If you read this blog you probably already know that last year I had the opportunity to participate in a pretty meaningful professional development experience and become part of the PLP community.
As I was thinking back to how far I have come in the past year with my use of technology both personally and with my students, the development of my PLN through Twitter and reading blogs, and the transformation of my beliefs about the educational system, I realized that so much of this is dependent upon my participation. Never has, "You get out of it what you put into it," meant so much to me.
My learning and my transformations have taken place because I have had many opportunities to participate in communities and chats that all seemed to share a common set of norms or ground rules. While I could probably go on for quite a while with this list, the ones that stand out the most to me include:
- The contributions of every person are valuable.
- We should share openly and honestly.
- Be supportive of each other
- Believe that everybody has something to contribute.
- Be grateful for contributions and for participation.
- There are those you can help and those you can learn from.
- Encourage more sharing.
Last year when I started this journey, I was really nervous: nervous about tweeting, nervous about writing a blog post, nervous about commenting to others, and nervous about taking part in any discussions. I was nervous because, to be honest, I didn't think I was smart enough. I didn't think that what I had to say was important. Who am I, and why would anybody want to read anything I write? So I watched, but it didn't seem quite right.
I'm not sure what exactly made me finally do my first post, but I think I reread it about 15 times before I pushed the reply button. Even after all that rereading, I wasn't really sure that I had much to say or that anybody would want to read it.
What I ended up finding out was that somebody WAS interested in reading it, and I ended up participating more and more: in chats on Twitter, through my own tweets, by posting on my blog, by commenting to others, and by participating in community discussions. I haven't looked back since because I have learned so much this past year, and most of my learning has come from all of the sharing I do and the people I have met through these discussions.
Each of the norms that I listed above, in my mind, emphasizes how important it is to participate and be supportive of each other in this online community. We are beaten down and battered so much by people outside of education, we should never do it to each other. Yes, we can disagree; yes, we should push back. But it should always be done in a respectful and caring manner. We want to get everybody participating because our collective knowledge and insights are so powerful.
If you're just getting started with this online journey and you're nervous, that's okay. If you're worried you're not smart enough - you are. You can help others as much as you can learn from others. If you think you don't have much to say, it's not true: everybody's contributions are valuable. I hope that this post will encourage anybody who's been worried about being part of an online community to take at least one small step to joining a conversation. You will be glad that you did!