Visitors to Niagara Falls, Ontario know that the wait time to ride “Maid of the Midst” is rather lengthy during summer vacation. The cost for this adventure, which lasts approximately 30 minutes, is $15.50. I pay my fee; stand in line for nearly an hour before donning the blue rain poncho offered to me as a visitor. As a rider, I knew what awaited me; wearing the poncho is a practice that I accepted as part of the experience. Like most of the riders exiting the boat, I was partially wet, for what is the fun in riding close to the falls without the opportunity to get wet?
The exploration and creation of my personal learning network is an adventure similar to the Maid of the Midst ride. The period to take Adult 641, Social Media for Adult Learners, is rather lengthy, as the class occurs once every other year. Unlike the vacationers in Ontario, I knew that my ride through the waters of social media would shower me with a wealth of ideas to consider and applications to try. I paid my tuition, and with several electronic devices in hand boarded the ride, anticipating that I would be thoroughly drenched along the way.
I discovered early in this adventure that the creation of my personal learning network was not about how I would reform my habits. I would begin with an overall transformation from how I think, act, connect with others and create rather than simply consume. Pam Moran, the superintendent of Albemarle County Schools, contends that the implications for learning in the new century (sic my words) are profound. She insists that we are living in a time of unprecedented changed. When I consider how the world of teaching has changed from 1985, when I began my career, until 2011 when I left the traditional classroom, I am astounded. What is more amazing to me is what this period of transformation is producing in me as a learner and a teacher. In many ways, I find who I was as an educator “then” and what I am “now” closely parallel David Wiley’s observations about connection and network building.
Jeff Bullas asserts that everyone needs a landing pad. The phrase, “Tweet to connect, Blog to reflect” is one that resonated with me quickly. Through a twitter connection, I found Mathieu Plourde’s open education resource page. I noticed that each of the students in his digital media course at the University of Delaware created an “About.me” component for their blog site. The about.me aspect of my blog is my landing pad. It is a place where readers can find other ways in which to connect with me, for me to share ideas and resources with them and for us to exchange ideas.
The desire to link myself to networks of individuals as well as organizations is one of the core values of my PLN. My “transformed self” regards networking through Linked in as a way to understand my friends and colleagues in a more professional manner. There are details about the professional lives of friends that surprise me! These details are not evidenced on their Facebook pages. For me, Facebook is a medium for photographs, stories, and updates. It is purely social in nature. I respect the privacy of my friends and family members. I would prefer to keep that space personal rather than include it as part of my professional network.
I consider myself a lifelong learner, one who is very resourceful in terms of accessing informal ways in which to learn. TED talks, while nearly 30 years in existence, are a new medium for me in which to learn. Professional development, anytime, anywhere that encourages me “…to listen consciously in order to live fully” is a key component of my DIY education. The value of a traditional classroom setting is important to me. This component of formal learning provides the dialog, interaction, and rigors of higher education that I desire; Virginia Commonwealth University is an integral component of my PLN. The world of professional networking is comprised of tools and programs that are not naturally intuitive for me. The opportunity to learn from those who have an established “on-line” presence provided a path for me to follow rather than one to stumble through. In order to enjoy the serendipitous moments that will occur through my PLN, I needed a prescribed set of tools and lessons.
Everyone needs a tribe! I have a group of people that I “hang with” in order to feel like I belong. Twitter has become the first place that I look each morning to see what my tribe is discussing. David Weinberger’s idea that “The value of networks of experts can be in opening things up, not simply coming to unshakable conclusions,” has philosophical meaning for my professional development. While I follow many individuals, I have found the experts who live in the clouds to provide a “web of ideas that foliate endlessly.”
Two members of my tribe, Sue Waters and Jeff Bullas reside in Australia. I read “The Sue Water’s Daily” each day and always find something relevant to my life. Over the Thanksgiving holidays, my friend and I were discussing the Common Core Standards. Sue included a video clip about the CCS in today’s paper that I quickly sent to my friend in North Carolina. We are sitting on the fence and have not decided how we feel about it, however, I anticipate that my tribe will provide greater context from which I may formulate an opinion. Will Richardson’s tweet today, “The more we want our kids to learn, the more we should turn away from ‘raising standards,” give me something to ponder as well a topic for my next coffee social. His attachment, Alfie Kohn; From a Culture of Performance to a Culture of Learning, intensifies the idea of global thinking and connection among the members of my tribe! (How does my tribe know what I need? Are they all talking with each other?)
Jeff is a wealth of knowledge about every form of social media! He is “the man.” He tweets several times each hour, which means that I have many ideas to consider and bookmark in my Diigo account. His idea about each person needing a landing pad, to consider my core brand values as well as what flows from me provide that coagulation for my PLN.
George and Alec Couros, brothers and educators from Canada are at the cutting edge of what works and does not work in 21st Century education. Their tweets exemplify dana boyd’s idea about “tweeting honesty and passionately” about their work and lives. Thanks to George, I am aware of people Flash Mobbing at a Target in Edmonton, Alberta. Alec’s The #math Daily paper is one that I peruse for ideas that I can use as a parent.
Imagine my surprise to find the name of a former middle school parent on page 15, of Will Richardson’s book Personal Learning Networks, Using the Power of Connections to Transform Education. Pam Moran has spent over 30 years of her life working in the field of education. When I knew her, she was a principal of a small rural school and the mother of one of the most vivacious students I have ever encountered. Her son must have inherited this quality from Pam as her connections and tweets are evidence of one who fully embraces the power of social media. Her passion for learning and social media reminds me to imbue that passion when connecting with others.
The wealth of information that I receive each day is beyond overwhelming. I abandoned the idea of maintaining an RSS in favor of allowing my connections to feed me each day. The Chronicle of Higher Education and Linked in keep me informed about topics that are of interest to me as both a graduate student and a professional. Several members of my tribe publish papers through paper.li. At this moment, I have over 75 articles (from last week…forget about this week!) to peruse and file in Diigo. While I find it useful to scroll through Twitter and add bookmarks on my cell phone, it does present difficulties when attempting to provide attribution. Mathieu Plorde’s social media policy is a component of his landing page. Many ideas that circulate through education are not new, but are ones that recirculate and collect new concepts along the way. He tries not to break the chain of attribution when retweeting or sharing ideas. This is an idea that I now consider when posting. He actually thanked me for a “ping back” earlier in the semester. Manners are important when interacting with my network.
My personal learning network has transitioned from rocky waters to a more solid ground during the course of this class. The most powerful transformation in me will be the shift from one of consumer of information to creation of content. The 3rd habit of the“7 Habits of Technology Teachers” insists that technology teachers share best practices. They share, share and then share some more. For years, I have scoured the internet looking for teaching materials and power points that could enhance lessons. I have files of power points that I have saved for my son to use. My initial intent was to trash them when he completes a course. Slideshare is a convenient way to engage the idea of “paying forward.” Likewise, I have thousands of images in my photo library. The opportunity to share globally now means that I will post an image to my Flickr account in real time with my cell phone. The process is not difficult; it simply requires a transformation of thought. Participation in an open education, through a connected world means that I transform my way of thinking as well as my way of acting.