A Story of Building Connections
within a Community
The quote from A.L. Kennedy does a pretty good job of summarizing my journey in developing a professional learning network through community engagement over the past year while in the COETAIL program.
“Have more humility. Remember you don’t know the limits of your own abilities. Successfully or not, if you keep pushing beyond yourself, you will enrich your own life – and maybe even please a few strangers.” A.L. Kennedy
The image on the right is the result of one of our very first tasks as COETAIL students – create a bubble map representing my professional learning communities. My beginnings were humble to say the least and for the most part still are especially in comparison to other extremely talented PLN developers like Suzy Ramsden and Pana Asavavatana. However, as the saying goes, at the end of the day it’s the journey that matters the most. The entire process to date has left me with a feeling of personal enrichment and deep professional engagement on a truly global scale.
I’d like to share part of that journey with you, but I won’t tell a story that is abundant in words, quotes, and hyperlinks. Instead, I’ll share my experiences through the use of images capturing the development of my professional learning network and community involvement.
Dipping My Toes Into the Water – From Lurker to Participant
When I first started the COETAIL program, I was a second time user of Twitter. I tried it briefly when it first started becoming massively popular as a social media platform. Months later I set Twitter aside and eventually deleted my account. About 14 months ago I started using Twitter again with a new account @CJHoffman03. Not long afterwards, I started creating connections with a handful of others. While I am not at the 10,000 mark or more with my Twitter followers, the statistics of my humble beginnings have certainly improved. Concerned about the measure of your community engagement by virtue of the number of followers you have? The article, The Art of Building Your Twitter Following According to Twitter by blogger Dara Fontein, may help you and those new to Twitter and PLN building find solace when considering the quality versus quantity of your social media engagement.
What Does Engagement Look Like?
Like many others, I have pondered the purpose of my community engagement. Should I use it as an opportunity to develop and sell my own brand? Do I want to grow my professional learning network and engage with others in meaningful dialog relating to the latest developments in educational pedagogy? Is it appropriate to mix the two together along with elements of my own personal and social life? I have done a little bit of all three over the past year but do admit that I keep most of my personal and social life networking growth in a more private setting on Facebook. A little bit of the latter, my personal and social life, especially on Twitter adds, in my opinion, a human element to my online presence beyond being all about the business of education.
The Not So Visible Presence of PLN Growth and Community Engagement
I have found Twitter to be an especially great way to interact with more diverse and larger audiences albeit in 140 words or less. However, when I have wanted to reach out to others in a deeper, more personal. or targeted environment, my tools of choice have been Google+, blogs, and email. Commenting exchanges within a blog post and email offer opportunities for community involvement in a quieter setting while still remaining globally connected.
Inviting and Encouraging Others
The greatest lesson that I have learned in the recent months while building my professional learning network through community engagement in a global setting is that growth takes time, patience, and above all else, kindness. Acknowledging others’ presence on Twitter, inviting continued professional dialog, and offering support to new members of a learning community can do wonders in increasing the number of connections within a network while offering participants a greater sense of fulfillment in their interactions with others.
Growing Network Model, Image Used by Permission, Dr. Mark Styvers, University of California Irvine