The idea of creating a PLN (Personal Learning Network)has been transformed with the proliferation of social media. In the past we made connections within our schools or neighboring district, through workshops we attended, or classes we took. Today we can connect with authors, professors, teachers, administrators, and experts in our field no matter where they are located geographically. Our PLNs can be global learning networks with the click of a mouse.
PLNs are about collaborating, sharing, and learning from those who are as passionate about education (or literacy, math, science, etc) as you are. It can take awhile to build up a network, but the rewards are great. Your thinking is challenged and stretched from the diverse perspectives and approaches that your colleagues bring to the table. We can easily find ourselves entrenched within our classrooms, buildings, or districts and begin to see teaching and learning through a very narrow lens. When we broaden our circle, we can envision greater possibilities and find more support for our goals.
Sometimes we are lucky enough to meet up face-to-face with our PLN members. These moments are powerful. National conferences such as NCTE or ILA bring many PLN members together. When members cannot attend they can still “participate” through social media and become virtual attendees with the help of a hashtag. We can begin to “follow” those whose posts inspire, encourage, or challenge us to think more deeply. Over time we assemble our PLNs with those that we respect and admire.
This past Friday I was so lucky to be able to merge my local PLN (the wonderful teachers in my district) with my global PLN at a workshop. We had ten teachers from Augusta (we would have had double that if we didn’t have a substitute teacher crisis) attend a Heinemann workshop with Lester Laminack. It was exhilarating for me to watch my colleagues laugh and nod through the workshop and then discuss what they want to do when they get back to their classrooms.
I also got to observe two much-admired members of my PLN as they used their writer/reader notebooks to capture ideas from the workshop. Linda Rief and Penny Kittle are masters of the writers notebook, my own are inspired by their approach.
Later in the evening I was fortunate enough to have dinner with a diverse group of educators thanks to my friend Karen Cook. She invited me to join her as Linda and Lester, literacy consultant Kellie Smith, and Cape Elizabeth superintendent Meredith Nadeau dined and discussed a variety of literacy topics. It isn’t often that I have conversations with such an eclectic group. And so my PLN continues to grow and diversify.
It doesn’t happen overnight. You cultivate your PLN like a gardener tending to his seedlings. With care and nurturing your PLN will continue to blossom and the harvest will be bountiful ideas, knowledge, and perspectives that will expand and challenge your current thinking. I encourage everyone to begin cultivating their own Personal Learning Network, there is nothing else like it! Just like LOVE-the more you give, the more you receive!
What’s On My Book Radar
Every once in awhile you read a book that stays with you long after you’ve closed the cover. Nikki Loftin’s beautiful tale of a boy (Little John) living in the shadow and guilt of his sister’s death and a mysterious foster child (Gayle) he befriends is one of those stories. Gayle has a magical voice-literally and Little John is tricked into betraying Gayle and robbing her of her voice. He is determined to make things right and must make some difficult choices to be the person HE wants to be and not who his father thinks he should be. The magical realism genre has gotten so good lately! You’ll want to include this book on your “To Be Read” list for sure!!