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From Virtual to Physical Connections

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.

Melb to New

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?

Third Place

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Posted by on December 7, 2013 in Personal Learning Network

 

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Exploring Personal Learning Networks: O Week

Earlier this week, the Exploring Personal Learning Networks open online seminar that I’ve enrolled in began. This will be my second MOOC experience and I’m looking forward to growing my PLN and strengthening relationships with other members of my network who are also participating. I wrote a post a few weeks ago where I started to think generally about PLN’s. I’m sure this seminar will provide an opportunity for me to connect, explore, think, reflect, and engage with others about this interesting and emerging area.

One of the things to do this week was to try something new. For me it was using Google+ which something quite new to me – hangouts, circles, posting to different sections. While a little frustrating at times, I’m finding that Google+ is pretty cool and I’m getting used to it with a little help from my friends.

It’s been terrific to start making connections with other participants by reading their backgrounds and getting to know them a little bit. In some posts that I’ve read, people have created a visual for their PLN. My version looks like this:

My PLN

There’s me at the centre of the network. I’ve put the Twitter and WordPress logos next as they have been the main two tools that have connected me to others in what I now know is my PLN. The surrounding circles represent different levels of contact and interaction between me and other people. The closer they are to the centre, the stronger the connection. The network itself isn’t fixed, people move in and out, some stay close for a long time and others for a shorter period. In a way it reflects relationships we have in our everyday lives. Each person within my PLN would probably have their own diagram similar to above which increases the interconnectedness between everyone. The thing about PLN’s is that some people might be aware they are part of your network and other my not even know. After all, you don’t send out a welcome pack and issue membership cards!

The rapid expansion of my PLN has come via the use of twitter. About a year ago, I started using twitter as an experiment to see how it works. At the time, I followed Cathy Moore and Ryan Tracey as I knew they were in the learning field and I was a reader of their blogs (I also followed friends and a few celebrity types). Back then I was an infrequent user. It pretty much stayed that way for a long time and then I found a few more learning practitioners and I started looking at articles and retweets they posted which led to discovering more people. I noticed some people were quite active and others not so much. It was the links from one to another that have led to the growth of my PLN. I’ve since ditched the celebrities and I’d say that about 95% of the people I follow on twitter working in the learning and related fields. I’m learning much more via informal channels now. On the downside, the larger your PLN the more information is coming through and as a result, I’m sure I miss stuff coming through but that’s ok because chances someone else may pick up on it and share again.

One of the themes that we’ll be working towards during the next few weeks is the use of PLN’s in an organisational context. At this early stage, I’m a little uncomfortable with this. I think this is because for me, my PLN is separate from my organisation and I’m in control of it. My organisation, still benefits from what I’m learning but its informal and I engage with my network in my own time. My concern is that if organisations become involved things could change and I’ll lose that level of control and it won’t be the same – my world’s could collide! (maybe watch the clip if you don’t know what happens when world’s collide).

Anyway, I’m looking forward to this learning experience and where it takes us.

learn-network-op1-crop

 
 

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