PLN Value and the Conundrum of Connectedness

Robert Schuetz
Technology Coordinator / Learning Coach, NBCT - Social Studies / Science, proponent of learning in it's various forms; growth mindset, connected, lifelong, and life-wide. Living a life of learning with family and friends.

As I write this post, I am once again reminded that time is our most precious, non-renewable resource. Don’t we all wish we had enough time to do the things we need to do, as well as, the things we want to do. Like most educators, my daily task list keeps me busy throughout the day. So much so, that I can expect to bring at least a few hours of work home with me each day. The challenge becomes balancing the time needed to complete work-related tasks with time for family, friends, exercise, and rest. Oh, and there is one more thing, time to learn, support, and collaborate with my personal learning network.

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My growth mindset, and my desire to serve others means that I am comfortably suited to work my current job as a school technology coordinator. Every day presents exciting new challenges along with several intrinsic rewards. However, I feel that my efforts do not get fully utilized, or at times, even recognized. This is where the conundrum comes to light. My conversations and exchanges with my PLN members are almost always enriching and rewarding. So, do I attend to my task list from work, which typically generates little confirmation, or do I engage with my network, which is validating and supportive?

This is not to blame teaching colleagues who are equally busy and seldom have a few minutes to themselves, let alone an hour per week for face-to-face professional development. This is also not to blame administrators that have their own agenda for scheduling training sessions. Rather, it’s a recognition of the value that my personal learning network returns on my investment of time. Like many other educators, I have found social media, such as Twitter, to be very time efficient, and very effective in contributing to personal and professional learning. Just ten to fifteen minutes per day is enough to scratch my learning itch while also contributing to the learning of others. Keeping content fresh on my blog, “Nocking the Arrow“, is a bit more time consuming, but still efficient, and effective, as thousands, to potentially millions, of readers can be reached by a single post. When was the last time you had that kind of impact during a staff meeting?

Is there a solution to this challenging situation? One answer is to invite and engage your colleagues in your personal learning network. The professional development activities could then be delivered using a blended model; face-to-face, and virtually. Additionally, educators and students typically invest more into learning experiences that are personal in nature. PLNs can certainly support this personalization. Bringing additional voices into the learning experience adds multiple perspectives, along with a depth and creative richness, seldom achieved in small groups.

 

Invite and engage your colleagues in your personal learning network


 

Balancing time demands is a skill that learners of any age benefit from. On most days, I would rather use free time to connect with my PLN than attend to my “to-do” list from work. This may seem like putting play before work, but I view both activities as essential in remaining relevant and contributing as an educator. Likely, there are other answers out there. What do you think? How do you solve this conundrum of balancing the time demands of work with the time demands of being actively connected with a personal learning network?

 

How do you manage your time between work, family, friends and PLN? Let us know your strategies in the comments below.

 

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Feature image courtesy of Flickr, blue2likeyou.