Tag: PLN

7 Years of Blogging

Something I noticed today made me get all reflective…

On December 8, 2006, I wrote and shared my first blog post, something about educating parents about Web 2.0 tools. That’s a quick 372 weeks, 2603 days ago. Since then:

  • 265 posts, an average of 1 every 9.8 days or so.
  • 25,316 views (Half of which are possibly my mother, I’m sure.), or a little more than 10 per day (since Jun 4, 2007, actually, but close enough).
  • 588 comments (not sure how many are my replies–I do try to respond), which is about 2.3 per post.
  • 62 pings (other folks’ sites or blogs linking to my posts)
  • Visitors from all 50 states and 135 countries
True story: I once bought a t-shirt with this on it. (Pretty much gave up being cool right after college.)

True story: I once bought a t-shirt with this on it. (Pretty much gave up being cool right after college.)

So, what does this mean? (It definitely means I don’t have the most popular blog on the Web, for one thing.) Importantly, that first post on December 8th represented the first day I started building my PLN–first blog conversations, then Twitter, Google+, etc. Too many great, professional and personal conversations to count. Imagine the challenges connecting with even a fraction of those numbers of folks only 15 years ago. That post led to others and to the first reader comment (Thanks, Jeff Whipple–my co-workers still make fun of me for an over-the-top celebration of getting a comment from a stranger.), the first conversations, numerous collaborations, and genuinely close friendships. It also was the start of some healthy and productive reflection. I never liked diaries or journals. Hated ’em, in fact. Yet blogging has somehow been something that I have enjoyed and stuck with, and it has helped me grow as a person and professional. I liken it to people who talk to themselves to sort out their thoughts, only someone occasionally eavesdrops and chimes in to find out what you are talking about.

Over these 7 years, I’ve read opinion pieces saying blogging is dead or has already died. Thankfully, those writers get paid to write nonsense (I do it for free–yea!), and I look forward to doing this for the foreseeable future. I encourage every single educator to give it a shot, too. Professional reflection is a very worthwhile exercise, even if you don’t load up on comments (Don’t discount the possibility, though!). While you’re at it, get your students blogging. It is a great opportunity to apply writing skills, share with an authentic audience, and start putting together a record of their growth as students and individuals. On top of that, it is quite simply a truly pleasurable undertaking. Thanks for reading (not just you, Mom)!

60 Seconds to a Better PLN

VERY quick video follow-up to the previous blog post and podcast. Hopefully, this will answer some of the questions I’ve received from a few Twitter newcomers.

The PLN, Twitter, and You

For those who don’t wan’t to invest the full 9 minutes or so involved in listening to my latest podcast, here is my 5-step plan to growing a PLN using Twitter.

  1. Get started. Sign up and get set up to use Twitter with whatever tool you like best. That might be using the Twitter website, a mobile app (I use Echofon at this time.), or a desktop app (e.g. Tweetdeck, Echofon, Hootsuite, Janetter, etc.). Use whatever you find best suits you and enables you to read or post quickly when you have a few minutes.
  2. Learn those hashtags. Some great, general education related tags include #edchat, #education, #edtech, and #txed (particularly aimed at Texas educators).
  3. Read. Search for posts with the specific tags you’re looking for, then read a few. You’ll quickly find someone talking about something that will interest you.
  4. Respond. Talk back to them, and when you do, include their @username and the #hashtag for the conversation.
  5. Follow. Click that button and start receiving regular tweets from folks talking about the things that matter to you. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how many immediately follow you back, especially if you post good questions and are willing to share.

If you will do these simple things, you will quickly have a burgeoning, online network of educators ready to engage in important conversations.

As an afterthought, a few other little tips came to mind. First, be sure to create a reasonably detailed description when you set up your account. That helps convince profile viewers that you are a professional worthy of following. Secondly, don’t “protect” your tweets. If other educators are window shopping for their own network, they need to see what types of information or questions you share in order to make an informed decision. If you’re primarily talking about teaching and learning, why would you not want someone reading it, anyway? Finally, reply. Unless you are Shaq, you will likely never have more followers than you can reasonably expect to respond to. If they’ve taken the time to address a tweet to you, it is discourteous not to respond. It’s not a conversation until more than one are talking, is it?

 

Facilitating Lifelong Learning by Teachers: The PLN

We in education are fond of using the phrase “lifelong learners” as a primary goal for our students. Certainly, if such a goal is truly worthwhile for our students, it would logically be worthwhile for us, as well. Much of the learning that educators engage in is based upon traditionally presented staff development opportunities, usually selected by administrators. Much rarer is the self-initiated type of learning that might be characterized as the “teacher-scholar” model. I would assert that this type of learning is actually the most beneficial, as it will be focused on the educator’s own needs and those of his/her own students. The challenge is in the creation of an atmosphere that encourages such independence. Certainly, creating the time needed to practice such learning is difficult, and there is a need to provide guidance, showing teachers how to locate and evaluate resources, and how to critically apply new knowledge in their classroom practices.

Internet visualizationOne of the greatest benefits of social web technologies for me and thousands of other educators has been the ability to build powerful personal learning networks, or PLNs. These are groups of educators, consutants, researchers, and visionaries whose ideas and input help one another grow professionally by asking questions, prompting discussions, sharing resources, etc. Much of what I have learned and put into practice in terms of technology has come as a direct result of the interactions with my own PLN, accompanied with independent research and the input of my talented co-workers.

The question of how best to creat a PLN is certainly a wide-open one, and there are perhaps as many answers as there are individuals. However, I would suggest a few tools that facilitate connected learning as a means to begin.

  1. Blogs. Blogs are powerful tools for creating PLNs. As a tool for self-expression, they allow a user to share ideas or ask questions of a global audience. The types of responses a blog generates depends largely upon the types of questions or concepts shared. However, it also depends heavily on becoming an active member of the blogging community as a reader/responder. The new blogger should seek out blogs that address similar topics to their own, read as many as they can, and offer inciteful responses or ask questions that extend discussions. Blog response forms include the ability to link to a responder’s own blog. Very often, a thoughtful reply will cause a reader to click through to the linked blog, generating traffic and adding new members to the blogger’s PLN. To locate relevant blogs, a search tool such as Technorati or Google’s Blog Search can be used. Additionally, most blogs contain a blogroll, a list of recommended and related blogs, which can be very helpful in locating outstanding resources. Utilize RSS readers, such as Google Reader or Bloglines, to help keep readings manageable and organized.
  2. Professional networks. A wide variety of professional networks exist that focus on various educational subjects. Facebook, the social networking site, has many groups focused on education, and these groups can be easily found through a simple search. Facebook groups often engage in online discussions of topics or issues of interest, host online events, or arrange live meetings. Ning has numerous groups focused on educational issues. One of the largest is the Classroom 2.0 group, which has grown to over 15,000 members. Members share resources, blog posts, discussion forums, participate in online events, and more. If a Ning group does not exist that meets an educator’s needs, it is a very simple process to create one of their own, focused on their own goals, and to invite other professionals to participate in the PLN.
  3. SharingShared bookmarks. Participating in onling bookmarking communities has provided me with literally hundreds of useful sites, online articles, new blogs, and more. Two sites I have used are Delicious and Diigo. Diigo has become my personal favorite, as it has tools that easily facilitate the creation of and participation in groups. I have discovered and shared resources as a part of local, state, and global groups using Diigo.
  4. Twitter. I’ve certainly addressed the usefulness of Twitter before. Twitter is a microblogging platform that is used for everything from documenting/sharing the relatively insignificant details of daily life to finding answers to questions posed to broad audiences to sharing valuable resources. The usefulness of Twitter can be enhanced through the use of Tweetdeck on other, similar tools, which go beyond sharing or reading updates to the creation of groups, which allows messages or questions to be sent to specific Twitter followers.

George Siemens, the creator of the theory of learning called Connectivism, has identified several key trends in learning as it is occuring today that are important for teachers to consider, not only for their students, but for themselves:

  • Many learners will move into a variety of different, possibly unrelated fields over the course of their lifetime.
  • Informal learning is a significant aspect of our learning experience. Formal education no longer comprises the majority of our learning. Learning now occurs in a variety of ways – through communities of practice, personal networks, and through completion of work-related tasks.
  • Learning is a continual process, lasting for a lifetime. Learning and work related activities are no longer separate. In many situations, they are the same.
  • Technology is altering (rewiring) our brains. The tools we use define and shape our thinking.
  • The organization and the individual are both learning organisms. Increased attention to knowledge management highlights the need for a theory that attempts to explain the link between individual and organizational learning.
  • Many of the processes previously handled by learning theories (especially in cognitive information processing) can now be off-loaded to, or supported by, technology.
  • Know-how and know-what is being supplemented with know-where (the understanding of where to find knowledge needed).

Wired brainI highlighted terms that are particularly relevent to the use of technology tools to create PLNs. Siemens also proposes that learning involves making connections (networks), accessing a “diversity of opinions,” knowing where to find information, and being able to ensure that information is current. If, indeed, these ideas are the way of the present and immediate futures for our students, then they should also be the applied ideals for our own, professional learning. It does require a dramatic paradigm shift, from the traditional practice of absorbing knowledge that is force-fed by school administrators, knowledge that is often well-founded in research but not necessarily applicable to all recipients. It also requires a new level of personal responsibility and effort. Fortunately, technology offers many useful tools to facilitate this type of learning efficiently. By utilizing these tools, I would assert that the rewards for both the student and the educator are greater, and both will remain better-equipped for the future that is evolving before us.

What say ye?

© 2020 The Moss-Free Stone

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

Skip to toolbar