Yesterday a self reflecting topic for the #edchat members: can a PLN have an effect on education in general. As always I’d say: it depends.
First of all a PLN should have an effect on you as it is a personal learning network. It should help you to get better in what you are doing and it should help you to look beyond the rim of your teacup.
The great thing about #edchat, and I am quoting myself here from last week, is that it connects people from different walks of life and different professional backgrounds around one topic: education. This is the intersection, a common ground.
What I would suggest to do for you if you are still building a PLN is the following.
1) Follow the leaders. This is the best way to get an overview about the whole network as those people are in general the centers of gravitation. All connections will sooner or later lead to them so taking those people as a starting point is an easy way to see what is considered as important in this community.
2) Follow your passions. Sure, education is one of them but it should not be all you have in life. Do you love cooking? Follow your favorite chef or brand on Twitter. Sports, politics, comedy? The same. If you are learning from them you will also automatically see how they are using social media tools to engage their followers or maybe you can implement aspects of their teaching methods to your own classes.
3) Follow the trends. Like it or not, the world is changing so you should be at least a bit informed about what is going in in tech and youth culture. Hence you should at least add the major tech blogs like Mashable and TechCrunch to your PLN.
4) Engage. Again, the #edchat is a great way to find interesting people to have discussions with and to learn from. I often get caught up in a side chat with someone who participates in the #edchat which is always very interesting and beneficial.
5) Be open. We cannot be experts in every topic and often our assumptions on different cultures and societies are simply wrong. Try to find experts in these fields to learn from them.
To sum this up: make your PLN as colorful as possible. Sure it is nice to hang around with people who do the same as you do and hence understand your problems but on the other hand this often leads to what I call “intellectual inbreed”. Remember: the human brain is only capable to maintain a network of about 150 different people. You cannot follow everyone and you can for sure not engage with everyone. So be selective and find a good mix.
Coming back to the actual question of this edchat I think that a PLN can have influence on the education system as it can be the basis for future leaders in education. We don’t know what career someone in our PLN will have but it is clear that at least some of them will end up in positions where they actually be able to take decisions that will have an influence on the education system. Maybe not tomorrow or next year but if we don’t start to talk about this today who will?