Let me start off by saying there was a time I never wanted to become one of ‘those people.’ ‘Those people’ meaning someone who does self promotion on different forms of social media such as Twitter or Facebook in order to gain followers and stay connected. There were a few hangups I had to creating a Personal Learning Network (PLN):

  1. Time-I am already a busy person, so I thought that adding one more task to my life would make me even more busy and therefore spend less time with my family.
  2. Self-Promotion-The idea of self-promotion made me think about the time I was in a network marketing business and was shamelessly self-promoting to sell products. This just left a bad taste in my mouth.
  3. Why do I need to?- Not that I felt that I was already an expert about all things teaching, but I just couldn’t see the benefit that creating a PLN would be for me.

After some time of pushing against this idea, my mindset slowly began to change. I began to watch my colleagues doing some pretty awesome teaching activities in their classrooms and when I asked about it they enthusiastically said, “I saw it on Twitter!” After more of these, ‘I saw it on Twitter’ moments, I finally decided to dive into this community. I started a Twitter account and started following a few teacher friends of mine to get started.

In the article Reach, by Jeff Utecht he addressed the idea of being a ‘lurker.’

“Someone who is just there watching and learning, but does not give back or actively shares within the community itself…”

I didn’t realize it until now, but that is exactly how I started out. I would follow as many educators as possible and just watch what everyone was doing, and implement ideas in my classroom when it sparked my interest.

After some time of doing this and becoming more comfortable with the community, I made my first educational Tweet  of an activity I did in my classroom that I was proud of coming up with.

I only got one like from the technology and innovation coach at my school, and one comment from my snarky husband who was giving me a hard time about starting Twitter. I then realized I needed to get myself out there more consistently. In Reach, Utecht talks about being an active contributor in online communities.

“Becoming part of a network takes time. Growing connections and finding your place within the community does not happen overnight, but it can happen rather quickly if you are an active participant in the community for others.”

Fast forward almost a year and I am so glad I took the leap to become a more active member of my PLN. I have grown as an educator and learned so much more than I would have if I had just stayed in my little bubble. I also realized that my hangups were indeed based on ignorance of the community and fear of putting myself out there.

  1. Time- My fear about time was quickly relieved when I realized how easy it is to search for ideas on twitter using hashtags and by following other knowledgable educators who have the same interests as I do.  In Reach, Utecht discusses using those 5-10 minute blocks of time in the teaching day to access it for your personal use and that is exactly what I now do.
  2. Self-Promotion-After posting my first few tweets I realized that this mode of networking was not about ‘look at how great I am’ but more about sharing the great things I do so that others could benefit from it as well. To be honest, I’m still not completely comfortable with self-promotion (I’ll get over it with time), but I do understand its purpose and how I can use it to benefit myself and others.
  3. Why do I need to?- When I look at this hangup I am shocked that I ever thought this! I have learned so much more about education by tapping into this massive community of other educators available to me. Also if I’m going to require my students to learn from each other, I realized I must model this kind of learning for my students as well. Read the article World Without Walls: Learning Well with Others. It does a much better job than I ever could at explaining how education is changing and staying connected is a must in the 21st century.

My current PLN is now always growing and changing.

So where do I go from here? Well, I set a few goals for myself to stay connected and consistent. I Tweet once a week, scroll my twitter feed 5-10 min daily for new learning or ideas, I have an expanding RSS reader to keep up on the latest articles in education, and I am in the COETAIL online10 cohort. I know I have far from ‘arrived,’ but I’m proud of how far I’ve come and now realized I am a better educator because of it.