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What is a PLN?

January 28, 2013

This week we are supposed to be working on a PLN. We have a wiki assignment, so it seems obvious to me that the people I work with on my assignment are automatically in. But how does one go about forming a PLN? What is it really? Do we send an open invitation to everyone in the world?

There are a few resources I wanted to share that really helped me with these questions. One was a post titled What is a PLN, anyway?   The author talks about how a personal learning network in the 80′s would have been much smaller, consisting of the people you came in contact with, primarily  face to face. In the 90′s people used email and bookmarked websites. But by 2000, we are introduced to social networking in the form of Twitter, or Facebook, social bookmaking tools, discussion groups and more. With today’s technology, the range of our networks seems endless. Our PLN no longer is limited to people we meet face to face. In fact it is likely that our PLNs will include many people that we will never meet face to face.

So how do I go about finding these people who will be part of my PLN? While reading the  #diffimooc Connectivist Daily paper for this class, I found a link to Tom Whitby’s post called Building a professional learning network on Twitter.  I found this especially helpful. He writes, “the people you follow are more important than those who follow you.” This one little sentence seemed to make everything more clear. Everyone has to decide for themselves what information is useful to them. This goes along with the goal of our diffimooc. Everyone will get something different out of the experience. We all have guidelines and assignments to do, but our learning will not be exactly the same. We will try to hold onto the information that is most important to us. As we find people who have similar interest, we will try to follow them, communicate with them, share ideas, and help each other out. I do not need to worry about who follows me, as it is up to the followers to decide if what I am sharing is useful to them or not. Whitby also points out that it is very easy to “unfollow” people if it turns out that the information they are sharing doesn’t happen to fit your current plan.

As I was adding to my list of blogs to follow this week, I realized that my PLN is likely to have subgroups. For example the group I work with on the wiki, perhaps a group interested in math, or a group interested in reading. I watched the video about google reader. I added some blog addresses to my google reader. I wondered if I should be making folders. As I become more efficient with these new tools, I am hoping to find ways to organize my information.

How do I contact people who are in my PLN once I have identified them? I can comment on their blogs, I can search for them in Twitter, or I can post to the google group. I tried creating some circles within my google account. I found this was easy to do with the people who created a google profile, but not so easy for those who did not. I need to learn more about circles. I just figured out how to add an about me widget to my sidebar. Now people will know who I am as soon as they open my blog. They won’t have to search around for it.

I saw some good ideas for organizing information while reading other people’s blogs. I like the way Tracie has links to different blogs in her sidebar. Azhar also has links in her sidebar, as well as a whole page devoted to her PLN. For this she has used Scoop.it! This looks like another good tool for organizing information.

I have much to learn, but I am enjoying the information I am finding through  Twitter, the blogs, the sharing of diigo bookmarks, and discovering new sites like Pinterest.

It is a privilege to be connected to such knowledgeable, dynamic people. Thank you all for being part of my PLN!

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