So much more than a personal learning network

A little over a week ago, my Dad passed away after a four year battle with lung cancer.  Wrestling with the loss, I wrote to him here on the Radical.

For me, writing to my Dad made sense simply because he read everything that I wrote.  My post was one way for me to say thank you and goodbye to him all at once.  I felt better after finishing it even if I was silently crying in the back of the McDonalds where I was writing.

The interesting twist is what happened next.

Dozens and dozens of readers started sharing kind words and warm thoughts with me in comments that streamed in over the course of three or four days.  Word spread through Twitter after a few people shared my tribute to Dad there, leading to another steady flow of digital love.

Each comment and message meant the WORLD to me, y’all.  I found myself catching my breath during the whirlwind of the past week by reading a few new messages at a time — and every time that someone stopped by to wish my family well, it made me smile for a minute.


That got me thinking about the fact that what I’ve built using social tools in the past few years is so much more than a personal LEARNING network.

Sure, we learn together.  I write and curate web resources connected to #edtech and #edpolicy for you.  You write and curate web resources connected to #edtech and #edpolicy for me.  We ask and answer each other’s questions.  We offer just in time support that makes us all better educators.

But somewhere along the line, our togetherness reached a tipping point that goes far beyond learning together.  We went from a group of people who were simply learning from each other to a group of digital friends who genuinely care about each other as people beyond our profession.

I’m not exactly sure where or when or how that happened — but I’m jazzed that it did.  You are so much more real to me today than you were a week ago because I know that you care about me — not just the content that I create.

Better yet, I’m more convinced than ever that today’s kids need to learn how to build their own digital networks too.  Not just because digital networks can make them more efficient and effective professionals, but because digital networks are living, breathing places to belong.

And having places to belong just plain matters to EVERYONE.

Any of this make sense?


Related Radical Reads:

This One’s for You, Dad

Technology Facilitates Connections

The Importance of a PLN

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