Friday, March 19, 2010

Go Ahead....LEARN!

I believe I owe it to myself to continue learning and to continue to build myself as a professional. I get asked quite often how and why I do what I do to achieve that goal.  The "how" I understand, but why do so many people ask me "why" I do it?  To me, it is a no-brainer to take some time out of your day to learn something new, attend an online workshop, flex your brains with a colleague or research a topic of interest to you.  But, for the good of the blog post, I'll share a few reasons why.
  • If I'm not learning, how can I expect the teachers I train every day to want to continue to learn? Modeling a desired behavior is one of the best ways to achieve results
  • Building a learning network allows me to have a multitude of information right at my finger tips!  Nothing better than having a great group of multi-talented friends around to help you when you have a question.  
  • Having a good, intellectual conversation with a person that challenges your thoughts and shares with you new ideas is a great way to rethink/shape your opinion on educational topics, not to mention an awesome way to get your brain moving for the day.  

I do understand the main reason many do not take time out of the day to do some of these things is a matter of time.  And yes, I know time is precious and there are many things in the world that might take preference over building your own network or your brain.  It is a personal task that only you know how to handle.  I will assure you, however, that if you set it up right, learning something new every day can take as little as 30 seconds. do I do it?

Over the course of the past two years I have taken a huge dive into building my personal learning network and figuring out the best way to do it for me.  Fact is, many of you reading this might look at what I do and not be interested in my methods at all.  That is totally fine because a personal learning network is just that...personal.  We all do things a little different, you have to find the best way for you.

I have three main resources I use every day and at any given time two of them are open on my computer.    For me, I needed simplicity.  I could have many more than that, but 3 just happens to be the limit for my brain.  My top three are google, twitter and second life.

  • I use the tweetdeck client so it can run constantly on my desktop.  
  • I have found that following about 200 people is my limit, much more and I'm on information overload.  
  • I stopped feeling like I have to read every single tweet.  If I step away from my desk, I just pick up where I left off.  And, honestly, if it was really good information, it will be retweeted a few times anyway.  
  • I create groups for conferences and events and have a group for colleagues in my school district, otherwise it's just an open stream of information
  • I like twitter because it's there when I need it and is a quick dose of something new when i'm ready.  
  • For learning and collaborating, I like google for it's chat feature, sharable documents and email
  • I keep the chat open all day and talk with colleagues at the click of a button if I have questions about specific topics
  • I use google documents for collaborative projects.  Really any time I work on a project with someone, I put it in a doc for planning purposes.  It's a great way to keep a record of conversations with that person and a good way to work on something when I have time as opposed to scheduling a meeting with that person.  
Second Life
  • I use second life, a lot of times, as an extension of twitter.  I'll share tweets with people and then we'll meet later that day in Second Life to discuss the topic more thoroughly.  
  • I network in a semi-face-to-face environment in Second Life to really get to know people.  It's odd at first to talk to an avatar, but after a while, that goes away and you realize you're really connecting with the person behind the pixels.  I've made some lasting friendships through Second Life that mostly started with a conversation about education.  The real life value in there is too high to not at least take a peek.  
  • Because I run an island in second life, I check in every single day.  As a rule, most workshops and events happen around 9pm est and last about an hour so that's the time I start with and work from there.  
  • I currently sign up my district to allow for teachers to receive licensure credit for some of the relevent talks/workshops going on in world.  This allows Second Life to become a strong professional development platform for teachers.  
As stated before, some of these may work for you, others may not.  The main point is, however, that you should find something.  The return on investment of using these resources properly is positive.  So, go take a look and figure out what works best for you!


  1. You are right, we use time as our reason to do or not do things. Yet passion and a good PLN can show how reallocating time can benefit you so much. What a great post. I will share this with others.

  2. Julie, this is a great post. I was sharing information about personal learning networks yesterday at a conference and one of the first questions was "How do you find time?" Thanks for sharing your thoughts.