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Building Your PLN Based On Your Own Special Interests
Today during my lunch break, I needed to stop by the bank. As I drove the mile and a half along Piedmont Road in northeast San Jose into Milpitas, I passed a flock of wild turkeys (also known as a rafter or a gang). Soon after, I spotted a hawk perched at the top of a small tree. Finally, as I turned onto Calaveras Boulevard, I spied some horses on the grounds of a riding stable near the intersection. This short drive along the base of the verdant foothills reminded me of how much I love where I live and work, and how my local PLN has made me appreciate it so much more.
As I have blogged before, I am into geocaching. Where I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, there is a very large and active community of geocachers. Through many of the people I’ve met in this new circle, I have also learned more about pastimes such as hiking, photography, and home-brewed beer, just to name a few. I am not really into the home-brew thing, but I love the outdoors, and I take a lot of pictures. When I recently began teaching some basic photography to my middle schoolers, having a bunch of enthusiasts close at hand (electronically, of course) was a big help.
I may have “met” these folks through the local geocaching group’s website and forums, but our relationships have spread out thanks to Facebook, Twitter, and most recently a specialized social networking site called EveryTrail. I wanted to know about braving a local state park this past weekend after a week of heavy rains in our area. A friend put me on to a “conversation” already started on this subject on the EveryTrail page of a local hiker I did not know. I got enough information to know that the park would be a mess and I would be best waiting another week or two. When I do go, I know exactly what to expect, both from the EveryTrail discussion and from helpful responses to a post I made on the forums at Geocachers of the Bay Area. Some of the same folks on Twitter inquired as to how things went or whether I had even gone. It’s nice to have people I don’t see very often taking an interest in the little details of my life.
Some of these same people are stargazers. One night a few weeks ago, when I saw a brightly shining body – clearly a planet – beaming down at my family as we watched the International Space Station zoom above us, I had confirmed for me by three different people that it was, in fact, Jupiter. All in about twenty minutes from my first tweeting about it. I have a professor down in San Diego who can always answer my space questions, but these local folks would be seeing the same sky I see, and might have even been gazing heavenward in the streets in front of their houses at the same time as my son, my husband, and I were. I get my updates about the ISS sighting opportunities via Twitter, by the way, thanks to a tip from one of my geocacher/hiker/photographer friends.
I think that all these connections I have with people via technology are making me a more interesting teacher and most definitely a better parent. My son is really into maps, globes, and all things space-related right now. My husband and I also share these interests, so it’s great to find something we can all investigate as a family. I can’t take all the credit, though. I truly have my PLN (personal learning network) to thank. Go out and find some topics that really spark your interest, and grow your own PLN from like-minded people. You never know the new friends you’ll make.
Pictures are both by Antony Wilson, all rights reserved. Used with permission.