The Missing Word in PLN is “People”
I just returned from my 1981 Teacher’s College Reunion. Our class of 20 were hand picked in 1980 to inaugurate a new program at Queen’s University’s Faculty of Education, also called Duncan McArthur Hall, in Kingston, Ontario. We were OEE 1981- Outdoor and Experiential Education- and we started our program in the spring of 1980, wrapping up in May of 1981 on an alternative education study tour of the North East US and Canada. We had spent 13 months together, and we became quite a dynamic, connected, and supportive group. We shared a passion for the outdoors, learning and teaching. We were joined in the fall of 1980 by another 20 students, who contributed even more to the amazing skills and knowledge of the original group. Many of us became educators, some school administrators, some lawyers, police officers, trainers, a priest and even a few outdoor educators!
The group shared many similar values, and each person brought a different experience and skill set to the group. We learned a lot of skills one from another, as well as knowledge. Some were expert paddlers, some wilderness leaders, rock climbers or naturalists. Others came with a wealth of experience working with child or adult learners. Many had travelled abroad, one had sailed part way around the world. With this amazing diversity of skills, we built the most amazing personal learning network, because we challenged one another to reach the skill level of each others’ area of expertise. And learn we did.
We were the basis of today’s PLN because we were a group of PEOPLE that supported one another to learn, the key here being people! The most important part of a PLN is the PEOPLE from whom you learn, not the technology or medium through which you learn it! This raises the point that as learners, we need to make sure we have people in our PLN to whom we relate well, who are supportive and connected.
Who is in your PLN? What connection do you have with them? How will you connect with them? What can you learn from them?
Our group held our reunion in the wilderness of northern New Brunswick, in the exact same place where we set off on our careers over 31 years ago. We’ve kept in touch over the years, and met on occasion to catch up. As our group reminisced, we found that we continued to share many values and passions for learning that we did at the beginning of our careers. It was people who made the difference. They always will.