Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Power of Meeting My PLN!

I have been active on Twitter since the summer of 2014. During that time I have connected with thousands of passionate educators. We all share common bonds; we want to improve for our learners, and we love what we do. This summer, I had the opportunity to meet some members of my PLN (personal learning network). One would think this would be an intimidating event since we have never truly met in person. We had only sent short Twitter messages to each other, exchanged Voxer voice messages, and Skyped a few times. Read on to see what happened with each meeting.

Lynn Kleinmeyer @THLibrariZen

I connected with Lynn Kleinmeyer during the fall of 2015 during a Twitter education chat. Lynn is a teacher librarian in Iowa. We ended up connecting again in the spring semester. I remember our first webcam session was on one of her snow days. During the session, I gave her a tour of our newly renovated library. Lynn and I connected immediately. At a district library media specialist professional development meeting, Lynn presented about the power of being a connected educator to all our teacher librarians at Lakeside via webcam. We connected again for Read Across America when one of our seniors read to her young students via Skype. Lynn also invited me to be a moderator for a #MWLibChat session this spring. It was a lot of fun!

Nathan, Lynn, and their wonderful family

When Lynn found out I was going to be coming to Denver this summer, she invited us to come visit her and her family in Omaha, Nebraska. Cindy and I decided to take her up on it. We met at the Omaha Zoo and spent the whole day visiting with Lynn, her husband Nathan, and their kids. That evening we went out to eat and had great discussions about being connected educators. Nathan and I talked about the possibilities of connecting our students and teachers together during the coming school year. It was as if we had all known each other for years. It was a great visit that ended too quickly. Nathan and Lynn are classroom innovators that are passionate about teaching. They inspire me!

Three teacher librarians that connected via Twitter

Karey Killian @CoLIBRAtoRY 

I connected with Karey on Twitter and in the Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (MIEExpert) community. She is a teacher librarian in Pennsylvania. We connected her students to one of Brooks Lee's classes at Lakeside. Brooks is a social studies teacher who loves connecting his students to new places via Skype. Karey and I first met in person at the Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert US Forum in Denver, Colorado last month. I recognized her immediately, and it was as if we were old friends. I know Karey and I will stay in touch this school year. Karey is a natural leader. I know I will learn many things from her in the coming months and years. I'm already looking forward to connecting with Karey and her students during the 2016-2017 school year.

It was great to meet Karey in person!

Richard Snyder  @mr_snyderman

Richard is a teacher librarian in the state of Washington. He will be making a transition to technology integration specialist this fall. I had never connected with Richard other than during Twitter education chats. We had been in the same MIEExpert community together this year. One day, I received a message from Richard asking if I would be interested in presenting a session with him at the upcoming MIEExpert Forum. I was honored to have such an invitation, and I immediately said, "yes!" Over the next month, we planned our presentation using the collaboration of Twitter, Skype, and Microsoft Sway. We finally met in person at the MIEExpert Forum. Richard was very approachable and easy to talk to. Just as in my other PLN meetings, it was like we had known each other for a long period of time. I had a great experience presenting with him during the Forum. Even though he is changing careers, I know we will stay in touch. I have much to learn from Richard, and I am grateful he reached out to me for our collaboration. Without social media and the collaborative technology, I'm not sure how we could have planned a session so easily.

I enjoyed learning with Richard at the MIEExpert Forum

Tracey Wong @TraceyCarayol  

I was reading articles during May of 2015 in preparation for my first writing assignment with the School Library Connection publication. I remember reading a great advocacy article by Tracy Wong during that period. Tracy is a teacher librarian in New York. Her magazine article resonated so well with me, I decided to email her words of encouragement. (If we don't tell people when they impact us, how will they know?) Tracey and I began communicating through Twitter and email. Tracey suggested that I apply for the MIEExpert community back in June of 2015. I was grateful to be accepted into the community so I could connect with many more passionate educators. This also gave me an opportunity to participate in the national MIEExpert US Forum. Tracey recently helped me become a MIE Surface Expert. (I'll talk about this more in a future entry.) We have used Skype and Voxer to visit about innovative approaches to librarianship and technology in the classroom.

Tracey Wong and I posed with the Skype "screen"

While walking down the sidewalk in Denver prior to the MIEExpert Forum, I immediately recognized Tracey as she was headed into the hotel. I spoke to her and she came over to visit with me and my wife. The previous connections of social media and our blog articles had brought us all together. Tracey is now a mentor to me and I am so glad I took a chance by sending her that initial email.


In each instance of meeting these educators in person, there was a powerful connection. We all love teaching, and we are striving to become better for our learning communities. We are risk takers who enjoy using technology and thrive on collaboration and sharing ideas. The friends I have mentioned above greatly inspire me. The professional relationships that have developed with each of them is a result of connecting on social media or another connective technology. They have all changed me by challenging me to think differently. These are only three of thousands of educators and thought leaders in my PLN. I have so much more to learn from this network. This thought is exciting to consider: each person I follow on Twitter has the potential to help me improve for my learners.

I have only been active on social media and blogging for a little over two years. When I consider how my PLN has helped me evolve in that time, I wonder what the next two years will bring? I wrote this post to encourage you to keep connecting with new friends on all forms of social media. These connections have virtually taken me and my students out of our town, state, and country. They have taken me to larger educator communities and allowed me to visit a national Microsoft conference (thanks to the MIEExpert community). What will happen next for me and my learning community? More importantly, what will happen for you and your learning community? Keep connecting and growing your PLN to find out.

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