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How I Grew My Twitter PLN Without Even Knowing It

So far 2013 has been quite a journey for me, both personally and professionally. But in the context of this blog, I'm going to focus on the professional/career side of things. (But hey, if you are interested in the personal side of things, my wife and I have a blog here.)

In my tenure as a Technology Coordinator, I've been to a few educational technology conferences such as NCCE and IETA, but due to several circumstances over the last few years, I have not attended many such events. Before January of 2013, I had not attended a conference in roughly 3 years, just long enough to believe I wasn't missing anything important. Boy was I mistaken!

Thankfully in January I attended my state educational technology conference in Boise. Little did I know it would be an event that would re-ignite and invigorate my energy to learn more about EdTech and reflect and evaluate all areas of how we do things in my district. The sessions at the IETA 2013 Conference were fantastic, but I'd say that the keynote, given by Dean Shareski, was the spark that got things going for me. It is funny because looking back, I distinctly remember seeing Dean in the Hotel lobby the first morning of the conference, but not knowing who he was, I did not say hello. A short time later, he gave a great keynote and got me thinking. Additionally, I got to attend some awesome breakout sessions by Zac Chase, Bud Hunt, Tim Chase, and Jennifer Gingerich. 

Up until that day, I used Twitter for entertainment only, and I really enjoyed it. But at that conference in late January, I decided to follow and tweet with some of the presenters. I was starting a PLN and I didn't even realize it. I continued to interact with those few mentioned above, and then started to naturally add Twitter users from their PLNs and slowly the network grew! If I could go back and trace the follows and Twitter interactions, it would point back to that 2 day conference in Boise. Thanks Dean!

Later, I would attend NCCE 2013 in Portland. Once again, I continued to grow my PLN, without really knowing that is what I was doing. That is the cool part. I was building a PLN without even knowing what a PLN was! A few great days and informative breakout sessions later, Portland came and went, and I had an even bigger Twitter PLN than before. I was learning so much I couldn't contain it. All I could think about was how I could go so long without knowing this!

By this time, my PLN was approaching "firehose" level of information and I was soaking as much in as I could muster. Through these new connections I soon learned of another conference called iPDX IntegratED in Portland. Unfortunately I was unable to make arrangements in time to make the conference. Later, I'd learn of this little gathering called ISTE13, and I wanted to attend that as well, but it was not meant to be. I did however discover a fantastic EdTech podcast called Techlandia by Jon Samuelson, Curt Rees, and Alison Anderson and became instantly hooked. Shortly thereafter I discovered EdTrends and another Idahoan, Dave Guymon. So, even though I didn't attend either of those conferences, I was able to continue to grow my PLN and learn more than I ever imagined. 

Along the way I've met and collaborated with too many awesome people to even begin to name them all. But I've learned more about EdTech in 6 months on Twitter than I have in 6 years as a Technology Coordinator. I hope to blog about that in my next post, as that was the original plan for this post, but it didn't turn out that way! Blogging and reflecting is not something I'm particularly strong at, but another #educhampion Twitter user named Rafranz Davis  motivated me to reflect and share. Stay tuned!


  1. There is nothing more motivating than reading your assessment of learning. I think that we all grew our PLNs before knowing what a PLN was. I almost wish that we didn't have to define PLN for people and just say...add, observe, join...add more! Repeat the process! I am so excited, even more now, to be learning with you. This has been an incredible journey of a summer of learning for all ALL....further enhanced by blogging!

    1. Rafranz, words cannot illustrate how much your encouragement and feedback have meant to me. You have made an impact on me and that will resonate to my district as well. Thank you for that.

  2. I appreciate you sharing that Simon. I also appreciate the fact that you reached out to me via twitter. It became evident very quickly you're an avid learner and thinker. I would argue many people are too and yet fail to take even that small step to connect with other smart folks. I know that you all make me smarter and life simply more interesting. THanks.

    PS, I'll be keynoting in Boise again on August 15.

    1. Dean, My words are genuine. I actually regret not saying "hey" to you that morning, but I was still in "why am I here?" mode. You changed my attitude immediately, for the better. You'll always be one of my favorites in the EdTech landscape because I think you get it. It's more than the red tape or whatever K12 mandate that is being implemented. We need to find the joy. My favorite moment was giving the bus driver of our hotel at Disneyland a substantially larger tip than normal and thanking him for "finding the joy" of his job. You started that, and I'll keep spreading it. Thank you.

  3. Simon, this is great. I love hearing about people getting on Twitter and then telling the power of it. Thanks for mentioning Techlandia too. We appreciate your support. Our paths will cross soon, but until then we will remain Twitter Friends for Life. I dedicate the #edcampstarbucks hashtag to you!!

    1. @ipadsammy seriously we need to meet in person. Within minutes of listening to you on podcasts and GHOs, I say, how do I not know this guy already? Thanks for reinvigorating my passion for K12 EdTech and all things #tech. I feel like I've known you for longer than a few months.


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