PLN challenge #4 was making time for your PLN. As someone who conducts her life through a browser, the idea that people wouldn’t want to interact on twitter and blogs seemed foreign. So for this post I have drawn experience from my foray into marathon running.
For reasons unknown a few years ago I decided to that I needed to run the Auckland half marathon. Over the winter I told enough people about this crazy plan that when the time came to sign up for training in the spring, I knew that I had to go to the next level. Then I started actually training. Despite brining up the rear of my running group every.single.session. I still came along. I gradually got faster and stronger, I was able to get my 2.4km run down to the time I would need to join the New Zealand police. But best of all, I finished the half marathon and lived to tell the tale.
My time didn’t break any land speed records, but I finished.
Building my PLN has been much the same as running that marathon. Without telling my friends and family that I was going to enter a half-marathon I doubt I ever would actually entered the competition. Likewise my coach and fellow runners in my group who were always there to give friendly encouragement were instrumental in keeping me running the streets of Auckland on the cold, wet and not to mention dark Auckland nights.
1. Start small
Anyone who tries to go from couch potato to marathon running puts you at risk of injury. Likewise the well-publicized risks of social media are amplified by jumping in without first watching and learning from others. I started off with a PLN that included people that I knew (some virtually, some in real life). Over time my network evolved as I started commenting on other teachers blogs, joining twitter and participating in education chats.
2. Get help
Like my running group, a PLN functions as a place to draw encouragement and support. It is also a place Teachers by their very nature are (usually) quite generous with their knowledge. Find a mentor on twitter to help you find your feet. Contact people via traditional means, email, the phone, in person and ask for advice.
3. Do a little bit each day
A bit like exercise, its easiest when you do a bit each day. The beauty of twitter is that you only get 140 characters to make your point. Spend 30 minutes reading twitter, respond to a few posts and you are on the way to building your PLN.
4. What’s your purpose?
I’m sure why I decided to run the half marathon, I just did. Which is a criticism I would also have of myself on twitter: I have a bit of a scatter gun approach, however my activity is derived from two broad principles: connect with others and learn from them. What I’m learning and who I am learning from are aspects of my learning that I will need to reflect on when my time becomes scarce.
5. The time is now
For student teachers in particular, the best time to build your PLN is before you end up teaching for real. Your PLN is there when you need help or at least provide light relief during the tough times both on your course and the first few years on the job.