Packing Up the PLN

What's in your move-out box?

Moving from one job always invokes the image of walking out at the end of day with a cardboard box filled with the last contents of your desk: your lamp, a favorite plant, the bobblehead gift from your students. For an international teacher, it’s usually even more drastic– you’re not only packing up your desk, but your suitcases as well! Digital-age teachers want to be able to carry out all of the materials they’ve created in their old position, too: lesson plans, rubrics and student work all exist virtually, usually across many websites and accounts, which might be linked to a school e-mail account which is about to become invalid. With digital artifacts spread out around the Internet, how does a digital teacher “pack the box?”

As I’m transitioning to my next position, I’m thinking about the most effective and efficient way that I can keep the important resources that I want to carry with me in a way that I can find them when I unpack in my next virtual office space. And since American Airlines is unlikely to give me unlimited free baggage just for being such a swell guy, I’ve got to put as much online as possible.

The end-of-the-year desk cleaning is a great opportunity to pick what to keep and what to get rid of, so I’m applying the same process to my PLN. In particular, I have too many redundant tools floating around, results of experiments for my class and on the behalf of my faculty. The first step is to reduce, condense and eliminate. My sacred rule for PLNs:

Tillinghast's 1st Law of PLN Happiness

Tillinghast’s 1st Law of PLN Happiness

After I consolidate to reduce as much noise as possible, I’m going to archive whatever materials I want to take with me and keep. While there are myriad models of organizing your PLN, mine breaks down into five basic categories. As a final step, I’ll choose my favorite tools from those that I’ve experimented with over the last couple of years in these five categories:

  • Inputs – How does material come in to me?
  • Outputs – How do I share material?
  • Networks – How do I network with individuals and expand my circles?
  • Archiving – How do I save the materials that I want to keep accessible?
  • Contact Management/Communication – How do I stay in touch with individuals?

At the end of my process here, I should have my notes easily accessible, any artifacts that I’ve created in my old position ready to take with me if useful, and my contacts and PLN ready to transition into a new position, region and school.


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