Tuesday, July 15, 2014

No Ant Left Behind

Photo by Maggie Creative Commons

     In order to survive the constant flooding, the South American red ants hold on to each other to form a raft. They can form a raft in a mere 2 minutes and can survive for months in this fashion. Researchers, at the Georgia Institute of Technology, found that the ants form even tighter bonds when the colony is temporarily submerged under water. They encapsulate themselves in an air pocket. When 1,000's of ants join together, they make a raft that is virtually unsinkable and able to withstand unpredictable waves.

     As I was planning earlier this week, I came across several articles about fire ants. Immediately, I made a connection between their survival adaptation and building a PLN. The ants pull together and strengthen each other much like we educators do. Threats to their survival only make them stronger. Separated ants are rescued by others and brought back to the safety of numbers. Their "raft" becomes unsinkable. Our PLN is much like a colony of fire ants. We work together to strengthen each other. We lift each other up. We connect. We bond. With so many challenges in education, we pull together to form even tighter bonds. Our "raft" or PLN keeps us afloat. 

     This week, I've thought a lot about how our PLN is growing and strengthening. I've been able to connect with you- a group of amazing educators who inspire me, challenge me, and make me want to be a better teacher and leader. I'm so thankful for the contributions of everyone. I value your thoughts, opinions, quotes, jokes, and the resources that you share. I recently connected with many of you via Voxer. It takes being a connected educator to a whole new level. There's something to be said about hearing the human voice. It makes sharing even more powerful. Hopefully one day, I'll have the opportunity to meet you in person. You are or are quickly becoming like family! 

     How can we make our PLN stronger? This is what I've learned so far:

  • It's not about numbers. Being new to Twitter, I've sensed that some get caught up in the numbers game. The number of Followers and the number that you are Following seems to have an importance. I don't fully understand how everything works in the Twittersphere, but it seems to me that connecting and interacting with the people that you follow is more important than the number. 

  • Real connections/conversations are important. I value the many little conversations that I've had over the past couple of weeks. Thank you for sharing your pictures and stories that are personal in nature. I've enjoyed getting to know you, your family (including pets), what you value, and the humor. (I've often caught myself laughing out loud at my computer or other device.)

  • Support fellow tweeps. It doesn't take much effort to wish someone a Happy Birthday, comment on an achievement, or at least offer to help. I often see tweets whiz by without being acknowledged in any way- tweets that seem important. They're important to the person that sent the tweet. Maybe it's the nature of Twitter. But it doesn't take much effort to favorite or retweet a message by someone you recognize.

  • Nurturing new users to Twitter etc. is essential. The Twitterverse can be a little scary at first. It's like being in a foreign country learning a new language. Thank you to the tweeps out there who have been so helpful to me. It meant a lot to me to be welcomed to a chat. It actually still means a lot.  I'm venturing out and joining several chat groups. There are teachers lurking out there (which is okay) that need a little love and kindness. They have a lot to contribute and I hope they soon find the courage to "jump in" knowing that there's a safety net of friendly educators.

     What do you think? How can we make our PLN stronger? How can we "rescue" the "ants" not in the colony so that they can experience the power and strength of being a connected educator? I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

Follow my 5th graders: "Remarkable Innovators Changing the World!"
I'm just starting the blog. We start school July 28, 2015. We'll also be on Twitter!


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