I did A LOT of lurking and trying to understand the Twitter lingo. I vividly remember the first time I jumped into a Twitter chat. I was welcomed immediately, by two ladies, and couldn’t believe all the new ideas and resources I’d gotten in a short time. From that moment I was hooked! I didn’t know it then but that was the start of my PLN.

In the weeks, months and years that followed, my journey with my Twitter PLN coincided with my journey in my classroom. I quickly discovered what true collaboration meant and looked like for teachers and wanted to give that same love of learning to my students. I wanted them to be able to learn, share, and connect with students around the world so they could get the most authentic learning experiences. I wanted them to know that the walls of our classroom were not there to keep them in but to merely keep the bugs out. Their future, whatever occupation or field that holds, has probably not even been created yet.They will have the opportunities to work with others from all over the world,doing jobs that haven’t been created yet. Why limit our/ their learning now to the 23 other people in our room?

As I search and ponder for an example for how to describe the mighty power of my PLN in preparation for tomorrow. I really didn’t have to think too hard.

Last summer I begin working out the outline for what would become a 24 hour Skype-a -thon. It began with lots of structural and organizational notes. There wasn’t much to go on since one other 24-hour Skype had been done before, and that was in another hemisphere. Come October, I started sending out tweets to my PLN to sign up if they were interested in participating in this amazing around the world learning experience in March. I had a good response and wasn’t worried about finding classes. To make a long story story, while working on the the schedule I quickly discovered that half of Asia was on their break during the week of my Skype-a-thon, and that a lot of Asian public schools do not utilize technology. Potential problem:YES! Enter the mighty power of my PLN. My PLN was ALWAYS there to give me new contacts and resources. I had 33 slots for my Skype sessions and they helped me fill every one. The last three months of planning seemed like one long 24-hour marathon of Voxing, messaging, texting, emailing and yes even getting on Skype to talk to teachers, at ALL hours of the day to plan for the event. I could not have done it without my PLN. They were always there sending me messages of encouragement and offering additional resources when needed.The resources of my PLN were never exhausted and I found plenty of international educators in international schools who were willing to participate. After a year of planning, it became a beautiful collection of 33 Skype calls with passionate and inquisitive learners from 26 countries all over the world.

It was amazing to be able to connect and collaborate with both teachers and students in the months prior to the Skype-a-thon. The classes that we were able to collaborate with,prior to the event, through blog, Padlet, Skype, penpal letters, Twitter, and yes even Voxer, before hand were the ones that stood out and seemed more meaningful for my students. During the Skype visits we talked, laughed, and learned with 596 students from all over the world whom we proudly call our classmates and friends.

All of the people in my PLN, too many to name, brought me to this moment. I couldn’t have successfully organized and made all the connections that I needed without them. Many in my PLN were able to participate and I was able to connect with them face to face just for a brief moment during the Skype which made the 24 hour Skype-a-thon even more priceless.

It was amazing to see, talk and collaborate with those teachers and students that I’d only had the opportunity to Tweet or Vox with due to timezone limitations.

To all of the people in my PLN who have traveled the road with me from the beginning, and to those whose roads have just merged with mine, I want each of you to know you have been instrumental in my learning, and I value each and every one one of  you. Each person brings his or her special characteristics, educational perspective and qualities that make MY PLN absolutely amazing.

To those in my PLN who have shared resources, thoughts, ideas and numerous hours on Voxer, who have donated and contributed to my professional learning and helped my students succeed in ANY way, I say THANK YOU! You inspire me, motivate me, drive me and are always challenging me to step outside my comfort zone and look at things from a different perspective.

I would encourage any newly connected educator to find others with interests and knowledge about topics that interest you, not your friends next door. Take time to really get to know, collaborate and connect with them. Your PLN will become like an extended family. Like me, you will learn that you can rely on them, that you can support them and they will support you. You will be able to send out a request and have a message in my message box within five minutes. My PLN is small, compared to some, but its members are mighty.

And to those ladies, you know who you are, who first welcomed me and gave me my wings to fly on Twitter through our numerous conversations, I thank you.

I can only hope to do the same for others as they start their journeys towards becoming connected educators.