Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Using Technology to Expand Your PLN

This is the final post in the my series on Personal Learning Networks. So far I have explained what a PLN is and how you can navigate and expand it. In this post I'm going to give some examples on how you can use technology to expand  your PLN world.

Educators have to learn to be diverse in their training. They have to be able to learn in all settings. Their training used to revolve around workshop or college classes. Those are still ways to learn, but to keep up with changing trends across the globe, educators have be tech savvy.

Listed below are just a few ways to start expanding  your PLN by using technology.

Twitter is a great way to chat with teachers in various content areas. Not sure how to tweet?   Check out this article on Edutopia on how educators can use tweets to build their PLN.  http://www.edutopia.org/blog/twitter-expanding-pln

Edutopia also has great community groups that you can join to build up your PLN. They have groups on a wide range of topics. Elementary school teacher can get into the elementary school group. Education leaders can get into the Education Leaders group. Anything from special education, to classroom management, and technology are covered.

Check out this link for these groups: http://www.edutopia.org/groups

Educators don't have to use Edutopia or another popular site Ted Talks  http://www.ted.com/talks to build their PLN. It can be as easy as connecting with other educators via Skype.

If you want to go to a direct website you can click on "The Educator's PLN-The personal learning network for educators." It's that simple to build your own Professional Learning Network. Here is the link for this site.http://edupln.ning.com/

Using technology in my PLN allows me to learn when and how I want to. If I am stuck waiting in the doctor's office for twenty or thirty minutes? I can read an education article from one of my hash tag tweets. Nothing good on TV? I turn to Edutopia, Ted Talks, or You Tube and watch a video on 21st Century Learning in Singapore.  

Either way I'm in charge of when and how I learn. I no longer have to wait for it to be fed to me  on an in-service day or in a college class. I also don't have an out-of-pocket expense like I would for college classes because everything I listed above is free! 

Having your own PLN will change the way you learn and will also force state agencies and school districts to change the way they accept educator's learning for recertification. Using your PLN can help you keep up with change in your profession. Using technology will help you stay on top of the current trends. Good luck on your PLN journey!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

To Infinity and Beyond! Navigating and Expanding your PLN World!

As a parent of three kids, I went through a phase in my life when I got to watch a lot of cartoons. Whether it was Disney, Pixar, or on the TV, I got to the place that I knew the characters as much as my kids did. I must say I had my favorites and, of course, others that grated on my nerves. Remember Barney? The theme song had a great message. Remember it? “I love you, you love me. We're a happy family. With a great big hug from you and me!” It was good for the first few times I heard it, but after awhile listening became like a form of torture that would send me out of the room quicker than my kids could say, "Dad can you rewind the tape?" Want to check it out for yourself? Try this ten minute video of the Barney song. If you can sit through all ten minutes I will personally buy you a stuffed Barney or maybe just a great big hug from me to you. Click on the link below for the purple dinosaur torture test.

My favorite kid movies became the Toy Story series. Those movies always had a positive message of family comes first and to have courage in tough times. You can probably name some of the main characters. Remember Sheriff Woody? Or Mr. Potato Head? Who could forget Buzz Lightyear? Buzz had a great saying – "To Infinity and Beyond" – that I'm going to use to illustrate how to expand your Personal Learning Network. 

During my last post, I illustrated that we all have a PLN. For most of us our PLN can simply be our family and friends. It easily expands when we add our fellow educators. In order to expand our PLN we have to look "Beyond" our immediate contacts. Again there isn't thing wrong with using the immediate network, but staying only with them can limit the diversity of what we learn. In Buzz's terms, think of your PLN in terms of "Infinity"! Webster's dictionary defines infinity as "something without limits". Ask yourself this question: If I put a limit on my PLN, am I limiting what I can learn? There are some guidelines to follow when you are looking "Beyond" your current PLN.
  • Be diverse in picking a source for your PLN. Don't just stay in your content area or profession. For instance, not only do I have education as one of my favorite topics on my iPad app (Zite), but I’ve also picked others such as entrepreneurship. By definition entrepreneurship looks at innovations and new things. I read articles in order to keep up with what is changing in any industry and see if it can be related back to education.
  • Be open minded in what you read. Remember you are just gathering information to see what works and what doesn't work for you. You are also checking on what is researched-based in your industry. Just because you read something doesn't mean you agree with it or will use it. But you might later on if you keep an open mind.
  • Use technology to go "Beyond" your current PLN. Face to Face is great and I hope we never lose the opportunity to actually sit down and talk to someone. Watching facial expressions, especially when someone's eyes light up as they get excited about their topic is priceless. Using technology in your PLN allows you to put no limit or "Infinity" on your network. Want to know a new strategy to help students in your classroom? Just Google it. When you find it then e-mail the people involved and ask them to Skype conference with you!
These are just a few guidelines to help expand and explore the galaxy beyond your current PLN world.   
My next post will discuss they type of technology sources we can use to expand your PLN.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Got PLN? It does an educator good!

Remember the commercials and advertisements that came out several years ago
regarding milk? Got Milk? It was, and still is, a great marketing idea for
the promotion of milk. In this post, I'll use the same angle to discuss
Personal Learning Networks (PLN).  

Most of you might be surprised to know that Personal Learning Networks have

been around forever.  You might also be surprised to know that you have
always been part of one.  Since the beginning of time people have had a
family and/or friends.  So the answer is yes to the question. Got PLN?

How does a PLN help an educator? It allows them to connect with other
educators. We were never intended to be alone. I'm going to stick with the
milk theme to explain this point. Educators cannot stay contained to their
classrooms (silos) and expect to learn any more than what they have already
attained from their education or background. If you are a city slicker and
need to Google a silo to get my illustration, then by all means get to
Googling. I will give you a hint. It's very tall, round and used on a farm.

Sometimes farmers like to paint flags or some other portrait on the side,
but I'm digressing. You get the point! Educators cannot work in isolation
and a PLN helps them get out their silo.

Having a network within your profession allows educators to accomplish
several things.

• Validation: Is what I'm doing in the classroom exceptional?
• Research: Is this what the educational industry supports?
• Connect: There's a big world out there. Connect with it and learn.

These are just a few, I'm sure you could think of others or better yet you
could ask your PLN what they have learned by being connected to other
educators.  Again, don't forget that you have always been in the PLN club.
 Next time you're talking to grandma tell her thanks for being your PLN

buddy.  She will get a chuckle!

My next post will address how to expand your PLN. As grandma would say, "Be
sure to drink your milk."