Tag Archives: PLN

Wrangling and Managing a Personal Learning Network

flickr photo shared by Mathias.Pastwa under a Creative Commons ( BY-ND ) license

Note: This post is an extended reflection from the EdTech Team’s Teacher Leader Certification Program. I am participating in the initial cohort.

Organizing a PLN is a kind of continual chase. I try just about everything if I have heard of it. I am always investigating tools to see what they do, if I will like them, how they might make things easier or a better experience.

If I just focus on Twitter, there is a constellation of Twitter apps that I tend to use. I like Tweetdeck for certain kinds of tasks. For instance, if I am at an event and live tweeting Tweetdeck is definitely a tool of choice. I like to keep those streams flowing fast.

Sometimes, I may even have a separate tab open with a single Twitter open if I want to track something like a separate tag or person and keep the flow slow and manageable. It all kind of depends on the need or specific use.

I also like to occasionally use Storify to assemble streams of tweets for a specific event in a more formal, presentational way, whether I am physically present at an event or not.

For managing multiple accounts, something  I do lot less than I once did, I like HootSuite more. I also like to keep fewer streams moving slower in HootSuite. It just seems to work best that way. I particularly like the AutoScheduling feature and wish I used it more. Yet, I tend to use the constellation of Twitter tools more on the hoof. So I don’t spend an immense amount of time strategically planning a lot of tweets, although I have tinkered about with it occasionally.

Yet, I tend to use Twitter and associated tools more on the hoof. So I don’t spend an immense amount of time strategically planning a lot of tweets, although I have tinkered about with it occasionally.

I have used Buffer to schedule tweets too but have never latched onto it with the same interest as some of these other tools mentioned.

I have been using Pocket for a couple of years now and like it. I tend to use it most in conjunction with Twitter. I have to admit though that I do not go back to a lot of things I mark in Pocket as much as I ever thought I would. Instead, it becomes a bit like a filtered database of material that I might search, a bit like Diigo or Delicious. I still use those too.

I will also mention Itsy. It is a downloadable Twitter app that runs locally and is visually very simple and clean. I like the look of it more than anything. Sometimes, I will keep it open along the left side of my desktop, alongside other windows I have open and doing other things. It blends in nicely and allows me to monitor Twitter loosely without it being quite as distracting.

Actually, I like to use different tools for different purposes. I tend to favor a set of simpler tools that do one or two things elegantly over a single one that tries to do everything. Plus, I periodically tinker around with a handful of recipes in IFTT tweaking how I track, collect, and share resources. It is a never ending process, for me. I try to take time to just play occasionally.

Periodically, I tinker around with a handful of recipes in IFTT, tweaking how I track, collect, and share resources. For example, if I save something to Pocket I automatically tweet it. Messing about with PLN organization and using a tool loke IFTT is a never ending process, for me. I try to make time to just play occasionally.

On the Origins of a Personal Learning Network

flickr photo shared by Cea. under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

Note: This post is an extended reflection from the EdTech Team’s Teacher Leader Certification Program. I am participating in the initial cohort.

General Thoughts

Early in my teaching career, I was fortunate enough to get involved in with the National Writing Project. Becoming part of that network of K-U educators, kind of kickstarted the development of my own personal learning network as an educator on a digital front. Of course, I “followed” other educators prior to attending a summer institute, but NWP influenced me in countless ways, leading to a number of unanticipated branches and interesting additions to my PLN.

Apart from that, I have been cultivating my PLN through all my other experiences, both analog and online. I still use a few different RSS readers, following a fair amount of blogs, as well as Twitter and other social media tools. I even subscribe to a fair number of old-time email newsletters. In fact, I have been thinking I may produce one myself.

On the sharing front, I still have this personal blog, although I do not update it often enough. There was a time when I was on a genuine tear and posting every day. Then changes at work took time away from that endeavor for awhile and I have never completely recovered to that level of production.

As it is, I write regularly about edtech related items for HPS Digital, a work-related endeavor.

Currently, I share most items I am reading or grab my interest on Twitter. I still occasionally add items to my Flipboard magazine, but that was highly tied to my more productive blogging period.

I am always kind of tweaking my workflow around how to share with greater ease. It is a perpetual project.

Value & Benefits

A good, well-tended PLN can proved immeasurable value. On a basic level, a PLN offers a highly effective filter. There is so much content generated on a daily basis that it can easily overwhelm anyone.

Cultivating a strong PLN is the first level of defense from becoming overwhelmed. Since no one can drink from a firehose, my PLN can reduce the stream to a more manageable flow. It requires effort, but it is well worth it.

As an educator recognizing this aspect of a PLN is a not just valuable to me, but it is something that I can share with other educators and students. A strong PLN can trump Google every time. It privileges humans over machines and taps the collective intelligence and wisdom of people I have selected on purpose.

That human element can make all the difference. For example, what students often do not understand is that people might be the most valuable resource in almost any kind of research. Plus, relationships improve our lives.

In terms of my goals in building my PLN, I am always on the lookout for people that have expertise in areas of my interest. Consequently, I am always trying to identify the important players in a field. I am always adding, in that sense. However, think I may need to sharpen my focus a bit more to increase its effectiveness. That requires a bit more tending than I necessarily do.

However, think I may need to sharpen my focus a bit more to increase its effectiveness. That requires a bit more tending than I necessarily do. There is no magic vetted list. It is in the creation and curation of that makes it personal.

Wrapping Up Flat Classroom Certification

I remember the first experience I had with Vicki Davis and Julie Lyndsay. It was the first NetGenEd Project, a couple of years ago. I have even written about it a few times. It all started when a couple of administrators had asked me if I would be interested in participating in a Flat Classroom Project. To be honest, I am not sure that they thought my application would be accepted. I am glad to say that it was the beginning of a valuable professional relationship with two of the busiest women I know.

Still, in the school where I work, I was the teacher that would most likely have the desire to do something as progressive and outside-the-box in my classroom. Also, with a background in edtech, I also have the strength of will to persevere through the inevitable obstacles that would lay along the path of participating in a globally collaborative project that leveraged so many Web 2.0 tools. They were right, I am glad to say, and I was accepted. Better still, it began a valuable professional relationship with two of the busiest women I know.

Since then I have done another project, that time the original Flat Classroom variety, and now intend on it being an annual part of my practice. Yet, one one of Vicki’s statements has stuck with me from the very first teacher orientation meeting, “The thing about working on the bleeding edge is sometimes you bleed.” That sentiment was all that I needed to get hooked, because that is where I wanted to be, asking my students to take big risks, solve complex and messy problems, and sort out more of the meaning and value after some immersive wayfinding that provided no tidy, easily found answers. I want them to do some scholarly pioneering. Thus, being a member of the first Flat Classroom Certification course has mirrored that desire, as well as being a valuable peek behind the curtain of how the wild ride is built from the ground up.

Participating in a globally collaborative project that has been designed by someone else, with a set of criteria, expectations, and assessment strategies, is an entirely different experience than building one. This course peeled back the finish of all the Flat Classroom flavors and showed the how they were built and why. Then we participants were asked to begin building our own.

The process of designing a globally collaborative project is no small task. Defining a problem or topic that is accessible around the world requires a kind of depth and breadth of vision and awareness that not as altogether common. It crosses disciplinary, as well as geographic, boundaries. Teachers designing and operating in this new unbound educational space need to be both generalists and specialists. More than anything though, they need to be expert learners, modeling an openness, curiosity, and cultural sensitivity, not to mention a facility with the technology tools that have flattened our world.

As onerous as designing a project modeled on the Flat Classroom approach can seem, the course provides a scaffold for meeting the challenge. More importantly, the course was a constant reminder to me that building, and even managing projects of this nature, is a recursive, iterative process. It is truly rooted in a design ethos. Prototyping ideas, testing them, assessing, revising, collaborating, expanding the network of connections, revising more are all aspects of “flattening” and expanding a classroom through designing a project.

Picking up on the notion of collaboration, this course allowed the participants to instantly become part of a Personal Learning Environment and Network. In so doing, all of the teachers involved are actively modeling precisely the kind of learning and practices that global collaborative projects like the Flat Classroom Project demand. Just being a participant offered a platform for collaboration, and collaboration by its nature is a recursive and iterative process, sharing and building on the sum of the course’s parts.

Coinciding with the drafting of their forthcoming book, Vicki and Julie continued their vivid efforts to make their groundbreaking work even more transparent then they are already wont to do. They share because their vision is broad and deep, and their evangelism holds a sincere recognition that they cannot be agents of change alone. Connecting classrooms around the globe and promoting collaborative efforts of inter-cultural synthesis requires an ever-growing network of like-minded educators. This course provides the seedbed for that network to take root and grow. While this course is only one of many efforts, the community of educators that has begun developing has fostered relationships that will remain long after completing the course. I encourage anyone that has the opportunity to take it to do so.