lurk, like, link, lead

This is mindblowing.

Sometime in September-ish, I heard a podcast by Roland Chidiac, and he was talking with a guy named Stephen Hurley. Stephen spoke of his work in Peel Region, his connections to music, and ended with a mention of the CEA. At that moment, a few little dots connected- me to Rolland in Waterloo region, Rolland to Stephen in Toronto, and back to me in York Region. A strange triangular sensibility bubbled up, and I suddenly and overwhelmingly felt the electricity of my learning network. Initially, I was not entirely clear why my brain brought me to attention, but there was something auspicious about Stephen’s connectivity, and beyond a growing appreciation of Rolland’s digiPLN, I still could not put my finger on what signal I was receiving.

Up to that point, I can admit that my pursuit of professional learning had been slightly stilted. In short, I lurked more than I lead. I think I sat in the exact seat that many educators do, asking myself what am I going to do with the knowledge that my personal, professional learning affords me. And why should I do something with my learning? So, I started to consider how to engage at a deeper level.

What caught and held my attention was Stephen’s mention of a plan for the regional exchanges for educators to meet-greet-and-chat cross-Canada. My pedagogical stomping ground to this point was primarily locavore in nature. All of the conversations that I had ever had about the ebb and flow of education were paddocked in York Region. I checked out the CEA site, convinced myself that I had something to say, found the regional exchange offer, drafted out a proposal form to attend and interesting things started to happen. From the moment that I received the RSVP from Stephen to attend the regional exchange, I dove into lurker mode to find out more about the other attendees. Funny thing, a large number of my current digiPLN were also on the invitee list.

Confession. My cross-border shopping for professional learning has always felt a bit shameful, almost affair-like, in that, I had been sneaking away from the comfort of my region for some time. I spoke with Rolland about this passion for another learner with hushed tones when we hung out at the Toronto regional exchange. Both of us craved the connection and resources and support of a PLN that ranged wider than our home regions. And that’s when it hit me. The reason Stephen’s offer got rooted for me was that despite the coolness of connecting with educators nationwide, the real message in the signal was that I needed to start leading these connections in some way. Rolland linked me to his PLN, Stephen and the CEA became the catalyst for new directions in my PLN, and I opened myself up to new possibilities.

Many cool projects and connections have emerged post-podcast. I have connected with an amazing array of educators around Ontario. My professional blog has evolved into a portfolio of work that includes reflections, artifacts, and new media. A digi-colleague Derek Rhodenizer and I have co-created #onedmentors as a conversation and connection space in Twitter where pre-service and in-service teachers can exchange ideas. And finally [for now] I pants-kicked myself into starting my podcast, Chasing Squirrels that focusses on the impact of changes in education. My bravery did not evolve in isolation. I owe a ton of thanks to Rolland Chidiac and Derek Rhodenizer and Jen Giffen for their unabashed support of my ‘what if’ lists.

And Stephen Hurley, well he is a catalyst. He’s got that rare superpower that builds superpowers in the people around him. Yet in doing so, the challenge still remains to use the powers for something good. Through all of the tutelage of my PLN I have come to believe in my own agency and to embrace opportunity fully.

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