Tuesday, 29 April 2014

PLN - Personal Learning Networks???

WTH is a PLN????

Personal Learning Networks??

What is a PLN?  Well, I've done a lot of reading today on this.  To put it in simple terms (just like I like it) - it's using your social media tools to create a circle of people "around" you who can help you personally and professionally.  
  • It's the blogs you read by people who are interested in a similar topic.  
  • It's that Pinterest board you look at for ideas for creating lesson plans.  
  • It's your LinkedIn network of pros in your field.  
  • It's the folks you follow on Twitter from your #blendkit2014 course. 
  • It's the Q&A board that you go to.
  • Heck, it's even the YouTube channels you follow.

Social Networks

I love this top 10 list.  Especially #10.  Get to know the people in the office/class/cubicle next to you. You never know when somebody close by may have the answer you need, be a SME (Subject Matter Expert), know how to use Google forms better than you - or be willing to listen to a lecture and give you constructive feedback.  Foster these relationships.  Add them to LinkedIn.  Get an email address for them.  Follow their professional blogs.  I wouldn't suggest adding them to Facebook...you never know what they might post that you just don't want to know!!!

Once you decide to create your PLN, you need to decide how "active" you want to be.  The graphic above gives you that designers POV.  I'm going to share my own with a few tools I use regularly.

LinkedIn - High Profile, Low Communication, Visit as you like

I'm going to admit upfront that I love LinkedIn.  In fact, if you would like to add me to your PLN, just click on the hyperlink.  I've joined various groups.  Sometimes I respond to posts.  More often than not, I don't but I enjoy reading others responses.  Frankly, if more than 1 person has shared my POV, I don't feel the need to share it again.  

What I like best is being able to message one of the professionals in my past or present without having to constantly following up to ensure I have the most up-to-date contact info.  I can ask a question privately, or in a group (like my Alumni group).  I can connect with other people in my field without having to have them in my circle of friends.

The other great thing is that it doesn't have the junk that goes along with Facebook.  No pictures of your colleague drunk at the Holiday party, very few of the chain posts (if you don't share in the next 5 minutes, you will have this happen...yeah right!), and a healthy separation of home and work.

Blogs - Potentially High Profile, High Communication on your part if blogging, Potentially a big Commitment

Following a blog requires little commitment - you can often get an email when a new post has been added and decide from there if you want to read or respond.  Having your own blog requires a lot more commitment - if you are not posting new material that captures your target audiences attention, well, good luck finding it useful - for you or your followers.  It's not only good, new material but also on a timely basis. 

For me to maintain this blog as it is now, I spend read the weekly chapter, write that summary, and then pick 4 topics that I want to explore more.  I allow myself a minimum of 1-2 hours of research and then at least an hour to write.  Yep, 3+ hours a post. But I want to read content, understand context, find relevant information (and great graphics!) to share.  For this post alone, I visited at least 14 sites!

Twitter - High Profile, High Communication, Highly Addictive!

Twitter is my best friend (and you are welcome to follow me there).  It's the first thing I check in the morning and the last thing at night.  I need my news fix before I roll out of bed or before I am incommunicado while I sleep.  I follow everyone that interests me - people who are provocative and love to debate, people who are "in the know" with different things in my city, people who tend to share what I post, giving me a larger group with whom to share my views.

I follow #hashtags (the # sign followed by wordswithnospaces).  Hot topics tend to trend with hashtags (like #blendkit2014).  Sometimes I come up with some great hashtags, generally they are just silly (like #mmmmmbaconandpeanutbuttergoodness about the Nutty Professor burger I had at Flipburger today).

Anyone who favourites or retweets anything I write gets a profile look and if they share similar interests, I #followback. You can create lists to group together anyone you follow by topic (or however you choose to organize it). Then you can select that list and only see those peoples tweets.

Try it and have fun - but don't say I didn't warn you! It's addictive!!

I think this picture gives you some great ideas for growing your PLN.

Don't forget, PLN's are not just for teachers, but for students too!  If you have a guest come into your class, have them share their twitter handle.  Helping students develop a professional network may lead to summer work or internships, a mentor, or even a collaborator on a project down the road!  Networking is as important, if not more so, than strong resume writing skills!

Other Tools

This video talks about developing more than just your social network.  It talks about grouping together the tools you use regularly like:

  • GMail or other Email program
  • Skype
  • Hangouts or other Instant Messaging
  • Bookmarking sites like Diigo
  • Google or other search engine
  • Pinterest
  • Q&A sites like Yahoo Answers
  • YouTube
  • News Services
  • Wikis
  • Google Docs

What tools do you use regularly? What is always open on your computer?  Where can you go for information without asking a colleague?

Just Remember...

The most important thing to remember about PLNs is that data goes both ways.  

It doesn't just flow to you, it flows from you too.  Jump in, join a conversation.  Start a thread.  Write a blog (and share it here!).  When you read, let the author know your thoughts (Does the blog have too many links? Too little content? Is it oversimplified? Do you need a PhD to understand it?  Is it missing a major point?  Did the author brush past a topic that you want more information about?).  I guarantee you that the author would far rather know what their audience wants, instead of guessing! (Yes, it is a bit of a plea - comment below.  Let me know what is or isn't working for you). 

Whatever you do in your PLN, have fun, learn something, and share something. Thank you!