The Power of a PLN – My Personal Experience

Courtesy of @URBAN_TEACHER

It was June, 2010 and the students had just been released for summer vacation. As an assistant principal, still learning the ropes, I had just finished up my first year as the AP at Mendenhall Elementary, a Title I, Bilingual Campus, and the district was offering free Spanish Classes for interested employees. Seeing how I could not speak Spanish (still cannot) and was working at a Bilingual Campus, I signed up to attend. At the end of one of the classes, I happened to peek over at a colleagues phone (@skimbriel) and noticed she was using some strange looking app to keep up to date with folks she was “following”. Of course, this led to a conversation about what she was using and voila, I was introduced to Twitter. I am not have learned Spanish that summer, but little did I know my life would be forever changed.

My life in the Twitterverse started like many of yours, I would assume, following celebrities, local sports teams and friends that stumbled upon Twitter before I did. Slowly but surely, other educators I knew within my little bubble started to join Twitter and we began following one another. Little did I know, I was starting to build what we now refer to as a Professional Learning Network (PLN).

Years have past since I joined Twitter and I cannot imagine how I grew as a professional without it. I would consider myself to be a “connected educator” and agree 100% with the image above shared by @URBAN_TEACHER. For the sake of this post, I would like to focus on “Connect w/ Other Educators on Twitter”.

My PLN has grown over the years as I have increased my digital footprint through blogging, participating in “edchats” and attending both conferences and “un”conferences or Edcamps. Yet, I still did not completely understand the power of a PLN until I attended the Texas Computer Education Association Conference or TCEA in Austin this past week.

In the weeks leading up to TCEA, I had been exchanging tweets with members of my PLN to see just who would be attending and who I may be able to meet. See, I attended TCEA solo and was relying on my PLN to occupy my time in between sessions and keep my company during the down times throughout the week. They did not let me down!

Right away, I was able to connect with folks I had been following for years, but had not had the pleasure of meeting face to face. I cannot describe the powerful conversations that I was able to have with fellow educators with whom I had only known by their “twitter handle” prior to TCEA. In addition to shaking hands with several members of my PLN, with whom I was just meeting, I was able to re-establish friendships with folks I had not seen in years, that I had met at EdcampPlano and was able to meet and follow new friends and educators that I know I will continue conversations with on Twitter and look forward to seeing again face to face the next time we get together.

While with a group of administrators at EdcampRockwall someone shared the line, “Twitter turns celebrities into regular folks and regular folks into celebrities.” After my experience at TCEA, this could not be more true. Educators who I would refer to as revolutionaries, who I have been following on Twitter, who are celebrities in their own right, were accessible to me! I could approach them or they could approach me and the conversation would start with, “Don’t we follow each other on Twitter?”

The highlight of my week…well there are to many to list, but I will mention two. The first is making connections with other educators who are creating Makerspaces within their schools and want to join together to create a cross district friendly competition to challenge the “makers” within our schools. @Tom_Kilgore and @gravescolleen, our @SiglerStars will be ready! The second is being able to sit down with @gcorous, who had been in Plano ISD just the previous day talking with administrators and getting to discuss education, the power of being a connected educator and why we must want the same for our students and teachers!

So, why do I share all of this? It is a testimony for all teachers who have yet to discover the power of Twitter and the power of a PLN. Maybe you are on Twitter, but not very active or maybe you are just getting started. The reality is, it does not matter where you are at in your journey. What matters is that you are on it!

Keep growing your PLN and share your testimony of how it is positively impacting you!

3 thoughts on “The Power of a PLN – My Personal Experience”

  1. I love this! I am going to be sharing this with my staff as well – so much of what I do as a principal is modeled after your example Matt – keep sharing brother!

  2. Great post Matt, thanks for sharing! It was an honor to finally meet in person at TCEA, I am very much looking forward to collaborating with you and the amazing folks from your campus and Colleen's on the MakerSpace Challenge!

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