I had a interesting epiphany yesterday while home on vacation, which really reinforced for me the importance of PLNs (Professional Learning Networks) and why they are so valuable. Indulge me for just a moment as I build some context about my own early experiences with networks and their value in supporting learning.
Like most kids, I was no different in that I loved learning. I was a voracious reader, searching out information on Bigfoot, Loch Ness, and many other subjects that provided my sense of curiosity something to “dig into”. When I was about 12 years old, I met my extended family in Louisiana for the very first time. How was it I had gone for 12 years and never knew I had four cousins, and an aunt and uncle that were as excited to meet me as I was to meet them? It was on that first trip that I was unknowingly launched into one of the most fascinating hobbies and a journey of a lifetime that would build my early PLN (GLN) back in the late 80’s.
My aunt was an avid genealogist when we met, and eager to share with me her research about our family. I can’t say that I jumped on board immediately, seeing that I was only 12 years old, but as I mentioned previously, I was always curious and an eager learner, so I listened to what she shared with me about genealogy research and I listened closely to the stories she told me about our family. Within a few years, my interest in genealogy and family history grew, and before I knew it, I was totally hooked.
As I write this, it is hard to believe that I’ve been working on my family history for 33 years now! It seems like just yesterday, I was listening to the stories, dabbling here and there, just trying to figure out how all the puzzle pieces fit. Over the years, my research has brought me into contact with many, many people, some who have been related in some form, and many that were helpers along the way. I’ve had people that I’ve been distantly related to and we’ve stayed in contact for over 20 years, sharing findings, pictures, documents, and stories. Some folks have been helpers, giving phone numbers, looking up quick documents, and some even as kind as going to a cemetery in Texas and photographing a gravestone for me since I live so far away (Boston).
Two days ago, I connected with a gentleman through Ancestry DNA and he was able to share information with me that connected me to another line of my family and helped me get back two more generations! Our sharing took place via Ancestry messaging and then E-mail. It was amazing. It was in that moment that I realized I had been working with an early PLN/GLN (Genealogy Learning Network) for the past 33 years! Right along, I had been part a learning network, much like the PLN I belong to now professionally! My GLN provided me the following:
- Networking with like minded individuals that had similar beliefs, successes and challenges
- Opportunities for discussion, research, problem solving and inquiry
- New and available resources and sharing of resources
- New learning and research techniques
I don’t think I ever realized this was an early PLN due to my immersion in the research and work. My participation in a great Twitter chat yesterday alongside my working on my genealogy made me realize that my PLN affords me the same opportunities as my GLN. The interactions I’ve had with my genealogy network have shown me the importance of being networked and have proven that the collective power of networking professionally can provide some of the most limitless learning that can take place!
Of course I’ll continue to work on my genealogy and family history as I’ve done for the past 33 years, and I’ll also continue to network with those people that I can support and that can help support my research as well. It is always about sharing resources and ideas. As I continue that work, I’ll also continue to capitalize on the power of my PLN in regards to my professional life as a school administrator. After reflecting on the amazing discoveries I’ve made with my GLN, I know that my PLN can help me do anything I set my mind to, and that I too, can help support other administrators and educators as well.
If you aren’t a part of a PLN, I welcome you to join me and the people in my network. They’re great educators, thinkers, innovators, and people that are working to make a difference for students. I know from my GLN the power of collective thinking, so don’t wait, and be sure to be building your PLN today! If you’re also a genealogy buff, let’s also connect! I’m always interested in learning and sharing! I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org