My PLN research gave me some great information, one being about time engaged. I asked the following question:
Approximately how much time do you spend weekly engaged in activities with your online PLN?
1. How much time do you spend on personal/professional growth activities during a week?
2. How much of that time is spent directly engaged with your PLN. (online and offline)
I think these questions would have been more telling. I believe before we ask educators to build their PLN we need to have them identify what they currently do for professional growth and in what areas they need to grow further. Once they have identified areas for growth then they can reflect on their existing PLN and ways they can enhance, or expand it to online.
The reality is this, when I say I’m engaging with my PLN 10-20 hours a week that doesn’t just mean ‘chatting with my friends’ it includes all my professional growth and networking. I’m asking questions, receiving answers, researching web tools, pondering pedagogy concepts, discussing books, and yes sometimes engaging in a fast paced #edchat. During a week I’m also reading journals (both online and papercopy), reading professional books, and of course conversing with my local ‘go to people’ at my district.
When I was attending master and CAS classes I spent 4 hours in class and on average 10 more hours reading or preparing projects every week. So, during that time my professional growth took 10-20 hours a week as well. Although I learned a lot during my course work, now I can choose the topics of my professional growth. I have the flexibility of learning something new every day, from people that I choose to invite into my learning network. There is power in that, an energizing power.
So, before educators say ‘I don’t have time to develop an online PLN’ I have to ask: How much time are you spending now on your professional growth? Do you currently have a PLN that you learn something from everyday? How important is professional growth to you?
I contend that as educators we need to always continue growing, not only because our field is continuously changing, but because our students are as well. I know that in order to feel that I am continually growing I need to spend time reading, networking, and chatting with my PLN. I do that for me, and of course for the teachers and students I work with.
The bottom line is: I don’t care how you grow, only that you do. I also don’t care who is in your PLN, only that you have one.