It's been a full four years now that I've been fully engaged in cultivating an online personal learning network, but I find myself finding the greatest value in those connections that have deepened through repeated face to face contact. The heady days of December in 2007, when I first dipped my toe into Twitter, led me to a jaw-dropping awareness that I wasn't alone. There were hundreds of like-minded educators who were yearning to be affirmed in their belief that there were better ways to teach and learn... and I was eager to connect with them.
Fast forward to the turn of the new year, 2012, and my personal reflections have focused on the reality that I'm not so fully engaged in finding people to follow, or in cultivating a tribe of followers. In contrast, I'm reading and writing fewer tweets, and am taking the time to savour those connections that matter most.
How do I know you're one of the key nodes in my network?
1] We've met face to face at at least one conference or event.
2] We've had at least one conversation via Skype or Google Chat.
3] We've shared comments on one another's blog posts.
4] We've collaborated in developing a presentation/document/video/blog.
5] We've sought one another out to share 'big ideas'.
I think it's these meaningful connections with other change agents that I was most looking for in the first 25 years of my career. Now that many of the teacher-learners I first met on Twitter have become my trusted friends, I don't so much miss the one-way interactions with the more widely scattered nodes of my PLN. I still leverage the wisdom of my network on a daily basis, but rather than dipping into a never-ending stream of tweets, I am more likely to check the pulse of the group via a daily check of my personal news: The TweetedTimes.
Without question, Twitter is the glue of my personal network. But the connections I value most, reach well beyond the Twittersphere.