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
@kylepace: Do it! That’s what the PLN is all about! We hook each other up 24/7!
@jenniferward: 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!