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people watching fireworks

The Spark of Connection

people watching fireworks
Image by matt_saywers, via, Public Domain

Bruce Springsteen wrote, “You can’t start a fire without a spark.” As I considered this week’s #youredustory prompt, “What is connected learning and WIIFM (What’s in it for me)?,”  that quote kept coming back to me. To me, being connected means having people to provide the spark if it’s lacking for me, or to fan my spark, help me kindle the flame, and keep my fire going.

Connected learning takes many forms, and they are all based on personal relationships, which I cultivate with care. I make sure people know I am open and willing to share. Thanks to these relationships, I can go in person, text, or call other teachers at my school or  in my district if I have questions or want to bounce ideas off someone. I can also turn to my PLN (personal learning network) on Twitter or Google+.

These connections did not happen accidentally. I participated in Twitter chats, shared on Google+, commented on blog posts, and generally reached out to those I thought could help me light my professional fire. Most people responded very positively. I also went and continue to go to as many conferences and unconferences as I can manage because, although I love the online connectedness, I especially love meeting those people in person. It adds another invaluable dimension to the relationship. I found, too, that as I made more connections, I connected with their connections, and their connections’ connections, and my learning fire grew bigger and brighter.

So, what’s in it for me? Everything. I may have a great idea. By discussing it with others, it can become greater. I may need a great idea. By reaching out, I can find one. People I know may want to bounce an idea off others. By helping them, I am rewarded as they develop their idea and/or I might come up with something of my own. Not to mention that I have lots of new friends whose professional opinions I respect and whose personal company I enjoy. I truly believe that we are all #bettertogether.

4 thoughts on “The Spark of Connection

  1. Inspired post Nancy and especially love the Boss reference. I am wondering if there is connection or commonality between online connected educators where our desire to cultivate relationships with care is the reason the an online PLN is so valuable and as a result so rich. As always, I think I’m oversimplifying things but I’m really curious to hear what you think the reason/s is/are that all educators are not connected online.

    1. Thanks, Steve. I hadn’t thought about it before, but I suspect you are right in saying that our desire to cultivate relationships is at least part of the reason an online PLN is so valuable. On the other hand, I don’t think that means that those educators who are not connected online don’t want to create relationships with other educators. I just think that the idea of an online PLN is overwhelming to many an unconnected educator. For example, when I try to introduce colleagues to Twitter and am unsuccessful, most of the time what I hear is that they don’t have time for it or they don’t understand it. Despite my insistence that a) 5-10 minutes in the morning is enough, especially to start, or b) that I will help them and share resources to make it easier, they are reluctant to try because they see it as a scary, overwhelming thing. If you have any ideas on how to make that better, I would love to hear them.

  2. A great post Nancy, it really struck a chord with me. I am (in my eyes) beginning my ‘connected’ journey, involving myself in Twitter and trying to share what I see are great ideas. I love discussing ideas with my colleagues in the work place and have some wonderful soundboards to use. What I understand from this post is that I need to continue to reach out, share and get involved a lot more in the wider education community. We all have a lot to give. BTW, this is actually one of the few times I’ve responded to someone’s post. I think this might be one of the sparks I need to step it up. #thanks #bettertogether

    1. Thanks so much, Jason! I’m so glad you responded to my post. Your words really meant a lot to me. Don’t be afraid to reach out and start conversations; that is how you are going to grow your network. I find that I get very different, though equally valuable, points of view from my local colleagues and my wider PLN. The local folks are great, especially when it comes to things that are peculiar to our district, while the extended PLN can often furnish a more global point of view. I encourage you to continue connecting with other educators. It will be well worth the effort.

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