Another Power of the PLN Post

I get it.

While my purpose here in Philadelphia is to learn how to be a better English teacher, I find that the sessions offered have not had as much impact as other forms of professional development in my life.

I’m currently sitting near the window in my hotel room (a very old building that has been well maintained; one cannot help but appreciate the elegant history) I can hear the marathon being run outside. No, not the sound of the running participants but the incessant shouting and cheering of the supportive crowd. Actually, as I was waking up and still groggy, I thought my neighbors were listening to The Price is Right loudly on their television! 🙂

My point is that it suddenly makes sense to me why the informative sessions have been useful but not life altering or as exhilarating as I had anticipated. What has been more important are my connections to fellow teachers on twitter and on the English Companion Ning.

They are my supportive, shouting crowd. “You’re doing great!” and “You can get through this – you will make it!” Just like the crowd below.

What would the marathon be without these people? How do they impact their runners? (Certainly we could ask Jen Ansbach!) How different would it be if they were running alone?

Teachers are often forced to run alone in the island that is their classrooms.  And how many flounder as a result of this? For me, I have met some of the most amazing teachers in the country and have felt guided and supported by them. Teaching should be about more than just our own students, but about the collective. When we support other teachers, we are ultimately helping even more students to have opportunities for success.

What a terrific experience it has been to meet my own cheerleaders and counselors. What a lonely trip this would have been if not for them. What a lonely profession.

So I’m here to say thank you and to look for more ways that I can support other teachers through this most rewarding and challenging of careers. Thanks. 🙂


But wait, there’s more!  So much of what I heard in sessions was information or ideas that I had already gained from my online networks.  One cannot help but wonder if 24/7 PD like this is going to replace some of what these types of conventions are about in the same way that the internet is slowly killing printed newspapers.

Why only learn a few special times a year (and OD on info at those times!) when one can learn as we can handle it. I love watching for new articles, links, and teaching strategies but I only read as much as I can understand or implement at a time. Often, it’s even more personal than this, however. Often, I am able to learn how to do something new AS the issue or question arises.

Here, I am supposed to find a whole slew of relevant but different sessions and cram them into to a few hectic days. But online I can find the information in tidbits. Better than that, I can ask my colleagues (PLN) what they think or if they can help me develop a deeper understanding.

The advantages of timeliness and of reciprocity seem to be some of the most fundamental needs of “21st century learners”. Teachers need to be part of this!


8 responses to this post.

  1. I like this PLN concept very much, Candace. Great blog here. You captured some of what I was posting about myself a bit this morning on my Facebook page. It’s been a real pleasure to meet and get to spend some time with you. If you are here still, hope to see you at the session this afternoon! Safe travels home and a delicious Thanksgiving to you.



  2. Posted by Barbara on November 22, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    I have many more years in the classroom, but I totally agree about the impact that my PLN is having on my teaching. First of all, I trust people in my PLN, because I know they are actually utilizing these ideas in a real classroom situation. Their information is up to day, and their generosity is amazing. Thanks for sharing your ideas and observations.


  3. Posted by Suzanne Rogers on November 23, 2009 at 4:18 am

    I agree Candace! The internet based PLN is available 24/7 on our timeline. We can ask and receive much that we need. I’m glad that you experienced the personal contact of the NCTE convention. Making those personal connections will only strengthen your connection to your PLN. While both students and teachers need to be 21st century learners, we of course need to remember the personal touch does matter. I often find that it is the people I meet that strengthens me as a teacher, not so much the material provided.
    Well done.


  4. I think a couple things to consider.
    1. Twitter is how we’re doing this… you know how I found this blog post? You added me on Twitter, today. Because we run in the same English teacher crowd via #ncte. So here I am. Yes, many sessions were like “I already do this” or “damn, I wish I would’ve submitted to present!” And some conferences are online like the k12online one that @budtheteacher mentioned again the other day, and there are always webinars.

    2. The coolest thing about meetups like NCTE is SEEING the people and all of them at the same time. I think you are in Utah. I am in AZ. @LizBDavis is in Boston. etc… we’re not all going to vacation together, so we need the meetup. I like the meetup and enjoyed Saturday’s 8AM and subsequent session were we were all geeking out (were you there?).

    I appreciate this blog post, and I wish I had a second to write down my own ideas at


  5. Posted by Jennifer Ansbach on November 24, 2009 at 2:15 am

    Hi, Candace. Great post.

    Since you asked for my ideas on the cheering section, I have been thinking a lot about what to say here, mostly because I don’t usually think of my racing and teaching in the same terms.

    First, let me be clear: I don’t RUN anything. I hate running. I do walk fast, and I’m close to a 14-min mile pace, pretty quick walking (working on getting faster, of course). What this means is I’m out on the course a long time. A LONG time.

    The people cheering along the sidelines? They matter. In Philly in September, my friend from work and her mom came out to cheer us on, complete with signs. They saw us at two places on the route (mile 1 and 4, I think) and were cheering me across the finish line. It mattered that people who know me were cheering, having faith and being encouraging.

    It also made a difference to have all the people along the route who don’t know me cheering. Most races put our first names on our bibs so strangers can call us out by name. It picks up the spirit a bit.

    A lot like the Ning and twitter.

    Thank you for making this connection, Candace. I’ll be working more on these ideas and flesh them out better later in the week. Right now I need sleep.


  6. I love your marathon parallel with the PLN. Bravo! Nothing like refreshing good writing about teaching 🙂 There isn’t enough writing being done by teachers like this.


  7. […] reading this blog post on PLNs (personal learning networks), I am reminded that one of the most important things about all of the […]


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