Up until now, I will confess, that though I blogged, posted and tweeted, I never really considered the concept of a personal learning network until the last several weeks. Struck by the information Nicholas Christakis shared in his TED talk The Hidden Influence of Social Media, I was amazed at the power of social networks and how they have always played an integral role in our personal well being. In fact, our social connections can be linked to obesity, happiness and other physical and emotional states! Amazing! Christakis states that social networks have value as a source of capital. His assertion that we need to become more connected and that we must pay attention to the configurations and combinations of these connections brought home just how integral social connections have always been in our human condition, and the potential for the social media of Web 2.0 to create new and exciting social connections which can further enhance our human condition! to rephrase his metphor – we can create carbon or diamonds depending on the configuration. This may be the best argument I can think of for negating the doomsayers who think Twitter and Facebook are a waste of time.Further to this discussion comes the research of Shelly Terrel on the value of personal learning networks. Her video Why Do We Connect offers the perspectives of student and teachers citing such powerful arguments as “the freedom to learn anything, anytime from anywhere”, “to break down classroom walls”, and “24 hour professional development.”For years we have talked about reducing teacher isolation by creating professional learning communities, but for the most part this has been perceived as those communities we build within our schools or school divisions – same subject teachers with whom we have direct access. However, the reality is that sometimes this community is too small, or in the case of a specialized teacher, non-existent. Also, depending on the fluidity of the collective, there may be no new ideas or techniques explored leading to stagnant discussions and little innovation. What better way to create a wide and accessible professional communityand to energize and infuse new perspectives than to build a personal learning network? To that end I found the following video PLN – How to Build One! particularly useful, and shared it this week with a colleague who was looking for a starting point in establishing her own PLN. It outlines 5 initial steps; underscoring all of these, are the three C’s – connect, collaborate, and contribute!! Check it out and let me know if you have any other advice for those of us just beginning to explore the value of a Personal Learning Network.