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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Why Your PLN Matters

The world is at your fingertips...I never really understood the value of that phrase. I remember my college professor would say that to us all the time. I remember at the end of high school and entering college, the internet was all of the sudden considered to be a research tool - yet many of us had no idea how to effectively utilize it. We would open up Google/Yahoo in the computer lab and type in a phrase/topic and then hit search...and then oh my goodness - magic. While the internet, as a research tool, was nothing short of amazing, never before had I learned at the speed and level as I do right now. That is because today I have a Professional Learning Network (PLN) through my new best online buddy...Twitter.

One year ago, almost to the day, my then principal - Lorraine aka @LorraineShimizu - told me I needed to get onto Twitter. As her assistant principal, I figured I didn’t have a lot of choice, so I went online and signed up. What did I do? Probably what most people do when first entering the world of Twitter...I followed anyone that could give me information on my favorite sports teams: Dallas Mavericks, Texas Rangers, Detroit Lions, and yes...even the Cowboys. Truthfully that was the end of it. All the while she was using it to share articles, relay information, reach out to our families, and grow what she called, her PLN.

A few months went by and I was given the opportunity to become the new principal of Christie Elementary. So what did I do? I took over the rights to the @ChristieCubs account and began to share information to those who followed me about what was happening… So to recap: I was sharing information and following my favorite sports teams. There is nothing wrong with this, except one major thing...I wasn’t learning anything of educational/professional value. Something had to change…

While at an educational conference in October we were asked to write our Twitter handle on our “Hi my name is _____” cards. So I wrote @ChristieCubs. It wasn’t ten minutes before several people boldly stated that I needed to get my own account. Challenge Accepted - quick note, there are a lot of people in the world named Ryan Steele - but after what felt like an hour I found a username that would work…@R_H_Steele was born.

What was the first thing I did? Well, I followed my favorite sports team reporters of course...but after that I decided I would start by following those at the educational conference. Then, here comes the truth...I looked at who @LorraineShimizu, @SKimbriel, and @matthew_arend followed so I could then follow them too. So at this point I had like 2 followers, but I was following 1,000 + people.

I made a deal with myself that I would look at Twitter at least once a day and see if there was anything valuable...within 10 days I went from checking once to checking constantly, joining EdChats, reading blogs shared through Twitter, and then connecting with other educational leaders from Australia, Toronto, California, New York, Florida and Iowa. 10 days...seriously...10 days.

Why does your PLN matter? Simply put, because I have learned more in the last six months then I can ever remember before. But it’s more than that...I have made connections, allies, and friends. I have found people who challenge my thinking and encourage me to be a better leader. In essence, my PLN is a network of people who have been willing to form a connection, a relationship really, with me...and that is nothing short of amazing.

There is so much to learn, so many things to read, so many ideas to try, and so many risks to take. A powerful PLN can offer guidance and support like nothing else, and for that reason matters.


  1. Thank you for sharing this Ryan! I am very insecure in my abilities with this technology. Thanks for making it less threatening! 😊

  2. Hate to say this partner but......I told you so! Great post Ryan.