Collaboration is an essential part of being a “good” educator. I am of the opinion that we cannot be effective, current, or mentally healthy without teamwork. Today I reflect on how collaboration has enhanced my professional world in order to get a badge for completion of the Extend Collaborator Module.  I might as well count this in my 9x9x25 challenge since I think I went on some tangents that fit those criteria.

rawpixel / Pixabay

√ Explored Resources

Over the course of the past year, I have explored various resources both within and outside of the modules to expand my collaborator skills. Not only do I teach the value of collaboration to my students, one of my career goals is to become less of a lead on projects and more of a facilitator of other peoples’ awesomeness. I have purposely set out to engage with teams on projects I could have done alone – the result is consistently better than solo endeavours. To be quite honest, the best source of professional development for collaboration is actually collaborating with other people. Just try it!

Side note: Collaborators do need to be selected strategically so everyone has a role on a team project. Each person on the team shold add value in some way. Sometimes it is okay to be unsure what your value is at the beginning as long as you are comfortable stepping up or out at some point. Collaborating for learning, which is the focus of this post, is much less formal.

√ Twitter has become one of many sources of interaction with my personal learning network (PLN). It is my main source of information from organizations like eCampusOntario and conferences.

√ Engaged with key people

eCampusOntario and the Cambrian Teaching and Learning Innovation Hub have changed my life. I am not only saying that because I am currently seconded to the Hub. Before the hub existed I was feeling a void in my professional life and I didn’t know about eCampusOntario. Simply put, I was becoming dissatisfied with my impending stagnation. Problem solved – maybe too well.

Jessica O’Reilly is an inspiration. Sure, we tweet at each-other but the real magic happens when you hear her speak. If you get a chance to listen to her present or talk to her do it. It always amazes me how she draws connections and empowers people. Seriously, I swear she will make you think things are your own idea with her nurse-like therapeutic approach to problem-solving in the context of your situation. I think she has a secret black belt in ninja mind tricks.

Sarah Wendorf is like a mastermind of project management. Before I joined the Hub team I went to a meeting an watched her organise it like a boss. After modelling her approach when I lead meetings my meeting productivity is now at a whole new level. Also, run any instructional design issues by her and get awesome quick tips. They make me look way better than I feel.

Mel Young knows how to design a course properly. She blows my mind with her simple yet effective tips like this one:

Sidney is discussed below. I follow him for his insights into data analytics, research and ethics – because I love those things. We also teach very similar courses in different programs so I am always on the lookout for interprofessional collaboration opportunities. I have a feeling there will be many more next year.

Mel Lefebvre is a new-old friend. We went to the same grade school then lost touch – but she is back! Being around her is inspiring. You should follow her blog.

Alan Levine was introduced to me through Extend in August 2017. He is a true Domain of My Own inspiration.  Before I met him I failed at running my own website and had pretty much dismissed that idea. Last I checked I have 14 websites running, most of which are in fairly regular use. Every time he blogs or we talk I learn something new or add it to my “huh – figure this out later” list. If you ever get a chance to talk to him or be part of one of his live sessions – clear your calendar! Maybe one day I will understand half of the magic he works online.

Many others could make this list, but I need to keep this blog post from eating up my time to tackle my endless to-do list. There are many more, particularly in-person connections on campus. Here are a few surprising connections that have come from Twitter.

It all started with a Tweet.

My connection with Rajiv Jhangiani is primarily through Twitter. He is a huge advocate for open education, something I am very interested in. A little less than a year ago I wanted to present at the BC festival of learning (at that time I thought I was going) but thought it would be more powerful if I collaborated. I send him a message through Twitter to see if he or anyone he knew would be interested in collaborating. They needed to be interested in open video production. He responded by suggesting some people and channels I could explore.

A couple of brave strangers collaborated with me on the presentation. I ended up live streaming, which was pretty awesome since I could not attend in person. It was an amazing experience that would not have happened without the openness to collaboration and networking of my personal learning network. The presentation was definitely enhanced by the hours of thought-provoking discussions we had in advance of the presentation (click here for a related post). I hope we can do it again someday!

Many things start with a Tweet. Sometimes even friendly ghosts remind you to get started on that thing that you really should have already done. My most memorable prompt was the one below from my new best connection in data analytics – Sidney. He is fun to follow and amazingly productive in real life. I look forward to many potential collaboration opportunities with his brilliant mind.

I follow many other people and even some hashtags using tweet deck as often as I can. Whenever I need to disengage from Twitter I feel like I am missing something, but survival is also important. Twitter is like fun PD.

Beyond Twitter

Most of my twitter contacts are also connected to me outside of Twitter. Colleagues I see, text or meet with inside and outside of my organisation are excellent sources of collaboration as well. Sidney invited me to a writing group, I am an RNAO member, and stay connected with some retired colleagues through Facebook. I could write a book about personal learning networks. Instead, it is on my to-do list from a long time ago to do a video (sorry Terry – still haven’t done it).

Steve is someone that to my knowledge is not on Twitter. In fact, his digital footprint is hard to find to link to. I did find him on Facebook once, but was hesitant to send him a friend request because I am so public and Educators do not need to be plugged into Twitter to be a valuable part of a personal learning network. I think Steve and I are opposites in many ways. Our dialogue over the course of almost a year served as the basis for a presentation we did last spring where we sparked a conversation about the influence of artificial intelligence in education. A presentation I could not share openly. A presentation in which our contrasting perspectives were apparent and an interesting example of working through differences. One thing we agree on is the value of collaboration. We often discuss this value. Our relationship provides a case and point for collaboration. His insights and perspective have been thought-provoking and our honest conversations have shaped how I approach others because I can be more informed. No Twitter was required – We talk over the phone or e-mail.

Likewise, many members of my collaborative nursing program like Lynn Smith are quite valuable connections to have. She is awesome for running research ideas by. They may be technically on Twitter but not engaged in it. The best way to collaborate with them is through phone or email.

√ Activities to Cultivate my PLN

  • See above/below.
  • I have a goal to network externally through coffee chats, but it is currently on hold because I am working too much overtime. If you are interested I am still scheduling them – I just don’t initiate them as much as I would like.
  • Frequent Hub team meetings occur where we share information from our PLNs and discuss project priorities. Talking to your PLN about what they have learned from their PLN is an awesome way to find new connections.
  • I follow people selectively on Twitter. Unfollowing people whose interests do not align with mine is equally important as following those that do.

√ Extending my PLN

One good way to extend a personal learning network is connecting with people at conferences. I get to go to one next week. Watch me at any conference and you will see me walk up to random strangers and introduce myself. That, to me is the best part of conferences. I have also made some of my best connections that way.

I get to meet really inspiring people like Tony Bates, Dean Shareski, and James Lang (ok he came to Cambrian). There are tremendous opportunities for collaboration where our interests intersect. Some of the people I meet are quite interested in collaboration on a project.

My problem is a lack of time for adequate follow through. Last year I started sending follow-up emails to the contacts of people whose nametags I had snapped a picture of. Some of those people have been absorbed into my PLN on Twitter or LinkedIn (which I don’t use). It would be nice to connect with a conversation again when time allows. I have added to my list of future goals reconnecting with these people. I added it to November – hopefully, it doesn’t get chopped again due to time constraints.


My PLN feels like this ….

geralt / Pixabay

Mapping my PLN accurately is a daunting task. I engage on so many platforms and in so many ways it is hard to map it.

I did offer that Sidney could analyse my Twitter network anytime he wanted. He seems to like those complex maps of connections. He even does it in his classes. Following his lead, I mapped my Twitter presence. According to SocioViz these are the most active members of my Twitter network. It is likely missing some data because I tweet too much.

Those diagrams are fairly complex but interesting. I didn’t know how far the connections went. I have actually recently been questioning if my Twitter presence matters much. I think it matters more than I knew.

Below is my diagram. It is rather simplified because so many people and organizations can fit on it. Also, the diagram and strength of the lines change often – my PLN is dynamic.


Laura Killam


Laura Killam is an experienced nursing educator from Northern Ontario with a keen interest in improving student learning through innovation. For more information please visit


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