I am sitting at a corner table, sipping my coffee, trying to catch up on email while I wait for the Apple store to open at the mall.
First one and then another arrives, laptop in hand, heading to the back banquette of the Panera. This is obviously where they regularly hang out. They greet one another eagerly, then immediately get to work. There is lots of laughter as they share ideas, tips, opinions. One of them reaches eagerly across several others to point at a screen. Another says, "Hey, look what I found."
I can't help myself, so I ask them, "You are teachers, aren't you?"
"How'd you know?" the one on the end asks.
"Who else would be gathering together to provide support for one another as they learn Web 2.0 tools?" I could say. But I am more impressed by their spirit of collaboration, their willingness to take risks and help each other out with such collegiality, their eagerness to learn. It is exciting to eavesdrop on their learning process.
"Which school?" I ask. "I'm a teacher too."
"Spring Branch," one informs me.
I ask to take their picture for my blog, and they blush and say sure, but they aren't experts at this or anything. They're still learning.
"Keep at it" I tell them as I pack up. I know the Apple store is probably packed by now, and I have to go. "Good luck with everything."
Months later, I stumble on their picture in my files. They are two weeks into the beginning of the school year now. Maybe they've been implementing something of what they learned by sharing with one another over the summer. Maybe they email one another for help; maybe they still meet on Saturdays at the Panera. I hope so.
I hope they are doing what it takes to keep their community of sharing and learning going. I hope they are adding to this nascent personal learning network by meeting other teachers online and sharing their learning process in blogs. (See Renee Hawkins's earlier blog on "The Connected Teacher.")
I also hope they can reflect on their collective learning experience and understand how they can bring that experience into their classrooms. Do their students come into their classrooms eagerly sharing what they are learning? Are their students gathering in a comfortable space, teaching each other, exploring new tools and resources? Are their students learning how to network and learn and share and network and learn and share...?
I hope so. "Good luck. Keep at it," I whisper across the Internet with this blog. I'm sorry I was so much in a hurry that I didn't get your names. I am sorry we didn't share and connect so that our learning could continue. "I'll look for you at Panera," I'm thinking.
PS. I tried to find a good definition of a PLN because I wasn't satisfied with the one on Wikipedia, which I link to above. Any suggestions?