I’ve always thought of myself as a tech guy when it comes to the classroom. I’ve been the guy other teachers looked to for everything from trouble shooting VCRs in the beginning to introducing Google Hangouts. But I was doing a lot of work on my own searching for resources and learning through trial and error. I was a long way from being a connected educator and, as Jeff Utecht suggests in Reach, figuring out how to get the resources to come to me.
It took a somewhat random series of events for me to actually understand the power of a PLN and begin to establish my own. Let me take you back a couple of years…
In the beginning I used Twitter to read about sports, news and music. I was mostly just a lurker. Then I got some replies from a couple of famousish people and started thinking there was some power behind it all. And then, last year this happened
(That’s Jimmy Conrad from the USMNT. He came and played in our staff pick up game)
That’s when I realised the power of connectivity and the limitless boundaries of the tool. I talked a former member of the US World Cup squad into visiting my school. Maybe there’s some potential here professionally as well.
I then increased my lurking (which is common enough that there is at least some data) to include a few educator chats like #satchat but still rarely chimed in on the conversations. I just wasn’t sure what to say. Then I stumbled onto #BFC530 one day during my planning and it took off from there. It was more than a chat, it was a true community. I was greeted and welcomed each day. All of a sudden I felt like I had not just a new set of resources, but a new set of friends. The resources that were being shared blew me away. I mentioned wanting to try out an edCamp here in Ghana and I instantly had access to the entire catalog of planning documents for edCamp Denver. I was becoming a part of a bigger picture that included teachers and students who already knew the power behind the internet and connected communities.
I enjoyed the sense of being connected and had found a group of like-minded educators to bounce ideas off of and share resources. Now I wanted to connect with teachers who were working under similar conditions, in similar schools on the same continent. So I did a little research, asked a couple of related-to-friends-through-Twitter connections, found a little support and became a truly active member of my PLN by starting my own Twitter Chat.
#AfricaEd has a small group of educators from international schools across Africa that discuss educational topics every Tuesday and Thursday. Its been a fantastic, challenging, growth experience.