8 things they don’t tell you about PLNs (Twitterversary post)

It was about three years ago I got involved with Twitter and connected with teachers (especially English teachers) around the world. It changed my life. In a 2012 post I detailed my decision to join Twitter and talked about some members of my PLN. Last year I wrote about some of the “wow” moments I’ve had as a result of being connected. In other posts, I have extolled the virtues of Twitter and tried my hand at proselytizing on the magic of PLNs. In this post, I will not do these things much but I’d like to try to share some lesser-known benefits of having a PLN. These benefits appear after the picture of my first tweet. Any benefits to add? Please feel free to share them in the comments.

  1. I have people around the world  I can ask random questions that come up in class or in life.
    This is a great one. Quite often in my classes a question about another country or culture comes up and I often happen to know someone from that place. While the responses are quite often just one person’s take on something the fact that it is a real life person adds some credibility and excitement, I believe. I also get the sense this seems somewhat magical to students. They’ve asked me “How do you know people from ____?”
  2. I am more clued in on the daily lives of people around the world.
    For me, this is probably more about Faceboook than Twitter (though with people I first met on Twitter). It’s exciting to see the daily lives and special events of friends around the world and I think it gives me a sense of how people live and what is important to them. Pictures and other status updates give a nice glimpse into places I might not be very familiar with if not for these. Of course, a skeptic could say I’m only following a very small subset within a specific field of people in certain countries. I’d agree with this but I’d also say I have a better idea about many places than I would otherwise.
  3. I am more aware of the educational situation in countries around the world. 
    In addition to learning about the daily lives of folks around the world, I have also been able to steal some peeks into the educational (again, especially English related) situation of countries around the world. For whatever reason, it has been especially heartening for me to see how English teachers all around are faced with similar challenges. I think here in Korea there can be a strong sense of thinking many things fit under the category of “Only in Korea” even when they are quite common worldwide. In my previous work with Korean public school English teachers I was often confronted with ideas about Korea being the only country in the world facing particular problems. Knowledge of other places and teachers’ views on the situation has given me a lot of needed perspective. I wish I could do a better job sharing these common concerns and helping people see they are not alone in having such concerns.
  4. Through hearing, reading and learning about other contexts I can see my context and my teaching more clearly.
    This is related to the above point, but is more specific as a tangible benefit to my own teaching, or at least understanding. I think through seeing and reading and learning about other contexts I have gained a clearer perspective on my own. When people write and talk about (as an example) EAP in the UK I can see how things in my context are similar and different and it opens up my thoughts on the choices I make and how and why they might or might not be different as well. Sometimes this analysis helps me see where I have missed something or assumed too much about my current context.
    (I suppose this might not be so much of a hidden benefit but is actually one that is mentioned frequently. I’m not sure anymore.)
  5. I’m more in touch with and less apathetic about the political situation in places around the world.
    As an example, when Twitter was banned in Turkey it had an impact on me in terms of the above points. It also prompted me to care just a bit more and to do a little research on the issues. I can directly link my increased interest in certain countries to having friends in or from the country. This is quite interesting to me and probably not what I expected back in 2011 when I first joined Twitter.
  6. I have another reason to try food from around the world.
    Earlier this year I was faced with a choice on what sort of chicken dish I wanted to order. I was not familiar with any of the options and I had no idea what was on offer. I made a decision based on my PLN and chose (what was being called) “Hungary Style” chicken. It was fantastic and I was pleased with my decision. Thank you, Hungarian friends, for unknowingly guiding me in the right direction on that day.
    (I am quite pleased about not making any puns on hungry. I await your praise.)
  7. I have an improved sense of time zones.
    I am not trying to brag but.. I have dramatically increased my skillz in this area. Some might even characterize my skillz as mad. Someday I might not even need the World Time Clock or the related Meeting Planner. Maybe I spoke too soon as daylight saving’s time will always keep me guessing.
  8. Travel and conferences became more fun for me.
    I suppose I have already mentioned the conference aspect in previous posts. It is still quite a buzz to meet people face-to-face that I have only met online to that point. It is fun and exciting and somewhat odd. One thing I like about it is the idea that I already know a lot about a person even if I have never talked to them. I don’t think this will get old any time soon. As for travel, it is fun to think I could make plans to meet  at a coffee shop in Boston, in the streets of Belgrade, on a Siberian railroad, in an airport in Jakarta, at a pub in Taipei, or at the beach in Gangneung.
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16 comments

  1. haeundaelife

    Agree with everything you have here…especially points 3-5. Thanks for sharing some of the learning you’ve experienced! (and for getting me past my twitter skepticism 😉

    • mikecorea

      Johnny!
      Thanks for reading and commenting. I am very happy I was helpful in getting you past your twitter skepticism. 🙂
      I think maybe starting out as a skeptic myself was helpful. Not sure. Anyway very glad that you are on Twitter (esp now that you are not in the ROK). Thanks for sharing your learnings on your blog as well.

    • mikecorea

      Wow.. this is a great comment. LOL.
      I am thinking it is exactly 12 hours away. So 1 pm would be 1 am.

      *checks*

      Pretty close. Not bad.

      BTW all calculations are run through “What time is it in Seoul?” Thanks for reading and for the fun question.

  2. kevchanwow

    Hi Mike,

    And one more added bonus, you get to help other teachers and friends meet each other. I’m pretty sure you were one of my first Twitter friends and many of the teachers I turn to regularly for advice and support I met through…YOU! IT’s kind of tan gentile, but there must be some real value in knowing that you’ve helped other people find and help each other as well.

    Thanks Mike, for the PLN magic,

    Kevin

    • mikecorea

      Hey Kevin,
      Thanks for the response. I think you make a nice point here about the benefits of helping people (whether with information or connection or whatever). A great benefit indeed. I am so happy I tracked you down almost 3 years ago now when I saw you linked to my (at the time very new) blog. Magic. Thanks for helping me see a new perspective on this post and for lots more. SEE you soon.

  3. swisssirja

    Hi Mike,
    I’d sign at the end of this post if you asked me 😉
    I would maybe add that the PLN has given me an invisible armour … Excuse the warlike approach to teaching, to confronting my students as if we were on a battlefield … But when I now walk into a classroom I have a whole regiment of teachers behind me 🙂 teaching can be lonely, let me repeat the age old mantra again (sorry for boring you) but once you are part of a group, it stops feeling that way. Honestly.
    I will never forget a really stressful moment last year when I was about to walk into what I dreaded would be a tough meeting. I needed support, so I posted a fb message and within minutes I had friends / colleagues sending virtual pats on shoulder and hugs. It was amazing and such an emotional moment, it’ll definitely stay with me.
    So yes, PLN works magic and I’ve let mine dormant for way too long. Time to come back 🙂

    Cheers from the Alps

    • mikecorea

      Hello to the non ninja in the Alps,
      I have been catching up on comments in the last few days and seeing yours here without a response was somewhat sad because I was excited when I first saw it because I think at the time I hadn’t seen you around much when you posted it. I hoe things are going well for you. One more (from my view) great thing about PLNs is that nobody ever blames or judges people for going dormant for a while and then welcomes them back with open arms when they can find the time. I think it is really great that the connection is already made and we don’t need to worry about this. Well, that is my view.

      I love your story here about the virtual pats on the back. It is both touching and powerful. I also really like the idea of a PLN as armor! Very cool. I loved reading and re-reading your thoughts here. Thanks so much and i hope this year is going well for you in all ways.

  4. ljiljana havran

    I enjoyed your Twitterversary post Mike, and your first tweet very much (and thanks for the link on Twitter for checking our first tweets http://first-tweets.com). I agree with everything you said here, and want to add only that how much Twitter (as well as everything else in life, actually) is interesting/fun or magical depends on the Twitterer him/herself. I Love my Twitter adventure and being with a teacher like you on Twitter 🙂

    • mikecorea

      Hi! Thanks for the lovely comments! I am very happy you are enjoying your Twitter adventure and I think you make a great point about the adventurer him/herself playing a big role in how things go. Thanks again!

  5. springcait

    An interesting post to read after a lot of work))) no joking – it was a simple pleasure. And I’m going to check the last mentioned benefit out at the BESIG conference in Bonn.

  6. Chris Cotter

    Couldn’t agree more! Participating in PLNs has helped me improve so much as a teacher. In fact, even though I realize that I give back as much as I get, I still (almost) feel guilty in just how much I get in terms of ideas and information.

    • mikecorea

      Thanks for commenting!
      (My apologies for the delay)
      I think it is interesting you mentioned almost feeling guilty in terms of how much you get out of it. That is wonderful. I think that great thing is that if lots of people share a little then everyone benefits and nobody has to feel guilty! Thanks again for commenting and I am glad your PLN has helped you improve!

  7. roseliserra

    I completely agree with all your reasons, Mike! BTW, I’ll never forget the first time I saw you online from my webcam! LOL! PLN also helps us make wonderful friends in life. One of the best I have met in person, I’ve first met online being part of my PLN which I consider to be an amazing fact! Couldn’t agree more with you! I share , I care , I get from you all and I feel part of this amazing professional world which has helped me develop more as a person as well.

  8. Pingback: Sudden and scattered thoughts on one of my mentors | ELT Rants, Reviews, and Reflections

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