As I get ready to share the power of Twitter and a PLN with a new crop of SDSU Ed Tech students this week, I am preparing for the standard reaction I always get – I don’t have anything to say. Part of the issue that many face when they explore the nature of a PLN is that people feel strange putting themselves out there. Who am I to say things publically about education? What can I contributed? My response is that you need to develop and explore what it can be for you. Not every tweet has to point to a golden resource or encompass that perfect moment of zen. Make it what you want it to be and then when you are comfortable, push it a little further. This all part of the beauty of the democratization of the web, we get to lurk or contribute, but the greatest rewards come with our interactions. The strongest PLNs are social. They aren’t just a collection of resources, but people. And to maximize this potential, you have to put yourself out there.
This didn’t come easy or naturally for me, but it dramatically enhanced my professional life.
It is hard to believe that I started this blog in August 2004. So much has changed and evolved since that time, both in my life and in the educational technology world. Back then just handfuls of edubloggers existed, we had our own little PLN going. Some of today’s big fish, were just swimming with the rest of us at that time (I remember Chris Lehman blogging about teaching English, he even commented on my blog a few times).
That’s when I started to really put myself out there. I had already presented at workshops and some conferences, but getting a regular online presence and laying down some of my thoughts and classroom practices for all to see was a big step. But, it wasn’t one that I did without caution. In the beginning, I didn’t have my name attached to my blog. I was an anonymous history teacher. Plus, I never talked about it to my face-to-face colleagues, even after I put my name on it. Who was I to blog about what I do? How am I any better than anyone else? I am certainly not a better writer than most.
But, I did it for a different reason. Right off the bat, I saw the value of reflection – probably the introvert in me. I think I do a lot of things pretty well, but they can always be better. Or maybe even changed all together for a superior idea. Plus, this crazy thing happened along the way – I became part of a community that was enriching, supportive, thoughtful, collaborative, and inspiring.
Along the way, Twitter happened. That group of edubloggers moved into this new realm, where the conversation expanded exponentially. Life and work pushed me away from regular blogging, but the community that I had come to rely existed in a medium that I allowed me to remain active on my own terms. While I crave reflective time to blog, I can always seek inspiration, ask questions, and participate in the ongoing discussion about the educational world in Twitter.
I think the benefits of opening yourself up and building a network of people that you can reach out to, is well worth the initial anxiety and apprehensions. Like most things in life, it is a process that takes time, but the rewards can change your life.