A post I read today by Eric Sheninger on the NASSP website got me thinking.  The post is here.  He talks about the importance of leaders in education to be connected and the need for a PLN (Personal Learning Network).  I couldn’t agree more.  As a first year public school administrator, I am always looking for new information on the topics of education, educational leadership, and social justice.  This might seem weird though coming from a guy who doesn’t have a facebook account.  Let me explain…I got rid of my facebook profile years ago when I was applying for grad school for 2 reasons.  One, I didn’t want some friend from high school or college posting some stupid comment or pic that might keep me from being considered for a spot in the principalship program at The University of Texas (we all have those friends and we all have done stupid things in the past).  Two, I didn’t want facebook to take up my time if I did get in the program.  After not having facebook for almost 3 years I can honestly say I don’t miss it.

But, in the process of deleting my facebook profile (which never really goes away) I signed up for a social networking site that was new to me…twitter.  My first few experiences with twitter were awkward as I tried to figure out exactly what you were supposed to do with it.  I followed athletes and sports accounts and waited for them to post some really cool picture of something that wasn’t really that cool and definitely wasn’t that important.  I dabbled with posting updates myself.  You know the ones…”Sitting in my living room watching football” or “Check out this pic of the food I’m eating!”  Because we all know that everyone on twitter is interested in that!

Over time though I started figuring this whole twitter thing out and began to follow people that actually had something to say…and what they were saying was really  good!  I drew back from posting so many insignificant updates about my food (although once in a while the food is really worth it!) And, I was really learning a lot about topics that I cared about.  Again, topics like education, educational leadership, and social justice.  But I ran into a problem.  The more people you follow on twitter the quicker your timeline fills up!  I couldn’t keep up.  There were so many links to so many good articles, but if I spent my time reading all of them and trying to keep up with them I would never actually get any work done!

So, I discovered another site that has now become my best friend…instapaper.  Instapaper is great because it allows you to save links to articles straight from your twitter timeline.  And it works with twitter apps as well.  So now, as I’m scrolling through a cluttered timeline at some point during the day, if I see a link to an article that sounds interesting, I just save it to my instapaper account.  Then, when I get home, I have a whole list of links to articles that I wanted to read, that were posted by people I follow on twitter.  If it ended up being an article I didn’t care about, I delete it.  If it ended up being a really good article that I might want to reference later, I archive it.  I am constantly reading and learning from some of the great leaders in education and I’m able to do it in real time and can organize it in a way that allows me to not miss an article and not get fired! (Because I would be spending all day trying to read the articles in my timeline instead of molding young minds.)

This, along with many other reasons, is why I think it’s important for anyone working in education to have a twitter account.  We have to be consumers of information.  Constant consumers of information.  Information that is current and important.  If we aren’t doing this then we become stagnant in our work and complacent in our profession.  Twitter and instapaper allow me to stay up to date and I don’t have to wade through all the boring pictures and status updates on facebook (sorry facebook users) or search the internet for great articles. And it also allows you to communicate with these great educational leaders as well, which I hope to do through this blog and my twitter account. (@brianpaulhill)

So, thank you Eric Sheninger for your great post and for helping to add to my educational knowledge bank.  I hope other educators are encouraged to set up their own PLN’s as well.

You can follow Eric Sheninger on twitter at @NMHS_Principal