As I round the bend and head into the home stretch of my Masters at Boise State, I can’t help but look back and realize that it was social network learning that sparked my interest in Ed Tech in the first place. I was excited by the prospect of reaching out to people around the world and learning from their experiences. I was also amazed as some of my early contacts in the world of PLN’s would tweet out a message and receive a flurry of tweets back saying “Hello from Des Moines”, “Hey there from Sydney” and “How’s it going from Saturn.” Pretty impressive stuff. I was frustrated, however, when my early attempts at such a feat were met with silence. Even now, I would get just a blip of response as compared to those bigwigs with their thousands of Twitter followers.
What’s the secret? I’ve learned about PLN’s and the need to connect with like-minded people. I recognize the importance of learning from others, no matter where they are. Reaching out and seeking knowledge in its many forms can enrich my profession and my personal interests.
So what’s the secret to gaining that form of response? Sharing. That’s what I have taken away from this class. In other classes, I have produced many artifacts. I have made screencasts and animations, video lessons and lesson plans, webquests and presentations. I enjoyed making most of these and gained something from each of them. The difference I now see between those types of assignments and the work in Social Network Learning is that one is about “me” and the other is about “us.” This class was about connection and building ideas in a coordinated, personalized and interactive way. It forced me to come out from the shadows (a bit anyway) and to share my ideas and works with the world. That’s a great thing.
Prior to this class, I saw social media as a way to get lessons others had created and to harvest resources in general. Over time, however, the calls for “does anyone have a resource on…” go unanswered. The world of the PLN and of social learning is a two-way street. Those in it want the connections. They want to learn from others. They want to be inspired. The shocking thing for me was that they want that from me, Jon Freer.
If I truly want to grow a PLN and to learn how to help others to do so too, I have to share. Share my work through Twitter. Share my opinion through my blog or in the form of comments on others. Offer my help where needed.
There were two big events that really brought this home for me. One was watching the second presidential debate with my Twitter feed open. I learned so much more about the issues discussed and answers given than I did when it was just me on my own. Heck, I was seeing “Binders full of Women” memes before the debate was over. The second event followed the live webinar assignment. I took part in a Webinar on Inquiry Learning presented by David Truss. I really enjoyed the experience and tried to express that in my reflection. I also let seep through a bit of frustration I feel because I seem to understand the theory, but have trouble making it real. The post wasn’t even a day old when David commented on it asking about what I felt was missing. Wow. This showed me that I need to express myself, but do so very thoughtfully and that people want to connect.
As I wrap this up, I am a bit disappointed that I didn’t always have time to really put into my work for this class. My life is complicated by three kids 5 and under, a high energy dog, grad school, work, a wife that works and is in grad school, power-killing Superstorms and all the stuff that comes along with being alive. I was so impressed with my classmates, especially Gretel and Fabio, and am excited to have them in my ever-expanding PLN.
Most of all, I am excited to reverse my web 2.0 experience. I hope, in the near future, to be a regular blogger and to share ideas I have with the world. My guess is that it is this element that those folks that inspired me early on all had in common.