The power of two

There are two different kinds of PLNs, as I see it. First, there’s the virtual PLN, the one you create through your visits to other educators’ blogs and engaging conversations on Twitter, blogs, or Skype to name but a few. This is a PLN which is filled with teachers who are willing to share, grow, learn, and keep an open mind to all that’s new and everything that might enhance your students’ learning. It’s an active space, and it’s open 24/7. The second kind of PLN is your real one, made of teachers who work with you in your school. The good side of this PLN is that it shows you you that, sometimes, the world you live in is still not ready for all those changes that so many educators worldwide have been talking about. They understand your context, and they face exactly the same difficulties you have to face. That could even be called the ‘keeping-it-real PLN’.

However, one thing that usually strikes me as odd is how often I hear people from my virtual PLN complain about the lack of interest and willingness to change from those present in their real PLN. I’ve already heard a couple of times that it would be wonderful to have all of those people from your virtual PLN working together in the same school, aiming at providing their learners nothing but the very best. This would be a place where people wouldn’t fear making mistakes, and mistakes might as well happen. However, no mistake would be made owing to lack of action. Things would always be going forward.

If this ideal school existed, perhaps change in education would come at a much faster rate. If there are people who are also as committed as you are working with you, it’s always easier to make things happen. If, on the other hand, there is no one interested in joining you and helping you in your physical surroundings, things get much tougher. Fortunately, the distance between the virtual and the real PLN is getting smaller by the day. Thanks to technology, it’s now possible to get your students to interact with students whose teachers aren’t that afraid of attempting to get things done. Sometimes it’s easier to get two classes from two different continents to collaborate than to get two neighbouring classes to do so.

That’s one of the things that most people realise once they join the world of blogs and twitter, to begin with. They learn that there are other people who are also interested in bringing about change. There are other educators who are 100% sure they’ve still got a lot to learn, and they find other educators who think just the same way. Working alone is pretty hard, but the power of two has something magical about it. If you’re working together with people who also share your principles and, despite being snowed under with work, still manage to make time for sharing and learning, you know that’s the right place to be in.

Nevertheless, sometimes our co-workers and members of the keeping-it-real PLN need a little push. They’ve all got it inside themselves – this ideal towards learning and helping students thrive. It may have been forgotten somewhere because of the treatment that’s been dispensed to educators for many, many years, but it’s there. If we all work together and give this little push, we’ll find out we’re not alone anymore. The power of two will make it a lot easier for you to do what you want to do. Mind you, this doesn’t mean you all have got to agree on everything; it only means there are at least two people willing to shift gears and get things evolving at a faster pace.

11 thoughts on “The power of two

  1. Great post! I gain different things from my virtual PLN and my in person PLN. My virtual PLN keeps me moving forward in education. My personal PLN helps me in my daily practice of what it all looks like, they are dealing with the same demographic of kids, administrators, resources. Both are important.

    1. And sometimes we really need our virtual PLN to help us get by, right?! It’s like a boost of energy when all seems to be going wrong and you need a fresher perspective to tackle the problems! 🙂

  2. Thanks for the post!
    I fully agree with Ktenkely.
    On the one hand we need real PLN to keep our feet on the ground. On the other hand we need the virtual PLN to inspire us.

    1. And the best part of it is when we have the chance to meet the members of our virtual PLN in person! Even though they’re still forward-thinkers who are always pushing the boundaries, the fact that you can put a face and a voice to their tweets or blog posts makes their contributions even more valuable. Just the same, where would we be if there was no one to hold us back and say, “on a second thought…”

      Thanks for the comment! 🙂

  3. I also see eye to eye with you Henrick (and Kelly and Fernando) on this. Both PLNs have a lot to offer in their own way. One is NOT better than the other, just different.

    And we (I especifically put myself in the front of this line, since I am a newbie at this), as we discover the fantastic world of twitter, blogs and the online PLN have to be very careful not to dismiss the “physical world” PLN once we get caught in the euphoria of the new world. It’s funny I read your blog tonight (I’ve been overwhelmed by work… finally catching up with my favorite blogs’ reading) after I read another post, suggested in a tweet (by someone I can’t remember – sorry) which discussed something that has a lot to do with what you’re saying here. It warns us to be careful not to equate being online / twitter / having an online PLN to being a good / effective teacher. It reminds us that there are great people who are not online – and this doesn’t make them any less than anyone. Take a look, you may enjoy it :

    Another great post! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    1. Hi Cecília,

      I totally understand the amount of work that piles up when we’re trying to become better professionals and engage in informal learning. Sometimes I actually feel sad when I open my Google Reader and there are hundreds of unread posts. But no one said it was going to be easy, right?

      Fantastic post, this one you shared! And it’s absolutely true. Even though we may sometimes feel frustrated because our colleagues do not seem to share our enthusiasm and at times might look happy not to learn new things at all, these are the people who help us realise we’re not teaching in any other place but exactly where we are. These are the people who face exactly the same problems we face, which means their advice should always be taken into account.

      Thanks for you comment! Great, as usual! 🙂

  4. Henrick,

    I hear what you are saying but would even go further and out of the western dualism and suggest there are MANY forms of PLN. Not just virtual and local but also those who lurk in the shadows unsure about committing and entering. Your blog touches them and they are there. Kind of like ghosts but they are your PLN also, you speak to them and encourage them.

    I had an office full of teachers. I never pushed them towards anything but kept plugging and doing my thing. It touches and reaches this example and “shadow”. Many are now using the internet much more. Of course, our office had the regular PLN of sharing ideas, coffee, discussion and all that. But there was also this invisible leadership.

    I try to do the same online. Walk the talk. There are so, so, so, many who don’t blog and don’t tweet and don’t download all the latest gadgets. My own site is about these teachers who “want the goods” they can bring into class – “just the facts mam” type of thing. I respect those teachers immensely and don’t draw a line between those like us online and those who just go online for a quick idea/worksheet and a way to get through the next class. They are actually my heroes – when I’m out on the town, or out on my workshops/presentations, I talk to them and I see where they are coming from. They don’t give a damn about PLN – just help me make it through the week!

    About equating online with being a good teacher. True. Just like you aren’t a good driver just because you have a Mercedes SL. However, that Mercedes does a lot to inspire you and others to be a good driver!

    I really don’t get this PLN stuff – I’m just about hanging out and if it is someone online or off, all the same. Friends and colleagues, as dear as anything. But that’s me, others and everyone will find their own boundaries and that’s exciting as we march off into the netiverse. Sorry if I’ve rambled but that’s what a comment is most importantly for….


    1. Hi David,

      As usual, a great comment! It’s amazing how often we get stuck in the dual nature of things and simply end up abandoning other forms of interaction. There are indeed lots of people who influence us in so many different ways that it’s hard to place them in our lives. Leadership is really complex, huh?!

      And I really liked the metaphor with the Mercedes. We all can benefit from something that will motivate us.

      Thanks so much for enriching the post with your comments! 🙂


  5. Why do you separate them? A personal learning network is made up of many strands, hubs, nodes, whatever you wish to call them. I don’t like the way that the concept has been co-opted to mean a solely internet based network. The people I share my office with offer me a great deal of support. I’m lucky, perhaps, but nevertheless I think it is wrong to start looking down upon your closest colleagues because they aren’t wired up. I’ve never felt alone as a teacher, even before the internet… teachers will help each other, one way or another.

    1. Hi Darren,

      Yes, a PLN is made of many different layers and I don’t think it’s only an Internet based network. However, there are (at least) two different perspectives I get from these two groups of people I tend to interact with. Isn’t it the same with any kind of social circle we belong to? All your friends will always give you support, but there are some friends of yours who don’t share the same mutual friends, and this means they might give you a different perspective to look at from.
      Just like you, I’m also fortunate enough so as to be able to share my thoughts and engage in conversation with wonderful people who happen to have been my teachers a while ago. As you said, they’re always there to help you out one way or another. But sometimes it’s nice to hear what someone who’s not part of your close circle has got to say.

      I guess I went for the separation just because I can still see it as two different things, and most of my closest colleagues still can’t believe that you can learn anything from Twitter, blogs, or similar things. However, I also agree with you that it’s all part of the same PLN – after all, it’s all personal, real or virtual.

      Hmm… I like comments that get me thinking about my thoughts. Thanks so much for this! 🙂

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