Since the beginning of the World Wide Web and the internet, users try to find the most efficient and effective way to use the connectivity that is afforded to us. Through Communication and supporting bodies of knowledge, we are all trying to learn the information that is out there. One of the ways to learn, is from other people. Connectivism has been a new way to gather information from the interconnected networks we are all weaving at all times.
I learned about #SAchat and #SAtech while in graduate school working on my master’s degree. Once I discovered weekly chats via Twitter, I was hooked. It was so easy to participate and have my voice heard during the weekly #SAchat conversations that numerous colleagues around the world were having at the same time. I have been able to ask colleagues for programming models and resources that have helped me complete a better process for my students. I was able to contribute to problem solving and critical thinking about the profession I was entering into. I started to meet some celebrity #SAchat tweeters face-to-face at conferences and created connections IRL. I found mentors and created a foundation of colleagues in the student affairs and higher education field that had the same interests as me: technology and success.
A professional learning network is just that, a network you can create online that adds value to your real-life, professional career. This network can be connecting with various pods of people to help fulfill your interests and curiosity, or it can be a network of support when there are major implications in your field that everyone most learn how to undertake. These professional learning networks will be ever-changing, non-stagnant pools of knowledge that each professional can create, develop, and manage for themselves.
I was challenged by multiple colleagues I had met on Twitter to start my own blog in graduate school. I was skeptic at first, but at some point got into creating my own body of knowledge and started to write guest blogs for collective sites: Student Affairs Collective, The Student Affairs Feature, and Women in Student Affairs for a national organization. Through my own development of writing and reflection, I created a professional network that challenged me to stay fresh and up to date in higher education. I was pushed to think outside the box and was challenged in ways that will benefit me for time to come.
My challenge for each of you is to find a consistent professional learning network you can be a part of, contribute to, and keep up with. I found myself wavering the past few years, and I am glad that I have found my stride once more to continue on for my thirst of connections. After you feel consistent and grounded in numerous professional learning networks yourself, start helping your students find their pods of professionals that have similar interests to them. Teaching our students how to connect with others professionally is helping our students grow, learn and contribute to an adaptive and connected world.