Do it! Really, it’s that simple.

Sharing your PLN with Others

explaining Twitter and other social media


One of the things that use to keep me from doing things was the fear that I’d make an idiot of myself when I failed. Then I became a father – 8 times. I’m now cured of that since I’ve made an idiot of myself so many times it’s of no great concern. And it’s freeing.

You see, I use to want to make sure that I had things planned out and had covered as many of the “what if’s” as I could. I’d worry about what might happen, what if it didn’t work, what others would say, what others might think,….. I’d worry myself into not doing something.

Then I became a father. First of 4 girls. Then of 4 boys. The oldest is 19, the youngest is 2. The 4 girls did not prepare us at all to be parents of boys. In fact, I sometimes joke that if we had had the boys first, we’d have only 4 children. Sometimes I’m joking! I’ve made so many mistakes that I’m surprised that my children haven’t been taken by the authorities. But somehow they’ve survived – and stayed – and keep coming back!

As any parent, I always want to improve so that I can help my children and, partially, so they won’t blame me for their problems and end up in therapy like so many people. But with each session my wife and I went to or each book I read, I would come away with this horrible sickening feeling of failure. I wasn’t doing enough, I did too much, I wasn’t listening enough, I listened too much, I was too strict, not strict enough. And then the boys arrived and I’m being paid back for all those things I did as a kid X4!

Now you have to put this in perspective – I have 2 Bachelor degrees and an MEd, I’ve been in the teaching profession for 20 years, an administrator for 10 and always taught and there are days when I have no clue what I’m doing. Really, I don’t. I do know, however, that if I worry myself into doing nothing, things will turn out even worse. So, when I come across something that is new – and that happens on a regular basis in our house – I do a mental field trip, recall the land mines I’ve discovered and want to avoid, and go onward. Sometimes, like the other day when I made a mistake and ended up in an argument with one of my older daughters, I end up needing to reevaluate my own actions. Old habits die hard and, if you don’t recognize the symptoms and stop things, you end up repeating them. However, the one thing that I’ve learned from making an idiot of myself is to admit it, go seek reconciliation, look to create a win/win and then move on. Being perfect all the time is an illusion I’m rather skeptical of and often question those who “blow their own horn.”

So the other night, while dropping by one of the social media watering holes, I had a conversation with Mr. Dooley about talking about PLN and social media. It was a short conversation in which he made this request

I said I had a few and I’d put something together. Now, I’ve done a few presentation on using social media and such but then I got to thinking “It’s really not about the resources.” It’s about the experiences you have and the ability to share those experiences. So, instead of trying to put together something that probably won’t really be what is needed, I’m going to reach out to the 13 odd people who read this blog and ask them to share their experiences, tools and ideas so that this can be passed on. I’m going to do this in three ways – first through the comments on the blog, second through a discussion forum on the Ed Administrators2.0 website and third through a google form that I will share.

Advice – a few thoughts.

I often have people ask me about raising kids, since I have sooo many I must know a few things. I do know a few things but they are not tried and true and I’m not an expert. If I was, I wouldn’t need to take my cellphone to the bathroom just in case I have to text my wife to bring more toilet paper. I’d have a book and my own standup gig. I could try but eventually everyone would find out about the texting for the toilet paper and it’d be all over. So, instead, I’ll share a few things I know have worked for me and then, with any luck, a few other people will share their experiences. Eventually, with a little gentle persuasion, some pestering of people on twitter and some generosity from my PLN, we’ll end up with something that will help those looking for assistance.

Resources Ideas: My 4 cents

1. Evernote – show people this tool for sharing ideas and information, capturing things from the web and linking them to what they are doing. It is the one tool I use with my staff to share all sorts of information and, as we get better at using it, our communication improves as a whole. We’ve decided to have a premium account.

2. Twitter – it’s a great tool for finding information. I don’t ever begin to sell it as a tool for connecting. People have to learn that on their own. But I do show people how to find resources through the use of hashtags and searches. You can’t demonstrate the power of the conversations in one session – it has to develop over time. But you can show them such things as the hashtags and the various education chats that take place and when they take place.

3. Wikis – a wiki is a great way to organize things and share with others. Our staff uses pbworks as a launching point for a school calendar and other items that help us to keep organized.

We organize our gym and extra-curricular, foyer, intramurals and other school usage on this calendar that all the staff can access. It has taken some time to get everyone to use this method of tracking but, once we were able to show how it integrated into our calendar, it allowed all of us to know what was going on at the school and since we have a number of division consultants who visit, we all know when they will be at the school. We’re still working on improvements.

4. Skype – we use this to send quick message to one another during the day because it is installed on all teacher desktops and opens on login. We don’t have to call down or go over the intercom to contact a teacher. Instead, we just send them a chat message. We also have teachers who use this to connect with other classes to share.

It’s Not Rocket Science

These are the ones that I have used with 4 different staffs with varying success. I know that there are many more that people use but the key is the experiences that go with the use. At the end of the day, you just need to do it. You can’t expect to know it all nor will you be able to give people all the answers they are looking for but, if you can access some of these ideas, leverage some time with a few key people, things will grow. Our school use of Evernote and Pbworks is something that I brought in. I’ve used these tools to help teachers gather data about their classrooms, find resources and collaborate/share. The rest I try to get people to see the worth through their own growth and the whole mind shift that a PLN is one of the keys to be relevant and uptodate as an educator.

I don’t tell people it’s critical that they use these tools to be a good teacher nor do I think that without these tools you can’t be a good teacher. I may be in the minority but I also don’t rely on telling people these things to collect my pay cheque or to promote my interests or company or anything else. I believe that you can be a good teacher without using twitter or Evernote or, or, or….. because I believe learning is so much more than what takes place in a classroom/school with whatever tool – pencil, crayon, brush, camera, computer, smartphone, chisel, hammer, chainsaw, basketball, football, discuss, clarinet, trumpet, …. and people tend to get caught up in these arguments because they have another purpose/motive. (Yeah, that’s a bit of the soapbox but, hey, everyone else does it!)

So, now the form. Hopefully this will work and we’ll all be able to pool our ideas. Add to the forum on the Ed Administrator2.0 site, add a comment or visit the google form to fill it in and I’ll share the results. Eventually I’ll put this together here to share.

Thanks for reading!


  1. Reply

    I had a chuckle at your post because I think it mirrors how I feel sometimes, especially with children. We seem to muddle along most of the time and I am always surprised when someone says they’re “nice and well mannered”. Ha! if only they knew…

    Anyway, in terms of what has helped me to grow in the way I teach, it has always been based on two things – firstly to make connections with those around me and secondly to be organised enough so that I can make those connections more effective.

    Twitter has been encouraged in our school to help access the huge PLN that is out there. It has been a way of connecting with other teachers to learn from. In order to teach well, we also need to be growing and learning. We need to feed our souls!

    Blogging for me has been really important this year as it has helped bring focus to what we are doing in the classroom. It has helped for me to see the importance of integrating technology as a way of teaching skills.

    There is so much more to learn and these are only starting points for me, as I am only relatively new to this myself. I look forward to reading what others use to help them to teach effectively.

    Kate Todd

  2. Reply

    Kate, thanks for the input. I know that twitter has become the hottest social tool in 2011 but I often wonder at it’s power to connect beyond the simple. I’m once again going to reinvest time in Plurk as I find it to be a much better tool for conversation and sharing. But that’s me! Blogging is a great way to get started as long as you are willing to do it for yourself as, in reality, there are a few “Big Ticket Bloggers” out there who get major attention and then there is the rest of us. Stick with it and you will gather a loyal group with whom you will be able to share and collaborate.

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