Do you know what the above photograph is of? If you said Aspen trees, you'd be right. But look closer. This particular photograph is made up of hundreds of tiny pictures to create a mosaic image of the original. Why? Well, for one reason, being a participant and a collaborator in a participatory culture is essential for success nowadays. Nobody can go it alone and expect to be successful. Just like the images in this picture come together to reveal a larger message, likewise do professionals come together to create something larger than themselves. For another reason, the Aspen Grove is a great metaphor for participating in a PLN. By yourself, sustainability is difficult. With a group of like-minded folks, thriving happens automatically. Aspen trees may look like individual plants in a forest, but just below the surface is a series of interconnected roots that connects every Aspen tree to every other tree. They share resources to help sustain each other and function like a gigantic, singular organism. In fact, they may be one of the largest organisms on the planet because they are so deeply rooted together. They may also be one of the oldest, as scientists think some Aspen Groves have been around for tens of thousands of years, and their presence indicates an ancient forest. They have longevity, sustainability, and dependability.

Aren't those the qualities we'd like to have as educators? Wouldn't it be great to know that what we do can be done for a long time, and that we have other professionals we can depend on for resources, advice, and bouncing ideas off of?

To become a part of that "Aspen Grove Mentality," one only needs to join in the conversations that are taking place all around them. This can be as simple as popping into the classroom next to yours and offering to share materials or asking advice, but with the addition of Internet opportunities, finding your own personal learning network is even easier.

(Aspen Grove metaphor originated by Janet Hale)