Personal Learning Network(s)

My task this week is to investigate a reputable organization and analyze a few followers, ultimately deciding whether or not to add them to my PLN. But first, a little background.

There is a lot of research pointing toward the benefits of a personal learning network to educators. Essentially, a personal learning network can be a group of fellow educators (or related field) who connect via social media to discuss and share information regarding the improvement of their practice. A teacher should determine their personal learning network, or PLN, based on not only their content area but also their interests in education. For me, many of the people I try to connect with on social media are not fellow social studies teachers. They are in the field of education technology in one way or another.

There are many ways to begin creating your PLN. Check out the article on the Innovative Educator blog!

Over the past few years, I have really developed an interest in implementing technology to improve teaching and learning. As part of this improvement, I signed up for several listservs and attending tech-related conferences like ISTE and Edmodo. With each PD opportunity came one or two more “connections” or additions made to my PLN. Recently, my interests have led me to focus on the use of mobile learning opportunities. One such organization focusing on implementing cutting edge pedagogy and tools is Edutopia, founded by The George Lucas Educational Foundation.

On a daily basis, I read Edutopia articles which mainly are communicated with me through their tweets. Often, these articles are the gems which I wrote of in the Aggregating vs. Curating post last week. They are chalk full of tools, links to sites, other edtech bloggers and the like.

The Great Edutopia Investigation

Because I generally receive articles from their listserv or twitter, I decided to branch out by examining their Google + page. Though Google + is relatively new to the social media realm, it is a great professional resource. Google + enables members to post articles, rather than solely their links, in addition to many of the same functions twitter allows for.

I had never been to Edutopia’s Google + page. At first glance, it was stocked with many of the same articles I had read while deciding what content to curate and share with my Twitter followers. But then, jackpot! When I began to examine who is posting on the page, it really got interesting…

By sorting the posts using the “best of…” feature, I was able to see the most popular (and hopefully best) posts first. Lisa Dabbs had commented on an article which I just sent to members of my school’s faculty discussing mLearning. I decided to check her out. Upon closer review, she struck me as someone worth following since she’s investigating both mobile and blended learning and seems to post frequently.

Juan Domingo Farnos was next on my list of frequent visitors to the Edutopia page. He too posted quite frequently, however, his topics seemed to not align as closely with my own. I decided not to follow him directly, but wait for him to post relevant items to Edutopia’s page.

I blew right by Woody Phillips and Shari Austin who had commented on an Edutopia blog about incorporating arts education. Not only was this topic not of interest to me, but also upon inspecting their pages, they appeared to use Google + way less frequently than those discussed above. Therefore, they aren’t worth adding to my PLN.

After seeing three more posts from Lisa Dabbs (she’s everywhere!), I landed on Audrey Watters. About half of her individual posts were relevant and could lead to a few gems. On the other hand, she seemed to be working for an edtech startup. After weighing whether it’s worth hearing about this company more frequently or not, I chose not to follow her, but to wait for her to post on edutopia as well.

So, 5 users socially stalked resulting in 1 follower and 2 on the “watch” list. Not bad. Honestly, when choosing to investigate Edutopia further, I expected to see a lot of EdTech non-profits posting and was shocked I hadn’t. Maybe Google + isn’t used as often as I thought by such companies…

In the end, I feel that finding a strong, legitimate organization in your content or interest is best. They’ll aggregate all the stories and curate them to those who follow.

Until next time…



Author: camreich

Director of Technology and Instruction, Salesianum School

One thought on “Personal Learning Network(s)”

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