Last year, 2009, was the single most pivotal year of my teaching career. This is my eighth year teaching, spread out over twenty years. The thing that made this particular year so important is the development of my personal learning network, or simply my PLN.
The development of my PLN was part serendipity, part intention. In March, I attended a weeklong workshop on Web 2.0 tools at the NC Center for the Advancement of Teaching (which IMHO is THE most incredible perk available to NC teachers. Go if you get the chance!). My purpose for attending was to learn about all these new tools so I could implement them in my classroom FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE STUDENT. I became a far better teacher, not because I suddenly integrated all this cool technology in my classroom, but because I began using it my personal life. I already used blogs quite regularly, including one I personally maintained. The morning we learned about Twitter, everything changed.
I already had a Twitter id that was collecting digital dust due to its lack of use. I knew it was useless without followers or people to follow. However, I had no idea how to begin forming those lists. One of the people I met in my workshop that week was David Hines, aka @olballcoach. Don't let the fact that he is a J-I-M teacher fool you. He's a great teacher who integrates technology into yes, his P.E. classes. His school is lucky to have him. David's wife, @kellyhines, was already well connected at this point. With a couple of emails, text messages and DM's to Kelly, a few of us had networks of about fifty followers by the end of the day.
My PLN has been an incredible asset to me this year. I've formed relationships with educators from all over the world. I have conversations with people on all levels of administration and the classroom. I have received tips, hints, advice, suggestions, etc. on so many things education related. I have experienced professional sharing and encouragement like never before. I may never teach in the same school with any of my PLN, but I feel like a part of their successes and failures when I hear about them. I have received far more than I ever imagined and definitely more than I have given.
As I look ahead to 2010, I am excited about the possibilities. I know my PLN will continue to be a large part of my professional development. My success will be owed to them in someway I'm sure.