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My PLN - After One Year

Graphic by Alec Couros


"OK, it's an iPad, and it's cool, but now what I am supposed to do?"  I vividly recall this snippet of a conversation with a colleague of mine as we began ramping up our preparations for a 1:1 pilot with iPads.  We were asked to investigate the "potentiation" of student learning with this chosen device.  We could discuss and debate the merits of the iPad in the classroom all day and still not arrive at anything conclusive.  Let's instead, look at how a connected device, in this case an iPad, has helped transform learning through the one year evolution of my PLN.




Social Media
  • I have disabled my Facebook account (not enough time) in order to focus my attention on Google+.  In one year's time I have been added to approximately 500 circles.  I have added 1650 people, primarily educators and technologists, to my circles. I belong to 13 learning communities, and I have publicly shared roughly five hundred posts.  Sharing links, photos, videos, and documents is incredibly easy, and visually impressive on the iPad because the Google+, along with the Google Drive, apps for iOS have greatly improved during the past few months.

Information Curation
  • I now spend much less time searching for news and information as I have subscribed to several web services that find and filter (curate) information for me.  In one year's time, I have created subscriptions on Zite, News-360, Flipboard, and Google Reader (Newsify RSS Reader).  These apps are free and work very well on both my iOS and my Android devices.  Stories, posts, and web updates are filtered to my interests.  With these apps, I can compare information across a variety of sources.  Stories can be bookmarked or shared to other apps, and other audiences in a single click. I receive several hundred reading suggestions every single day.  Seldom do I get time to read through much of this, but it is also a huge time-saver to not have to go looking for the wealth of information that feeds to my iPad automatically.
Blogging
  • Twitter has become my primary resource for personal learning and professional development.  In one year's time, using two accounts, I have posted 2500 tweets, have started following 1500 tweeps, and have acquired just over 500 followers.  Numbers aside, I have been able to connect with, and learn from, many highly respected people in the field of education, including Kathy Schrock, George Couros, Alec Couros, Shelley Wright, Larry Ferlazzo, Alan November, Will Richardson, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, Richard Byrne, and too many others to list here.  I have met only two of these people face-to-face, yet we learn from each other daily.  In addition, Twitter has provided a way for me and my colleagues to exchange information in real time.  I began by "lurking", but now I am using Twitter to keep students and teachers engaged in discussions about learning and technology.
  • When I need to share information and knowledge in chunks larger than 140 characters, I turn to Blogger.  In one year's time, I have written 32 posts that have attracted 15,000 page views.  My readership has grown as my writing, and my blogging techniques have improved.  My posts are now including more references and resources from experts in my network.  My online creativity, and effort has shifted from my website, to my blog because I find my blog easier to maintain and keep current with thoughts and information.
Students


How does all of this relate to our current, and soon-to-be, 1:1 students?  The numbers above don't matter all that much, unless you consider them to be learning opportunities.  Connected educators need to become connected learners first. They need to experience the challenges and the rewards of building a learning network that creates a consistent circular flow of information, review, revision, and reflection.  The magic of the iPad is that it permits anytime / anywhere opportunities to connect with others, assess information, solve problems collaboratively, and develop what Will Richardson calls, the dispositions of learning.  In almost one year's time, I have generated roughly 20,000 opportunities to share information and learn from others.  Yes, there is some overlap in there, but how many times have my posts been retweeted, or how many people have I "sparked" to seek more information, or motivate to engage with their own PLN? Every time that I connect with my PLN, I learn something new. Our connected students will have similar 24-7-365 opportunities to engage with networks and take their learning to places still unrealized.  Every spare moment is an opportunity to engage and learn from others.  If our students can catch this desire to learn with the help of a shiny piece of connected technology - then we are well on our way to disrupting and transforming education.

During the next year

In the year to come, I want to expand and contribute to my PLN by posting to my blog more consistently.  I also want to contribute and promote my school's professional development programs through Twitter and Diigo.  Our district has also adopted Schoology as our enterprise learning management system (LMS).  This will provide another networking avenue for our teachers and students.  Over the next year, it will be my responsibility to help teachers and students align their learning activities to NETS standards, and to become more competent, connected learners.

Five Tips for Building Your PLN

  • What strategy or practice makes the biggest impact on your learning network?  
  • What suggestions do you have for improving and enhancing connected learning for teachers and students?

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