What Would Lincoln’s Fantasy PLN Look Like?

LearnFromLincoln_webpostIf Abraham Lincoln needed a professional learning network (PLN) around education, who would be in it? Frederick Douglass: definitely. Eleanor Roosevelt: maybe? Thurgood Marshall? Jaime Escalante? Greg Mortenson? Steve Jobs and George Lucas?

In Learning from Lincoln: Leadership Practices for School Success, ASCD authors Harvey Alvy and Pam Robbins show how Abraham Lincoln was a man who never stopped learning—a voracious reader who surrounded himself with disparate personalities he could learn from. His ability to draw the best from a group of talented, yet diverse individuals seems to tip to the fact that Lincoln was an original advocate of the PLN.

Alvy and Robbins also note that despite the lack of Twitter or the blogosphere in the 1860s, Lincoln leveraged state-of-the-art technology of his time. Just as the modern-day principal is never without a Blackberry, Lincoln made use of the telegraph to connect with the battlefields, query his network of advisors, and stay in touch with the citizens of the nation. In fact, Lincoln made one of the first presidential press releases via telegraph announcing victory at the Battle of Gettysburg.

Lincoln’s active engagement, visibility, and accessibility with his team of resourceful, gifted leaders and generals may have given him the edge to win the war and attain the status of an iconic American leader.

Who would you pick to be in your fantasy PLN? What tools would you use to connect that network? How could they help you overcome challenges?

Laura Varlas is an ASCD project manager in publishing, and a graduate student in the secondary education: English/language arts program at George Washington University.