What Makes a Great PLN? It’s Personal.

Here’s a tweet that caught my eye tonight:

I am sharing this because it crystallizes what I am just recently truly discovering: the people in my Personal Learning Network I have on Twitter are more than just an important part of my professional development. Many of them are friends, too.

When I first got on Twitter almost two years ago, I did so on a whim. At the same time, I set up an MSN blog (uh, what?) and a Skype account. My involvement with each of the three has evolved to a point that is markedly different from where I started. Twitter is almost ubiquitous in my life, and it has morphed from a place to view and share photographs into a place that is almost exclusively reserved for education issues. My MSN blog gave way to WordPress after my first post, and Skype, originally populated with contacts I knew, now has a list of contacts dedicated solely to “Edu Collaborators.”

This is all because my PLN has become personal. You have read this before and maybe even written it yourself: Twitter is about the connections. I began reaching out to others in earnest (if you have been reading this blog for a while, you know who my first Twitter friends were). I thought because I had forged one or two solid friendships – where we were discussing things other than our jobs – it made me cool. Now, though, the personal part of my PLN has expanded to include several wonderful people with whom I regularly correspond in a variety of ways I certainly never expected. The people in your PLN can help you grow as professionals, but they can also enhance your lives as friends. It is the friendships that make Twitter ubiquitous for me, and in many ways, the PD and resources I get are now a bonus.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should say at this point that I was the one who wrote the note that spurred Pernille’s tweet. As we are both approaching the beginning of a new school year, I wanted to accomplish two things. The first was to thank her for her inspiration (her name is on this blog more than mine). I also just wanted to wish her a wonderful year.

Now, had you asked me when I signed up whether I’d ever consider sending mail to anyone I met through Twitter, I’d have laughed in your face. I came of age with the internet, trained from a young age that people on the other side of the computer are bad and dangerous. Even as an adult, I clung to this idea given the opportunities for identity theft. However, I have gotten to know people who are important parts of my life now. I’ve learned about them past who they are in their job, and this has been a great joy for me.

I think about a chat I had a few weeks ago with one of those people.  She was talking about her relationship with a mutual member of our PLN with whom she Skypes regularly. They’ve never met in person, but she said, “Even without meeting her, I know she is a great friend.” I feel the same way about some people out there, too. Maybe you do, as well?

That’s how Twitter is. It can be a wonderful resource in helping you grow professionally just by virtue of your lurking, watching, and reading. However, your experience will be so much greater once you really begin to make connections, and friends, around the world.

If you are not yet on Twitter, please do sign up. You are missing a wonderful time. I hope you’ll follow me @MrMatthewRay and reach out soon!


3 responses to “What Makes a Great PLN? It’s Personal.

  1. This is so encouraging to hear, but my husband asked me a related question today that I couldn’t answer (newbie that I am). So say you meet some like-minded souls and you want to have a private conversation. How do you accomplish that? Any blog comments or tweets are obviously public. So how do you share email (or snail mail) addresses or is there some other way to message privately? It would even feel creepy (and stalkerish) to tweet or comment a request for a private conversation. So what’s the etiquette?

  2. Oh, so glad you’re ready to take the next step! It’s actually totally acceptable to send out a reply (using @TwitterName) asking someone to follow you so you can send them a Direct Message, which is private. (Check my history, I’ve done it!) Also, if you’re exclusively on the Twitter web site, I strongly recommend you download Tweetdeck and use it to manage your tweets. It’s a great tool (and of course, free).

  3. I can relate to this. However I am into tweets because the people I see on Twitter are just celebrities and nonsense tweeps. 😀

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