This question was tossed out a few weeks ago during a Twitter chat. My knee-jerk reaction was, “Of course not.” But then I decided to give it more than a cursory ponder. Five chats, 2 collaborative GHOs, 1 edcamp and a district Leadership Team event later… I went about my business carefully considering my PLN and echo chambers. District colleagues, local edu-friends, new folks and Tweeps… how much were my own ideas and beliefs simply being confirmed and encouraged in a great big pat-on-the-back called a PLN? Three observations.
Observation #1: Like-minded educators are not a bad thing.
I am always learning something even amongst people who share my point of view. I might add especially among these people. They have taken my own thinking to the next level. They bring me to The Next Step. My reaction is, “That’s exactly what I need to do!” Or “Oh my gosh! Why didn’t I think of that!”
Observation #2: When my thinking is challenged, I talk/tweet less and listen more.
Folks who challenge my thinking don’t trigger an impulsive reaction. Rather I go inward, and reflective, weighing what I believe with what I’ve heard/read. It makes sense that my less stringently held notions are most easily jostled. And rather than defend what I don’t whole-heartedly believe, I listen more closely, ask questions and consider what I know in light of what I’m learning.
Observation #3: My most confident assertions/vision/beliefs about learning come out loud and strong despite others views and comments.
On the other hand, there are aspects of teaching, learning and leadership that I’m passionate about in a way that inspires strong statements, suggestions and dialog. I’m on solid ground in these situations, at least as it applies to my experiences. Solid but not rigid.
So now what do I say to the question: Is my PLN too much of an echo chamber?
It’s never a black and white answer. Dang! Yes, I tend to follow, work with and build relationships with educators with whom I share a point of view. No, we don’t always agree. Yes, many times these like-minded folks help move me forward more efficiently than I would have alone. No, sometimes I do things and behave in ways that are contrary to my PLN. No, just by considering the amount of engagement versus think-time inspired by my PLN, there isn’t a preponderance of echo. This question is a great example. I gave it two weeks of consideration. My answer is yes and no. So what will I do now?
Outcome #1: Take more opportunities to build relationships with colleagues outside of my elementary admin circle.
Outcome #2: Expand my PLN on Twitter and Google+ to include more edudiversity: special educators, secondary educators, international educators, etc.
Outcome #3: When my echo chamber is disturbed, engage and ask more questions. Then I can listen and reflect with greater fodder for decision-making.
I wish I remembered who asked the initial question. It’s a good one to consider from time to time. How much is your PLN echoing these days?