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news & tips

A collection of helpful articles on teachers and teaching

Building Your PLN Based On Your Own Special Interests

Salamander in Greenery by Antony WilsonToday 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.

Girl with Salamander by Antony WilsonSome 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.

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