On Wednesday the 4th of December 2013, the first Newcastle Meetup group of learning professionals took place in a local pub. It was a new experience for me because, as someone down the introvert end of the scale, I’m usually an attendee at gatherings or events but on that night I was the organiser. Even now a few days after, I remember sitting in the pub with nervous anticipation before the others arrived thinking, will they come? I hope they come, what if they don’t? It felt a bit like going on a blind date.
The group I’m talking about is called Third Place which was founded by Helen Blunden in Melbourne. Earlier this year Helen travelled to England where she met some UK members of her Personal Learning Network (PLN). This gave her the idea to start a face-to-face meet up group in the area where she lives and works.
The group is called Third Place because:
“There is much to learn from your peers – but why connect only online through social media when you can also meet in person and have a true exchange of ideas and conversations?
The Third Place is our own social space separate for our work and our home.
It is where we get together to chat and foster new connections, new networks and interactions in a social and informal setting in cafes, libraries, bars, pubs and restaurants.
It’s a chance to meet each other face-to-face after connecting online through social media such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Yammer or others and to bring your personal learning networks to life.”
I thought this was a wonderful idea and as I live outside a capital city I figured would be a great way to forge some new local connections as well as an opportunity to meet some of my local PLN. That’s when I thought that if Third Place is going to happen here in Newy, I must do something. Helen set me up as an organiser and shortly after our first Newcastle event was arranged.
I haven’t had the privilege of meeting Helen in person (well, not yet anyway!) we met and interact mostly via twitter. Even though the distance between Melbourne and Newcastle is over 1,000km it goes to show that distance isn’t a barrier how powerful social media can be in bringing people together.
Anyway, thankfully some people came to the Meetup! There were three of us, Kerry an Organisational Development Manager who works for a health insurance company (and who I’ve known personally for some time), Brendon who works in the finance industry in Learning and Development and me. I’ve only known Brendon via twitter so for me it was great to finally meet him in person. Our experience on the night was similar to the Melbourne meetups, we talked about our backgrounds, our workplaces and experiences, how we started using twitter to connect with other learning people, MOOC’s, e-learning authoring tools and plenty of general stuff too. It turns out that Brendon’s wife and Kerry know each other as they work for the same organisation! The time just flew by as we chatted and it was just as I’d hoped it would be – sharing and learning about each other.
When you meet someone in person it really does add a depth that you just don’t get from a virtual relationship. While you do have a sense of knowing someone through your interactions with them on social media, in person you get to see what someone is really like beyond their virtual persona and connect with them in a more meaningful way. As someone who works in the learning field I have an enthusiasm and need for my own learning, development and growth. A PLN is a practical way to satisfy this need as well as becoming part of a much larger – and I’m talking global – network of learning professionals. I look forward to meeting more of my PLN in the future especially those from overseas!
To find out more about Third Place click here. Feel free to sign up and if you are in or near Melbourne or Newcastle keep an eye out for upcoming events.
Our next Newcastle event is pencilled in for after work on Friday, January 17th 2014. Details to follow soon. It would be great if you could come and we can continue to expand the group!
Do you have something like Third Place where you live?