A More Beautiful QuestionThis week I am writing a reflection after reading Reach by: Jeff Utecht. While I was reading many things came to mind about the connectedness of the internet and the communities that we make because of the internet.

My first connection was from the quote “We thought communities trumped content” (Mayo & Newcome, 2009). This quote from the first chapter made me think back to reading “A More Beautiful Question” by Warren Berger. Berger made stated that the value of knowing answers is decreasing while the value of asking good questions is increasing. Content knowledge is something that is easier and easier to obtain with each addition to the internet, but having a community and network of people that you can ask questions of is still an active part of the internet.

This is how I use my Personal Learning Network (PLN). My PLN has always been my first stop when I have a question that I can’t find an answer to. I am a Tech Integrationist which is a job that can be hard to find colleagues who are close enough to your location to actually meet and talk with. Having a PLN that is virtual is essential and virtually impossible to function without. The internet community that comes with a PLN allows me to ask questions and receive answers from other teachers and integrationists who, without the internet I would never be able to connect with.

This is part of the reason that I don’t understand people who say that social media isn’t actually that social. They have obviously never been to a conference and had to have the conversation with themselves that goes like this, “Hmm, that person looks familiar. Yep definitely someone who is familiar, but have I met them before? Were they in Munich? Zurich? Or… do I follow them on Twitter? Oh, crap, have I actually ever talked to this person in real life or have I only interacted with them online? I need to figure this out!” Then once you figure out where you know each other you end up hanging out several times both during and after the conference before heading back to your home and continuing your relationship online. While yes this example includes some actual real-life contact. The majority of this relationship will probably remain online and has the potential to be just as fulfilling as if you were able to spend physical time together learning from each other.

This brings me back to my PLN. I recently participated in an interview for doctoral candidate Kay Oddone. She asked me to map my PLN. At first I thought, how well this won’t be that hard. But once I got started I realized A. how complex my network is and B. how interconnected it is. I also realized that I use certain parts in certain ways. For example, I use Twitter to communicate with specific people who are in two or three different parts of my PLN but Twitter is the way that I communicate with them 1:1 if needed, even though I know that Twitter may not be their main communication tool. In my head Twitter is the PLN communication tool!

I also realized that I spend a lot more of my time on my PLN as a Lurker/Sharer than an active participant. While I do participate, I do not do it as much as I could/should. I have also realised that on different parts of my PLN a more active participant and on other parts I am more of a lurker. It sort of depends on the social media element that I am in!

I also wonder if there are times when you can be too active. I find that there are times when I could totally answer a question for someone but when I read the comments I find that either the question has been answered or someone is starting a two way conversation that will lead to an answer. I hate when people don’t bother to read comments to see if the question has been answered before posting a repeat. So I try to avoid that. I guess that is me being active because I am choosing not to respond since my response is no longer needed.

I also find that I tend to go in cycles. I will be very active for a period of time and then there are periods of time when I am very inactive. Mostly depending on stresses at school with workloads.

Another thing that I find that I need to do regularly, usually after a conference, is to cull my PLN. I know that there are certain types I can’t handle in my PLN. The main one being the person who posts someone on Twitter every hour of the day. But also I find that if I am not opening articles or reading a person’s feed then I will delete them from at least part of my PLN. I have some people who I follow in one social media sphere but not others because of the way they interact in one or the other.

The last thing I will comment on is Jeff’s comment about fear of self promotion. I think there are many teachers out there who are very fearful of seeming like they know it all, which I find is very common among teachers. I think that I struggled with that at first but then when I came to the realization that my blog was going to be for me to have a place to write out ideas fully and archive them, I realized I didn’t care if anyone ever read it. Also it gave me a way to share with my family what my job is since they can’t really understand it as it didn’t exist in school when they were in school. I think when teachers realise the personal benefits of having and participating in a PLN they will feel less like it is self promotion and more like it is self growth that they direct.