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.