PLN Challenge #5: Blogs

Screen shot 2011-07-06 at 12.43.33 PMWordle created using Sue Waters’ teacher challenge post (Using Blogs as Part of Your PLN)

I consider myself very lucky to have only had positive experiences when blogging, and I do believe that blogs are a great way to connect to other people who share similar interests, to share ideas and extend knowledge and to become a great resource in professional reflective practise.

As part of the Teacher Challenge, Sue Waters’ has challenged us to think about our tips for building a PLN using blogs, so here are some of mine:

  • Dive in – don’t be afraid to post about the topics that interest you. Share interesting facts, reflection and resources. Include interactives and images (to the degree that you’re comfortable with).
  • Explore other blogs – find people with similar interests, people who inspire you, people who can lead you to interesting and useful resources. Include your favourite blogs in a feed, such as Google Reader, so that you can regularly check for new updates. Exploring blogs will also help you develop your own blogging practise.
  • Comment – engage other bloggers. Learning doesn’t have to be a solitary act, and it’s only through making connections that we can extend what we know. It can be as simple as thanking the blogger for writing their interesting post, to responding to a question or sharing similar (or dissimilar) experiences. Remember to be polite (sounds trite, I know, but a little curtesy goes a long way). Also keep in mind that the more you comment on other people’s blogs, the more likely they are to comment on yours!

So, it’s not a definitive list – but I’m learning, too!

If you think I’m missing something very important, please let me know. Chances are I’ve forgotten it while composing this post, but I’m very open to more ideas!

And… good luck with blogging!

PLN Challenge #4: Making Time to Build Your PLN

Challenge #4 of the Teacher Challenge was written and proposed by Sarah Poling.

I’ve since come to recognise that prior to beginning to develop my teaching PLN, that I have actually been involved in two prior personal learning networks over a ten(+)-year span. I started out, as a teenager, actively seeking out other people that I shared a ‘fandom’ interest with (books, televisions series, movies and blog/message board role-playing games). I still dabble in that area, because I made quite a few good friends all over the world and we still share many of the same interests. The second learning network I established was a craft-based on. I’m an avid sewer and I enjoy creating things. I dabble in digital scrapbooking – which itself has a HUGE online community.

I grew up with technology, and while I haven’t been surrounded by it since birth, which is a significant portion of the students I teach, I consider myself a digital native. (In reality, I’m probably somewhere between a native and an immigrant, but I choose to be a native, and behave in such a way!) Technology does not scare me, and I’ll give anything a go online. I’m quite dedicated to my learning networks and communities – I would spend between 30 mins-1 hour on them (at least) every night, and I’m determined to bring that same focus to my teaching PLN.

At present I’m using this blog (and my classroom blog), lurking on Twitter and maintain a Diigo account for storing the wonderful resources I’m finding online. I hope over the next few months to become more confident in contributing more on Twitter and on the wonderful blogs that I’m following through Google Reader.

One of the suggestions Sarah had on the challenge #4 post was to figure out what was the best time to commit to a personal learning network. I know lots of people find it difficult to commit time to learning new things at night after work, but that’s my favourite time to do learning. Post-work I love to learn new things, because that’s the time I relax and am enthusiastic about discovering new resources and ideas.

How am I going to grow my PLN?

I’m going to stick with it. I really am – I don’t think I’ve ever undertaken something so powerful and essential to my own personal learning. I already follow a number of fantastic bloggers who are incredibly inspiring, and I’m going to stick with this Teacher Challenge, too, because it’s been a great, thought-provoking experience for me. And it’s encouraged me to post to my blog and explore my beliefs and commitments to my own teaching practise.

How do I stop myself from becoming overwhelmed?

  • Persevere!
  • Proceed at your own pace.
  • I check in to Twitter and Google Reader each day and if there’s an information overload, I save the links of interested until the weekend to explore in more detail when I have the time.
  • Don’t panic if you miss a day of checking in!
  • This is MY choice to learn. No one’s making me do it, and I’m allowed to approach it in the way that feels right to me.

Developing my PLN

… or Learning to Navigate Twitter!

This year I am determined to develop my own PLN to support my learning and teaching practice. As such, I am taking part in the Edublogs Teacher Blogging Challenge “30 Days to a Whole New PLN.” Having tackled challenge #2, I am moving on to challenge #3. (I am working my way up to challenge #1!)

Challenge #3, written by Kathleen Morris, is about using Twitter to build a PLN.

I actually joined Twitter around the time it was considered the ‘next best thing’ since Facebook and it was probably while I was still at university, somewhere near the beginning of my teaching degree. At that point I didn’t use Twitter effectively and somewhere along the lines it got left in the wake of the other ‘important’ things I had to do.

Recently I had a great conversation with @UTess_13 – an Ultranet coach for my region. While we were initially discussing the Ultranet and how to get a group of preps (and their parents) online, our conversation drifted into other online tools and resources and she started to talk to me about how she used Twitter as a professional development tool.

Now, I’d heard of that before, but hadn’t seen it, or been involved in it, and while I followed a few of the same people as Theresa, that wasn’t how I used my account. But I was inspired. And that night I logged on for the first time in a long time, reset my account and made the resolution to use Twitter to learn.

Over the last couple of weeks I have found lots and lots of fascinating and engaging educators on Twitter and I have been inundated with links to resources and articles and ideas. I’ve become pretty good at sifting through the things that I’m interested in (and not so interested in). I’ve been saving links left, right and center and am falling behind on updating my Diigo with them.

Now to answer Kathleen’s challenge questions:

What are my initial impressions of Twitter?

I  am looking at Twitter in a completely different way, so my impressions now are different to my impressions a few years ago.

I think it’s great. I really do. It’s not perfect, and I think to expect it to be would to be doing it a great disservice. But it is what you make it. For me, at the moment, that means lurking and taking in the vast amount of information that is available. And while I’m certainly not a shy personal in online environments, I think lurking is the best way to start with a PLN on Twitter because it can be overwhelming.

The most overwhelming part, from my perspective, is that it seems like I’m late to the game. Everyone seems to know everyone; everyone has a rapport with everyone else… and I’m hiding in the corner trying to think of something intelligent to say!

As a result, I’ve posted sparingly myself, and participated mostly through reading and retweeting the posts that are of interest and importance to me.

Where am I hoping Twitter leads me?

Honestly? I’m hoping it leads me to bigger and better ‘things.’ I don’t want to limit what the ‘things’ are, because I think that limits my experiences. Who I’m following now and the reasons I’m following them may change and I might expand and find other interests. I hope to take the knowledge and resources shared and become a better teacher, a better learner and better connected in the vast community known as ‘education.’

I do hope that I become brave enough to jump into the amazing conversations I’ve seen, in time, and that I don’t make a complete fool of myself (it’s been known to happen)! That’s my big goal for 2011, now that I’ve embarked on this very rewarding journey.

So, thank you to Edublogs (and Kathleen) for the inspiration and the challenge!