Gotta Catch Em’ All: A Guide to Evolving Your Teaching Practice Through a PLN (Pokéfessional Learning Network)
My fiancée and I recently purchased our first home. As we were packing our belongings and getting ready for the big move, I happened to stumble across one of my most prized possessions in my trusty neon orange and royal blue Space Jam suitcase. As I pulled the zipper open, I was surprised to find my old deck of Pokémon cards still intact. Looking at the various cards (e.g., Squirtle, Snorlax, etc.) took me back to my childhood. I couldn’t help but reminisce on my first Pokémon purchase roughly 20 years ago. I remember the day so vividly. It was like the iconic scene from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. You know, the one where the deserving Charlie Bucket finds the much-anticipated golden ticket in his Wonka Bar? My nimble fingers gently tore at the shiny, foil packaging as I shook with uncontrollable excitement. I didn’t find a golden ticket, but I did find a Pikachu! Pika . . . Pika!
If you aren’t familiar with Pokémon, the story follows protagonist, Ash Ketchum, leaving his hometown to fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming a Pokémon Master. To fulfil his dream though, he must battle and defeat the toughest of gym leaders - all experts in their respective fields. Upon defeating them, Ash is awarded a badge of mastery to highlight his knowledge in specific areas and skills. (Does this sound familiar?) If these challenges weren’t enough, Ash must also deal with pesky Team Rocket constantly trying to interfere with his goals. In a way, the narrative mirrors a bildungsroman - a coming of age-type story. Along his trek, Ash encounters happiness and endures heartbreak – experiences that shape and mold his identify. Most importantly though, Ash makes new friends who have parallel dreams (i.e., parallel because they are consistently in the same direction, yet, always unique). These friends are there for Ash through the good, the bad, and the ugly. In return, Ash is there for them.
The group members may have individual dreams; however, they understand that the path to success is best paved through a team effort. This group bonds and arguably becomes one of the most successful PLN’s of all time. For instance, Ash and his PLN celebrate wins and losses, collectively. When one member earns a badge, they all earn it. When one member has a tough day, the others are there for support. There is never any animosity, only genuine happiness. Moreover, they constantly challenge one another to improve their craft and learn. Each member may have their own specialization, but they each have a growth mindset. Without this group effort, the learning wouldn’t occur so fluidly. Luckily, Ash’s story is not a solo story; it is a story of companionship.
The reason I bring up Ash and his Pokémon quest is because there are so many similarities to my own journey. (Actually, I think many individuals could connect to Ash and his PLN.) 4 months ago, I set out to become a Twitter Master. I wanted the awesome badges to proudly display, but more than that, I wanted the knowledge and friendship! Although I embarked on my journey alone, I have slowly added members to my team every day. These members come from all corners of the Twitterverse. Moreover, these once strangers have transformed into REAL friends. These are friends that I communicate with on a regular basis. When I am frustrated, stuck on a problem, or even happy because of an accomplishment; I reach out to my PLN. In turn, I am there for them. Our learning goals may differ, yet, we support one another as best we can. Without them in my life, I wouldn’t be where I am at.
As you look to expand your PLN, set goals for yourself. If you walk into this blindly, you may stray into a black hole and end up forever lost. Thus, it is imperative that you start with small steps. Scroll through different feeds. Find people that are interesting, inspiring, and ACTIVE! Once you have found the people you want in your PLN, take a risk and reach out to them. Some will respond. Some will ignore you. Just don’t take it personal; everyone is in the middle of their own hustle. You can’t knock them for that. Eventually, you will find your people, or they will find you! Finally, don’t forget, a PLN is about QUALITY, not quantity. Don’t focus on numbers; focus on relationships. You don’t have to add every single person on Twitter. Doing this could lead to a supernova-like explosion in your feed. If this happens, good luck at making sense of anything. Remember, you are here to connect and learn, not to get anxious or overwhelmed. Lastly, be sure to check out the different edu chats. They are a great place to connect. https://sites.google.com/site/twittereducationchats/education-chat-calendar has done an awesome job of organizing them by time and focus. You can find amazing edu rock stars in these chats. If you need help, I’m a click away. Now, go off and become the Twitter Master you were born to be!