I have a friend Ed who invites educators to chat with him through our pen pal networks. The conversation is deep, but sometimes the viewpoint is too similar. A few hundred people will join in and say essentially the same thing. It's not that I learn anything different, but that I get a new vocabulary for the nuances of what I already believe.
I also have about a hundred plogs that I read. I get the journal updates and flip through stacks of paper. Sometimes I hold my binder and it feels heavy. Pages go unread and I feel guilty. I scan them quickly, attempting to extract a new idea. Extract. I'm pulling apart another's thoughts with reckless abandon, clear-cutting the nuances of language in my pursuit of knowledge.
I'm holding my heavy binder one morning when Mr. Brown walks in. "How many pages are in that thing?" he asks.
"I subscribe to over a hundred plogs?"
"I admire you. I can't read that many. I stick to ten."
"What about developing your PLN?" I ask him.
"I'd rather have a deep conversation with five to ten teachers than try and speed-talk in a crowded room of a hundred. I'm much more of a wallflower."
"Don't you feel that you are missing something?"
"Yes, but I would be missing something if I had a hundred plogs that I read. The difference is that, when I read ten plogs, I know the people. I've shared a pint with most of them. Our conversations go deeper. Sure, I miss out on learning the latest pencil developments, but that's a small sacrifice for depth."
"Can't you just subscribe to more and read less?"
"More options don't always mean better choices. I'll stick to the tiny community I have and limit my numbers deliberately. I do the same with books. I read about a book a month and I subscribe to only one education journal. I keep my PLN small on purpose."
It has me wondering if maybe my PLN is too big. Perhaps I need to step back a little from the crowded room and move closer to sharing a pint.