As a parent of three kids, I went through a phase in my life when I got to watch a lot of cartoons. Whether it was Disney, Pixar, or on the TV, I got to the place that I knew the characters as much as my kids did. I must say I had my favorites and, of course, others that grated on my nerves. Remember Barney? The theme song had a great message. Remember it? “I love you, you love me. We're a happy family. With a great big hug from you and me!” It was good for the first few times I heard it, but after awhile listening became like a form of torture that would send me out of the room quicker than my kids could say, "Dad can you rewind the tape?" Want to check it out for yourself? Try this ten minute video of the Barney song. If you can sit through all ten minutes I will personally buy you a stuffed Barney or maybe just a great big hug from me to you. Click on the link below for the purple dinosaur torture test.
My favorite kid movies became the Toy Story series. Those movies always had a positive message of family comes first and to have courage in tough times. You can probably name some of the main characters. Remember Sheriff Woody? Or Mr. Potato Head? Who could forget Buzz Lightyear? Buzz had a great saying – "To Infinity and Beyond" – that I'm going to use to illustrate how to expand your Personal Learning Network.
During my last post, I illustrated that we all have a PLN. For most of us our PLN can simply be our family and friends. It easily expands when we add our fellow educators. In order to expand our PLN we have to look "Beyond" our immediate contacts. Again there isn't thing wrong with using the immediate network, but staying only with them can limit the diversity of what we learn. In Buzz's terms, think of your PLN in terms of "Infinity"! Webster's dictionary defines infinity as "something without limits". Ask yourself this question: If I put a limit on my PLN, am I limiting what I can learn? There are some guidelines to follow when you are looking "Beyond" your current PLN.
- Be diverse in picking a source for your PLN. Don't just stay in your content area or profession. For instance, not only do I have education as one of my favorite topics on my iPad app (Zite), but I’ve also picked others such as entrepreneurship. By definition entrepreneurship looks at innovations and new things. I read articles in order to keep up with what is changing in any industry and see if it can be related back to education.
- Be open minded in what you read. Remember you are just gathering information to see what works and what doesn't work for you. You are also checking on what is researched-based in your industry. Just because you read something doesn't mean you agree with it or will use it. But you might later on if you keep an open mind.
- Use technology to go "Beyond" your current PLN. Face to Face is great and I hope we never lose the opportunity to actually sit down and talk to someone. Watching facial expressions, especially when someone's eyes light up as they get excited about their topic is priceless. Using technology in your PLN allows you to put no limit or "Infinity" on your network. Want to know a new strategy to help students in your classroom? Just Google it. When you find it then e-mail the people involved and ask them to Skype conference with you!
These are just a few guidelines to help expand and explore the galaxy beyond your current PLN world.
My next post will discuss they type of technology sources we can use to expand your PLN.