The New Librarian: How to build a face-to-face PLN in 3 easy steps

Here's how to get involved in the “unconference” movement

2. Edcamps
Imagine 150 to 200 teachers voluntarily coming to a professional learning opportunity on a Saturday—without pay and with no agenda. Sounds crazy? It’s happening a lot.

On a larger scale, though less frequently, edcamps help us do the same as CoffeeEDU. To host an Edcamp, pick a date and bring a roll of masking tape to make a grid for sessions. Attendees post topics they’re interested in on sticky notes and people learn tons from people just like you. There are no presenters at edcamps, but someone starts the conversation and others share their notes. Most formal edcamps get sponsors to host breakfast and then offer a half day or full day of learning delivered by—you guessed it—the attendees!

If you’ve already attended an edcamp, it may be time to organize your own.

3. Twitter
Interestingly, I discovered both of these real-life events via Twitter. Taking a few minutes a day online to catch some tweets has made a profound difference in my educational practice and brought “virtual” people into my face-to-face life. I could never have imagined how much richer my life would be from interacting, reflecting, and inviting others in. I started using Twitter by following a keynote speaker and presenter at our local state tech conference in 2009. I followed some of the people they followed and found that when I posted, a few people followed me. Today, I have more than 10,500 tweets and more than 1,500 followers.

As the saying goes, Twitter is like a waterfall—always flowing—and it’s better to jump in from time to time to catch a few drops rather than trying to catch everything. I turn on notifications for the accounts and people that I really want to follow (@GoogleForEdu, my local district, our edcamp) and I participate in our state educational technology and media specialist chats, #TechTalkGA and #GaLibChat. Other than that, I just “catch what I can” and move on.

To get started on Twitter, try searching a hashtag that interests you: #edtech, #futurereadyschools, #publicschools. Alternatively, you could try a Twitter chat. Two I recommend are #edtechchat and #futurereadylibchat. This calendar lists many more chats.

Though not a face-to-face environment, Twitter is a great way to discover face-to-face meetups as these are advertised heavily through the social media platform. Many conferences and presenters run active social media accounts that invariably lead to opportunities to meet other attendees and locate like-minded individuals in your area. At a recent CoffeeEDU meetup, I realized that I had met four other attendees through social media before meeting them in real life.

Virtual (enhances) reality
Regardless of the venue, whether it’s a conference, an unconference, or smaller collaborative event, it’s evident that educators value and seek out face-to-face interactions. Watching our peers share their successes and having organic conversations without presenters or pretense helps all of us know that we are not alone and that we have new things to master and share.

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