Monday, January 25, 2010

Creating Our "Own Worlds": PLNs

We don't accomplish anything in this world alone ... and whatever happens is the result of the whole tapestry of one's life and all the weavings of individual threads from one to another that creates something. Sandra Day O'Connor

I've often said I live in my own world, but perhaps that is more true - in a way - than ever before. Communities are often associated with place, but it seems the internet is extending the definition beyond locality to define a group of people with a common goal or interest. Through social networking sites and blogs we are able to extend our communities. Here is the story of the car ride that changed my world (or, at least, made it a lot bigger!):

It was a beautiful June afternoon as I headed to Michigan with friends: Katie of, as well as Franki and Mary Lee of School had just ended, and I was feeling victorious for having made it through the end of the year hurdles. The four of us were on our way to Michigan to present at a conference in Saline. The car was packed with our books, computers, and plans. I also knew being in a car with these three for several hours would be equivalent to a week of professional development, but I had no idea the impact our conversations would have in the months to follow.

Looking forward to working with such amazing teachers, I was enjoying the conversation and company as we headed north. We discussed our year, our writing, as well as the books we were reading - and looking forward to reading in the summer months to come. Eventually the conversation turned to technology. These three teachers were very tech savvy. I found myself working to keep up with the conversation and wrap my head around the possibilities they were discussing. They talked about their blogs, their wikis, and their NINGS. They talked about the technology they had tried with their classes and the plans for next year. They talked about the possibilities for iPhones in classrooms. I was dizzy trying to keep up.

The conversation turned to social networking. Finally, a subject I knew something about. I had a Facebook page so I could at least wrap my head around that topic. Of course the talk wasn't of Facebook, but about Twitter. They talked about the people they were following and laughed over recent tweets. Finally, I announced, "I am enjoying Facebook, but Twitter is a waste of my time. I just can't get into it." Gasps, followed by a long silence as my friends searched for the words. The hush told me I had made a huge faux pas.

After what seemed like minutes, Franki spoke up. She suggested I try Twitter professionally. Twitter as the teacher I am. "Give it a couple of weeks," she suggested, "and see what you think." Not one to let a challenge go to waste, and respecting the opinions of these three friends, I decided to give Twitter another chance.

In a few short weeks, I was hooked. From there my community grew.

I can't even possibly begin to articulate the change that conversation has had on my professional life. Perhaps the encouragement to try Twitter led me down the path of some of the best professional development I have had in a long time. I spent my summer growing my Twitter network, finding countless blogs, and discovering ways to use technology in my classroom. These voices from the virtual world soon became a part of my thinking and stretched it to consider new possibilities for my students. This community caused me to rethink old assumptions and search for new answers. I suppose I have essentially created "my own world". The shifts in my thinking, and the risks I am taking, are a result of the people in this ever growing community of learners. It is the "threads" they provide which strengthen the tapestry of the work I do each day with children.

Below you can view "my world":

Get your twitter mosaic here.