The purpose of a PLN is to benefit from differences and find support in a common mission. All the members of a PLN are not always going to agree. That is missing the point of the group. Even the disagreements are good for professional learning, but in order to protect the learning every member must always strive to be professional.
This weekend a very heated academic discussion rose amid several #langchat members. The conversation ebbed and flowed throughout the day Saturday and involved different participants at different times. It seemed that there were educators from two very distinct groups discussing a topic they disagreed about. The topic and the groups are not really important to the message in this post, so I am not going to make further comment about them. What I do want to say is that a PLN by nature is supposed to be a safe place to learn. Disagreement is okay, even welcome, but the participants in a PLN must agree not to berate or insult others as they learn together just because they may never meet face to face. Plus, many #langchat members purposely seek each other out for collaboration outside of the group as well as meet face to face whenever they can at conference.
Besides protecting the PLN from sheer ugliness, comments on social media are visible to anyone. Why let something that someone else disagrees about lure you into dropping your professional guard and turning into a jerk? The only thing that really happens is that the person who loses his or her cool also slams the door on anyone who might challenge them in a way they might not expect. Also, that means they are only surrounded themselves with people who think exactly like them and while this is comforting and affirming, it can also stifle growth.
The point is, keep it classy, kiddos. If you are like me you are participating in a PLN both for the agreement AND the disagreement. When you behave poorly you are doing so with a national and even international audience. Sure, you can go back and delete rude things you might have said, but you have no guarantee that someone else didn't get to them first and cement them into digital history. More importantly, the people behind the Twitter handles and Facebook profiles, etc., are people FIRST. Just because you believe something, use a method or subscribe to a certain strategy does not mean that your way is the only way. Ultimately in our community we all have the same goal: student proficiency in another language. Does it really matter HOW we get there if our destination and results are the same?
Remember, we all reap the products of the seeds we sow, good and bad. So, keep it classy, even when you don't agree.