If You Come, They Will Build It

Several people have asked me recently about building personal learning networks. They’ve seen the promise of networked learning. They understand that connecting and collaborating with other professionals on common goals and challenges can be beneficial for everyone. But how do you find those people?

In my case, I took the slow road. I blogged. I read others’ blogs and commented on them. I listened to podcasts, and eventually got mixed up in a webcasting community of educators. It’s funny that I eschewed Twitter for so long that when I finally signed up in late 2007, everyone said, “where have you been? It’s about time you got on here.” My network was curated. It developed slowly.

But I can’t really recommend that others do it that way. A teacher comes to my office. She’s excited about personal learning networks. Maybe she’s seen Will Richardson’s video. Maybe she’s been talking with colleagues or reading about crowdsourcing, or just thinking about how we have thousands of teachers all over the word working independently on exactly the same thing. So she asks me how to get plugged in. I can’t very well tell her to go start a blog, write about her professional practice for a year, and then come back for step two. She doesn’t have time for that.

So how do we connect with other people? Twitter is one way. Online communities like Classroom 2.0 are another. But let’s not discount the value of physically meeting and making connections.

What if we got a bunch of teachers together who are all working on various facets of next generation learning? What if they’re all driven by a desire to improve learning in their classrooms, and they’re interested in connecting and working with others who share the same goals? If you went to an event like that, you could make those connections and jump-start your personal learning network. Or, if you already have a network, you can strengthen it by adding some new voices and sharing your network with others.

So what do we need to do to get people all in the same place at the same time? Let’s have a conference. An un-conference. You bring the schedule. You define what’s important. You come. They will build your personal learning network.

We’ll see you at EdCamp Cleveland.

Graphic by Mark Smith, a visualization of social networking at Educon 2012.

2 thoughts on “If You Come, They Will Build It

  1. I tell my students to share their best stuff with the online community. If a teacher has been teaching for five or ten years, she usually has a few great things to share. That usually starts with a blog as the hub for all the stuff.

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