Monday, March 5, 2012

PLN, Expectations, and You. . .or . . .How not to Spoon Feed

Somewhere in the Eastern Sierras
As we begin to complete the face-to-face (F2F) part of your education program, I want to take a few minutes to discuss my expectations for your work in my class.  As technology integration is a challenge for educators in schools, more so as a limit of creativity than an actual technical issue, such is the struggle to get students to truly create, cultivate, and maintain a PLN.  I get that.  I don't think I would be a very reflective educator if I did not see this.  My role in this process is more mentor than teacher.  The transparency of my PLN is an attempt to show you value of having one yourself.  A true PLN must be just that, a personal learning network. For it to be effective, it has to come from the desire of the participant. In this case, you. I cannot really force you to embrace your PLN, I can only set the condition under which a motivated learner will utilize the tools/network at her disposal. I have offered you guidelines on what a cultivated PLN should look like, but they are merely guidelines, not rules.

With that said, there are a few things that I do expect you to complete for EDUC 530 (in addition to the To Do list I have maintained on this blog). In times of stress and cognitive dissonance–an environment  a college semester might foster–I imagine a list might be helpful:

Original blog postsat least 8 "tweetable" posts (could definitely be more!).  These could be in response to something you read, discussed in class, discovered on Twitter/Tweetdeck, etc.  If you are struggling for a topic, I have some great inspiring/thought provoking videos on YouTube (jheil65) and Pinterest. Seth Godin has also released a very interesting manifesto on education called Stop Stealing Dreams, which is available in multiple formats for free. It is organized in numbered blog-like reflections for easy discussion/reflection.  I would also love some weekly reflections on your experience in the classroom.  (As I mentioned in class a few weeks ago, you do not have to complete my work when the F2F ends. You are welcome to complete it during your student teaching.)  When you complete a reflection, I would like you to tweet a link to Twitter with the hashtag #csusmedu

Education chats: I would like to see at least 2 reflections on educational chats in which you participated.  These reflections should be thoughtful blog posts on the experience and your level of participation/interaction in them.  The hashtag, topic of the chat, and date would be helpful.

Use of Diigo:  I hope that you are beginning to see the value of having a place to save your bookmarks in a social space.  It allows you to share and research easily.  I would like to see a fair amount of tags on your Diigo tagroll.
(Another form of bookmarking can be your use of Pinterest, or another microblog/content curation site.  I would love a link to your work on your blog and perhaps even a reflection or two on what you have curated, or pinned.)

Twitter:  I would like to see you continue to use Twitter and our #csusmedu hashtag to connect with your peers and share ideas/reflections/questions/comments.  As Dr. White said in his video, to understand Twitter, you must participate in it! This participation is not only a great way to spark your interest in maintaining a PLN, it is a great way to network with your peers and connect with other educators around the globe.

Comments:  I think this is the hardest thing to do because it makes us the most vulnerable.  If I truly offer you an opinion on your writing, I am exposing myself and my ideas to the world, which can be quite scary.  I understand this.  This is why I try to create multiple opportunities for you to respond to your peers in a "classroom" setting.  Once you get in the habit of making public comments, you might be inspired to comment on a blog post from a stranger. . .Here is an example of a comment I left earlier in the semester on Education Rethink, a thought-provoking blog by a teacher (I think I left the first comment. . .even scarier for me).  Commenting forces us to examine our beliefs and ideas before writing (well, at least it should), which fosters our growth and development as reflective educators.  If you do comment on a blog outside of class, I would like you to tweet a link. . .or reflect on the commenting process on your blog.

Classroom Visit:  After our visit to Oceanside, I would like a blog post reflecting on the experience.  Use the following as a guideline:
How was technology integrated into the curriculum?  Do you feel that it promoted student learning?
Is there anything you saw that makes this classroom/school unique?
What did you learn and how does it relate to the class theme?

Disrupting Class:  I have a blog post that explains the expectations for the book.

Question: What advice would you give a peer who was struggling with his/her PLN? If you are struggling, your question is, What has been your greatest struggle in cultivating your PLN?  Please leave a comment below.


  1. If I had a peer struggling with his/her (I'll just use her to save space) PLN, I would first make sure she knew what their goal was with their PLN. Once you have that, I would help her understand what resources are out there by directing her to the PLN Tools and PLN Guidelines pages on our class blog. I would also show her my PLN, explaining what I have been doing to earn "residency" in the online community.

    I may not be the best at giving advice on PLNs, as I have struggled with my organization on the matter, but sometimes I like to try to explain something that I am still learning about in order to help me learn even more. Its a weird phenomenon but it works; that is, thinking about your own thinking and communicating that thinking.

  2. If I had peer struggling with PLN, I would give them this advise: Stick with one. We have had many options given to us which when addressed with so many new things can be overwhelming. If the networking world is new to you, stick with one and become the master of that one learning network. My choice was ( You do not have to understand all the features to be successful on this site. Just save the articles and sources you like into your own personal library, which is Diigo. Become comfortable with this step, and then begin to explore other people's libraries. Don't let all the options overwhelm you. That is the biggest thing, being overwhelmed takes the adventure out of it.

    My greatest struggle in PLNs is the lack of Physical Education pull these sites have. There has been no foundation for physical education in Diigo or Pinterest. Other PLN sites have groups, but they are very small. This makes it very hard to build a residency because I feel sometimes I am the only one with that agenda at the site. I have chosen to create my own community for P.E. teachers on Diigo as a result, I hope to be the one to cultivate a foundation for P.E. teachers to some day refer to.

  3. I have some advice to give others struggling with their PLN, but I could also use some advice in further cultivating my own. A piece of advice I would give is to find fun in the PLNs. I enjoy making personal connections; whether it be giving or receiving advice about professional topics, or sharing personal interests with others. Therefore, I find Twitter a fun PLN community for me. This brings me to my other piece of advice, which would be to find connections between the different PLN communities; for example when I see an interesting link tweeted, I add it to my Diigo bookmarks. When I write a lengthy blog post, often I write it in GoogleDocs, and provide a link to it on my blog. The most important thing for those who struggle is to simply ask questions and Google things. If you want to figure something out online, most likely someone or something can help.

    A way I am probably limiting myself is by not expanding my PLN. I have heard of and Pinterest, but by what I have heard, I have not felt the need to try them out. However, sometimes I feel this way about things, but when I finally give in, I find a million reasons why I should use the thing. Another way I have struggled with my PLN is by feeling unorganized. So much information, usernames, passwords, followers, tweets, and bookmarks... this leads to an overwhelming feeling if I am simply on the Internet.

  4. I am both struggling with and learning the PLN's. I like the fact that Jeff pushed us to learn new technology (Twitter, Scoopit, Pintrest, Blogger, etc.) and I feel more "up to date" with social media at this point. I am struggling because I do not feel connected to the ITU assignment. I feel it is too in depth and theoretical for me to run with. I would love to apply these technologies to a more individual PLN assignment.
    I have had a desire (for a long time) to build my own Geology, Earth Science, and Chemistry web pages. As a student in college, a professor with a good, interactive web page made a big difference in my learning. I simply wanted to create a web page that offers 1. Standards and Objectives, 2. Syllabus or Course outline, 3. notes, links, resources for subject area, and 4. Interactive assessments, animations, etc. I appreciate learning new technology, but I really want to apply it to something that I feel connected with. The ITU is not engaging me because it is too theoretical to me, and if I were applying for a job, I would love to have my individual web sites ready to present as opposed to using the ITU in my portfolio. I appreciate the ideal of the ITU, and I believe I will be involved with them as a teacher in the future, but as a new teacher, I would have liked to invest my time and energy in building an individual website first (content area specific).
    I also noticed that I became engaged when I could apply tech to my interests. For example, I used Pintrest to compile a rock and mineral collection for a student I am tutoring. I can also use this for future lessons in Geology/Earth Science, and it is a lot of fun to use. Fun is the secret ingredient. Pintrest, Scoopit, Twitter, Diigo, Dropbox, and Glogger (somewhat) were winners to me, but Grouply and Blogging are still not engaging to me.
    For those struggling with PLN's, try to think of something fun to apply it to. I used Pintrest for compiling photos of rocks and minerals. I use twitter to share good links (and to harass fellow cohort members during TPA), reply to comments briefly, and to communicate with peers. I like ScoopIt to compile chemistry resources, similar to the links we collected and compiled in Methods class. As long as I feel I can use the technology practically, then I will engage in it.

  5. My advice for cultivating a PLN is to start small and work your way up. Take each resource one at a time, which is what I did, and it makes it much more manageable. Also, try to make it fun and unique which makes it much more enjoyable to be part of. I have taken a lot of pride in my blog and I am always trying to think of something interesting and clever to share. The more fun it is, the more part of it you will become, which is important for any sort of learning experience.

  6. If I had peer struggling with PLN's I would advice them to take time to play with the different websites to really learn and understand how to use them. I think that the better a peer understands how to use the website to their advantage the better he or she will be able to use it. Also, playing with the different sites will allow peers to see which they like the best and keep using it. When I first started using twitter, I did not really understand it but by using I think I have a better understanding of it.

    I have been struggling a bit with the PLN because like Bri mentioned, I feel like there are not that many Physical Education resources out there. I have been following a couple of PE teachers on twitter but I still do not feel like a “resident.” On Diigo, I joined a small group of PE teachers but we have not really contributed anything. I know the closer I get to student teaching the more I will be able to contribute and try to get involved. I think, like Bri mentioned, I will take it upon myself or even help Bri in establishing a community in PE so that others can contribute.

  7. If I were to advise somebody on their PLN I would tell them to go to as many different programs as they can in order to determine which tools fit their personality and learning styles the best. The specific tools which I would recommend would be the blogger and diigo. I like blogger because it can act as a web page and I like diigo because it allows you to build a bookmarking database.

  8. If I had to give advice to a peer struggling with their PLNs, I would tell them to explore and discover what PLN best suits their personality. In order to learn how to use a PLN, one must navigate through it. Just as it was mentioned in class, those of us that do not know how to use Twitter, have to navigate through it in order to understand it. This made me think of the time when I discovered e-mails for the first time. If I can recollect, I remember being in the 6th grade and wondering what my teacher was waiting for on the computer. It was America Online. I remember the three windows and the sound it made as it was connecting. As soon as the connection reached or took place, I would hear the phrase "You've Got Mail". I remember being so curious that I went home and told my parents all about it and my dad decided to get connected. Once we were connected to the service, I remember being excited to navigate throught the network to see what cool things it had to offer. I discovered e-mail and discovered chat rooms. The more I used it, the more it became second nature to me. With time, America Online vanished and I started becoming more familiar with different networks such as MySpace and Bebo. I barely just learned how to Tweet in 150 characters or less. It took some getting use to, but the more I used it, the more I began to understand it. The biggest struggle for me in cultivating my PLN is having the time to navigate through it. Some PLNs can be intimidating as well. The more that I take the time to navigate through the PLNs the more comfortable I will become with utilizing it. I am amazed at the number of PLNs there are these days. I am looking forward to see the PLNs 10 years from now.