How My PLN Saved the Day

A couple of months ago I was asked if I would teach a session on personal learning networks at the fall inservice for my ESU. Of course I jumped at the chance to teach my f2f colleagues about the world I live in online. As I began preparing I knew one of the components I wanted to include was a back channel chat. I was expecting up to 25 participants in each of my two sessions and I wanted them to have a place to post their questions. Various people from my PLN agreed to be on hand to answer questions so I could keep presenting instead of stopping every few minutes to answer questions. I only had two hours to get people up and running on Twitter and in the Classroom 2.0 Ning which is not very long.

I put all of my presentation resources into a wiki to make them easier for both myself and participants to access. Shortly before the session began I tweeted out a link to the wiki which had links to various sites that the participants would need throughout the day. The first order of business was for my participants to create a Twitter account. It did not take long for me to realize something was wrong. All but one person received a message from Twitter stating that only one account per hour could be created. It turns out all of the computers in the lab were running off the same IP address. I let the people in the chat know what was going on and they asked what they could do to help. What happened next was truly amazing. Eight people from my PLN worked together to help me so I could continue. I could have continued without having the participants create accounts, but it was supposed to be a “hands on” session. The purpose was for them to get on and see how Twitter and Nings work. The following people came through for me when I needed them the most:


Chat transcript (missing the first 15 minutes)

Someone in the chat suggested that they could each take a participant and create their Twitter account remotely. If you review the chat transcript you will see how seven people from the United States and one from Germany worked together to figure out how to make sure all of the accounts were created. They were able to coordinate their efforts and the results were nearly perfect. In just a few minutes my participants were able to log into their new Twitter account and we were able to continue as planned. They were able to watch in real time as my PLN worked on the Google Spreadsheet. One of my workshop goals was for my participants to understand the purpose of a PLN.  If they did not get it after this then I am not sure they will ever will.

Once my afternoon session was over the first thing I did was review the chat. I was moved to tears once I began to wrap my head around what had just happened. Eight people whom I have never met gave up part of their day to help me to make sure my workshop was a success. They were not going to walk away from the chat until they were sure everything on my end was running smoothly. Once it started sinking in, I began to realize that this is truly the best example of aPLN working collaboratively that I have ever seen. I can take credit for having the forethought to have a back channel, but I cannot take any of the credit for what took place in there. Watching those eight people work virtually with each other and my workshop participants was nothing less than amazing.

What touched me the most is that all of the people in the chat were there because they wanted to be. They invested anywhere from one to five hours helping me out. Why did they do it? My guess is that they did it because they get whatPLN’s are all about. To people who are not familiar with PLN’s we might appear to be a loosely connected group of educators, but to those who “get it,” we know that our ties are much stronger than they appear. I will never forget this experience. It was chock full of “AWESOMENESS!”

My favorite quotes from the chat:

@jenniferward: I’m so sharing the coolness of what just happened here as a result of Twitter and real-time collaboration
Do it! That’s what the PLN is all about! We hook each other up 24/7!
: I just tried to tell the teacher sitting next to me, but it’s 1:30 on a Friday and he couldn’t understand why I was so excited. You guys get it! So cool!
@web20classroom: If they aren’t in on it they don’t understand….thats why we need everyone in on it…
@shellterrell: I’ll be here at the last moment to save the day.
@shellterrell: I’m back! Doing this from my Iphone!
@oswego98: Sprechen Sie Deutch?
@ymiyru: collective intelligence…great foundation.

I am looking forward to comments from everyone, but especially from people who were part of this. I know I am not the only one who was blown away by this experience. Thanks again to my wonderful PLN. You guys ROCK!

16 thoughts on “How My PLN Saved the Day

  1. What a great story, Beth! Part of the real value for me in Twitter is the way people help in a flash! And they’re so nonjudgmental, meeting people at whatever level their needs are. I jokingly call @jonbecker, @lbgilbert and several others, the “you rang brigade” because they are right there with the legal, education policy or library info I need. And when I am stymied by something tech-related or need help with my (awful) memory, our PLN is so speedy and generous. I think this is one aspect of Twitter that more people need to know about.
    thanks again,
    Melissa (@mtechman)

    • Melissa,
      What you said about our PLN meeting the needs of people no matter what their needs are is so true. For the most part my group was not at all comfortable with technology. They experienced a lot of firsts on Friday and my PLN was there to help guide them. The tech issues were really a blessing in disguise. They allowed the participants to see a PLN in action. What a great day!

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    • Those were my sentiments too. WOW! You must have read through the transcript, too. I wish I could have written a post that did this experience justice, but this was the best I could do. Things were moving so quickly that I did not have much time to watch the chat in real time. I knew they were working together, but it was not until I reviewed the transcript that it hit me what had really happened. It seemed like the eight of them just instinctively knew what to do. An experience like this just makes me wonder even more what it would be like to work in a “PLN school.” What a fantastic experience.

  3. Beth,

    What a wonderful post on collaboration! I really enjoyed working with everyone and got to learn a lot more about my colleagues and you during the chat. I feel very honored to work with such wonderful people. There have been times I have been moved to tears by my PLN! You are doing a wonderful thing by giving your colleagues in the session a PLN with your wonderful wiki and setting them up with Twitter accounts. You just paid this experience forward and have given them the opportunity to experience this firsthand!

    • Shelly,
      Even though the sessions went well thanks to all of you who were working so hard behind the scenes, I am not sure most of the participants fully grasped the importance of what happened. I think maybe some of them thought I had my PLN on hand to create the accounts to begin with. Someday if they really buy into networking they will look back with appreciation. Despite my best attempt Twitter is still a “hard sell.” Believe it or not, some people still can’t get past the name!

      Thank you again Shelly. Not just for yesterday, but for all you contribute every day.

  4. Beth,
    I’ve been looking forward to reading about this. I wish I could have participated too. You are truly the PLN Poster Child. Not sure what else could stand as such a great example.
    Rock on!!

    • My session could have been a disaster had it not been for that chat room. I’m not sure if I’d say I’m the poster Child for PLN’s, but I certainly have picked some great people to include in my network.

  5. WOW!!! What a wonderful collabaroative experience. I saw you tweeting about this later that day and had nod idea how huge of a collaboration you all had until I just read this post!! Wish I could have been there. That’s another great thing about the PLN…no matter what time of day some member of the PLN is almost always on hand!!

    • Susan,
      What really touched me was that for the most part the same eight people stuck around for both sessions. They may have had other things going on in the background, but they still managed to help me out. This is what networking is all about. I cannot wait to jump in and help someone like my PLN helped me. What a great time!

  6. What a great post! I was fortunate to be a part of this. I was up at my parents’ cabin for the weekend (helping them close it for the season) when I saw your tweet calling out to your PLN to help on the back channel. I stopped what I was doing and hopped on the computer – I was so excited. Everyone around me was so confused when things started getting exciting and the back channel participants had a plan of action. I kept shouting, “This is so COOL!” Needless to say, my entire family now knows what Twitter and a PLN is! Thanks for the experience.

    • You know what is funny? I think all of us seasoned Twitter users felt that same excitement on Friday. The energy flowing during that chat was so great! People who are not on Twitter don’t get it. You get it! Thanks again for your help.

  7. It was an honor to be of help and I’m glad it went very smoothly. This completely defined what our PLN is all about. Collaboration at its finest! Beth: Shelly, Steve, and I know we can count on your to do the same if we ever need you.

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