My PLN – The Open Window after the Door Closed

Steve Dembo is the motivation behind this post (thanks Steve!). His last post asked if personal learning networks, or PLNs, are bad for morale. That post inspired me and when I’m inspired I sometimes go on with a little too much detail. You might want to grab some coffee or tea and then settle in to read this one.

Last April I completed a graduate diploma on educational uses of technology. I live in a rural area and drove a considerable distance for sessions at the university. I always drove home motivated and rejuvenated, ready and excited to implement what I’d learned.

The last drive home, however, was bittersweet. I was thankful to be finished, happy to have a life back (no more homework!!!), and proud of my accomplishment, but I was very sad to be leaving an inspiring group of people. My cohort had motivated me and helped me grow and learn for over two years. I wondered what I would do without that formal learning atmosphere, without that regular injection of professional motivation, without my newfound, albeit formally organized, PLN.Window

What’s that saying, ‘when one door closes, a window opens’? Very true in this case…

Before leaving on that last day of coursework, I asked my faculty associate, Julia, how I could stay connected from a distance. She didn’t hesitate with her one word answer – ‘blog’ was all she said. I admit, at the time, I was dissatisfied with her answer. I wanted to maintain the momentum I had experienced with my personal and professional development. I wanted to continue my learning on how to include transformative uses of technology in my teaching. I wanted to have that motivation and inspiration that came from my cohort. Her answer seemed too simple and it didn’t seem to be the answer I was looking for.

Regardless, due to my immense respect for her, I took Julia’s advice. I had been reading blogs recommended throughout the coursework (Weblogg-ed, 2 cents Worth, Alan November) so I started working on my blogroll and trying to comment once a week. By the time summer rolled around, I was spending a part of Saturday morning, tea in hand, reading blogs. My RSS feed list was growing, as was my list of bookmarks on Del.icio.us. I was beginning to think that I could at least continue self-directed learning via blogging in this way. At Julia’s suggestion, I was at the beginning stages of developing my PLN online and I didn’t even know it.

During the summer I started planning on how to use blogs in an art classroom. In TLITE, I’d learned to try out new technologies before using them in the classroom. The logical first step was to start my own blog, but I was scared, and a little leery, to do so for the usual reasons.

It was about this time that I received an email from KnowSchools about an online conference on blogging. I decided to sign up, and that was the catalyst I needed to get started on my own blog.

Was Julia right? Was blogging the answer to my question on how to maintain that professional growth and stay connected after moving back to my rural home? Absolutely, yes!

In less than a year, my PLN is expanding in ways I never anticipated. I’m working on collaborative blogging projects within my district. I have little blogging conversations with people around the world. And, most importantly, I’m ready to transform the learning in my classroom using blogging as the tool. So far, the positives far outweigh the negatives and I’m only getting started.

In his post, Steve Dembo asked if being hyper-connected was bad for morale. It could be, if you’re a glass half empty type of person. But then, most things are perceived in a negative way with those types of people. At this point, for me, being hyper-connected is great! It’s exactly the type of motivation and inspiration that I need. I love my small town and my small school. Both have been incredibly supportive of any projects I’ve undertaken related to integrating technology into my teaching. However, for continued professional growth, I also love the idea of a PLN that is wide-open with limitless possibilities. But then again, I am a glass half full type of person…

Image – Window by Jezzebelle from Flickr.com

6 Comments

  1. pnichols says:

    Thanks for your thoughts. I am just starting to realise the enormous professional learning possibilities that are available to us through blogging. I will look forward to coming back to visit from time to time. Good luck with the 31 Days Project. Paul

  2. egregory says:

    @ Paul – I agree, blogging does offer immense learning opportunities for teachers and students. I admit, I could not have anticipated the amount or the type of learning I’ve done since starting my blog in November. Thanks for visiting and I’ll be visiting and commenting on your blog next!

  3. tidertechie says:

    I too am from a rural community and feel newly energized with my growing PLN. I can’t wait until my students get to work on a collaborate project with other students around the world. I am glad you joined us for the 31 Day Challenge.

    -Lisa

  4. egregory says:

    @ Lisa – It is exciting to connect with others from all over, isn’t it? I find it very motivating for my professional learning. We’ll have to talk about sharing digital/multimedia lesson ideas at some point. Any idea how?

  5. bgilgoff says:

    I love your response to the question of whether or not being hyper connected is good for morale, that it is about what kind of person you are. I think that is so true. I’ve just started working on blog posts for the 31 day blog challenge, though nothing is posted as yet, but even as I read through the list of 31 challenges, I was caught by the competitive language in a couple of the activities, things like “Link up to a Competitor” (Day 26) or ” Analyze your blog’s competition” (Day 14). They jumped out for me because I don’t really see blogging and the PLN that springs out of it as a competitive activity. If I did, I don’t think I could or would engage in it and yes, it would be so bad for my morale. The comparisons I would be making between my own knowledge, ability and thinking would be mind numbing considering that I am choosing to follow and read blogs because I admire the thinking that goes into them, I admire the skill and talent of the writers and I’m wanting to connect to those people to learn from them not compare myself to them. For me that is what developing a PLN is really all about.
    Thanks for posting.

  6. egregory says:

    Thanks for those thoughts, Betty. I wondered about those activities myself. The activities to do with advertising on one’s blog aren’t really of interest to me either.

    I was happy to see you’d joined the challenge! Good luck with it all!

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