I have been actively developing my Personal Learning Network (PLN) on Twitter for about a month now. In stark contrast, I spent years working to complete my master’s degree. The point of this comparison is to expose the sheer abundance of learning–the focused, direct, customized and free learning–available through a PLN in opposition to the slow, methodical, sometimes monotonous and overgeneralized learning of a traditional program, not to mention its expense!
My master’s studies were most definitely valuable to my overall understanding of the field of education, and I learned new pedagogy and some new approaches to leadership. The most valuable part of my university program, though, was getting to know and network with the people in my leadership cohort. They have been the most vital part of my graduate education, and I know they will remain friends and colleagues for many years to come.
In the past month, however, I have learned how to network with professionals all over the world whose ideas and philosophies are both much like my own and challenge my own. I have connected through Twitter and through blogs such as George Couros’ “The Principal of Change” and Joe Bower’s “For the Love of Learning” in a way I’d never expected. I attended a free webinar for Edmodo (I learned that Edmodo and many other free web 2.0 tools exist!), and I have enjoyed conversation on Twitter at #edchat. I registered for the first annual Reform Symposium (#rscon10), and although I was unfortunately unable to attend live sessions, I have relished the archived sessions and the free iTunes availability of the podcasts! I learned what a Ning is and how practical and intellectually “nutritional” it is to follow one as good as Jim Burke’s English Companion Ning.
My learning, my understanding of learning, and my vision of learning, have all been absolutely transformed in four weeks’ time. What started with curiosity about web 2.0 tools has turned into a transformational learning experience for me. Let me rephrase: Through my PLN, my vision of learning has ballooned to include the kinds of technology that will bring the digital world not just into my classroom, but directly into the hands of my students. The foundation of what I believe about good teaching and learning is not only interwoven through but underscored by my discovery!
I am grateful for the rich resources that I’ve found in the educators and leaders in my Twitter PLN. I am raring to go this year, and I’m more excited than ever!
There was a time when I lamented that professional development as we knew it was ending because of funding woes. I was right, and thank goodness! This is a new beginning with new and greater possibilities. I will close with a favorite quote of mine. It illustrates what so many of the educators I follow online do every day, and it inspires me to do more:
“Leadership is about taking people to places they’ve never been before…Leadership is courage in action. Courage gives us the energy to move forward…the confidence to believe we can make it…the strength to sustain ourselves in the darkest hours. Courage enables us to leave a legacy that declares, ‘I was here and I made a difference.'”
Kouzes & Posner in A Leader’s Legacy (2006)