15-Year-Old explains the key to developing a #PLN

7/17/2014 12:00:00 AM

Alex Laubscher and mentor Mike King at MoCCA Fest

Alex Laubscher is a cartoonist who I met this year when his mother brought him to New York City for MoCCA Fest which is an art festival for illustrators. By the age of 15 Alex developed an extensive network of others who share his love for the zine culture and illustrating.  Alex connected and developed relationships with some of the leaders in his field via Instagram. 

Laubscher has learned to produce and sell his own self-created zines.  He has learned everything he knows about his craft not through school, not through his parents or family, but via the learning network he has created for himself. He has asked for and received some terrific support in this work through his school, but for the most part school has gotten in the way of his success. His parents have been supportive of his endeavors, but by no means are they ones guiding him in this journey. Rather they are their to support him in doing their best to ensure he is safely and happily able to pursue his passion.  

In the following interview, Alex explains his tips for success in creating a professional learning network.  


Alex Laubscher http://instagram.com/alex_laubscher

Create more. Zine culture. Comics life. Coffee. RIP Kurt
High School Freshman
Syracuse, NY

Why did you build a PLN?
My dream is to be a cartoonist. I want my work and characters to be moderately household names in the comic culture and zine community. Creating my PLN has helped me with this dream.

I'm proud to say that there are many zinesters and artists that know and follow my work pretty consistently.
How did you build your PLN
i.e. What platforms did you use and how?
There were many ways that I created my PLN. The most useful one has been my instagram page where I post photos and videos of a multitude of things. I post my creative process, finished product, and mini comics and zines I’ve received from fellow artists via trade.

Another platform I have used is a site called wemakezines.ning.com, which is basically a facebook for zinesters. I also explore other creators websites, blogs, and tumblrs, where I can ask usually ask questions directly through the site, or find an email address. I also have many fans and readers that attend my high school.
How has your PLN helped you / what you care about grow
My PLN is the reason I have a fan-base. I've developed relationships with many people through trades and social media. My PLN has exposed me to many different forms and styles of art and writing. Its given me inspiration. I always look forward  to hearing peoples' opinions and receiving new reading material
Share a couple of the most powerful examples of how your PLN has been of value.
I think that its really cool to just be part of a culture. My PLN has given me a doorway to a lifestyle filled with amazing writers, artists and other creators that would have been invisible to me without it. I'm building my zine library and when I browse through my books the word that flashes through my mind as I flip through the papers is culture. Its amazing. People are being exposed to my work all over the world. places all around America, like California, and Texas, and Ohio etc... or  other places overseas like the UK, Australia, Puerto Rico, Singapore, China... its really just amazing.
Did (or would you) meet members of your PLN face-to-face. If so, how was that / why might you want to? How did you know it was safe to do so?
I've never met members of my PLN other than my family and the readers that attend my school or live locally, but if I had a chance to meet some of the acquaintances from online I definitely would.

It would nice for many reasons. Currently, I am working on a collaboration story with a fellow cartoonist that would be much easier to work on if we were in the same room.  I think that through platforms like instagram, facebook and tumblr, after a long while its kind of apparent the kind of people they are. I have been emailing  many of these people for a lengthy amount of time. Plus I like to think that I have slightly good judgment so with all these factors I think it would be safe if one of these opportunities of meeting occurred.
What is your advice for adults stuck in the mindset that you should never meet someone face-to-face that you've only met online?
My advice is that you should use your head and common sense. There are ways to know if its right to meet someone and there are safe ways to do it.

For example, my mother and I met a couple from Italy online during a Home Exchange and now we are great friends. They visit in the summer and stay in our house. we visit them and live in Rome. Rob thinks of me of his little brother and I think of him the same way. It would be horrible if I didn't have these people in my life, They are people who are now my family, because my mom was not stuck in the mindset that you should never meet anyone from online.
Was your school involved in the development of your PLN? If so, how? If not, what could your school have done to support you?
Yes, sort of a few. Yeah. But not all teachers. I've created zines solely for assignments in a few classes as an alternate assignment. I also have art teachers that have been incredibly supportive of my art. In fact, they have actually given me more than half of the art supplies I own.

Also the Assistant Principal has purchased every issue of my STRIP(er) that I have created and reached out to a friend in the comic book business to ask if he had any advice to pass along to me. He's been really supportive, especially since it’s against school policy to sell anything on school grounds and they've been behind it a hundred percent. My guidance counselor helps me get my books copied and stapled.  Its amazing.
Have your parents been involved in the development of your PLN? If so, how? If not would you want their support and how might you want them to support you?
Not really. My mom did encourage me to use Instagram but I mainly developed my learning network on my own.

Lisa Nielsen writes for and speaks to audiences across the globe about learning innovatively and is frequently covered by local and national media for her views on “Passion (not data) Driven Learning,” "Thinking Outside the Ban" to harness the power of technology for learning, and using the power of social media to provide a voice to educators and students. Ms. Nielsen has worked for more than a decade in various capacities to support learning in real and innovative ways that will prepare students for success. In addition to her award-winning blog, The Innovative Educator, Ms. Nielsen’s writing is featured in places such as Huffington Post, Tech & Learning, ISTE Connects, ASCD Wholechild, MindShift, Leading & Learning, The Unplugged Mom, and is the author the book Teaching Generation Text. 


Disclaimer: The information shared here is strictly that of the author and does not reflect the opinions or endorsement of her employer.
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