Reitz High School

Reitz High School
Evansville, IN

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Do You Know the Power of a PLN?

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             I have presented a few workshops at conferences on how to build a PLN and they have had low attendance.  It could be that I stink and nobody wants to come to my session.  I don’t think that is it because my Weebly and Google Docs sessions are busting at the seams.  So my guess is, people do not understand what a PLN is and what it can do for them.

            If you are a newbie, then I will go ahead and let you know that PLN stands for personal learning network.  You could actually have more than one.  You could have a PLN for any topic that you want to learn more about.  For example, if I am an educator that teaches history, I have a hobby where I collect WWII memorabilia, and my favorite movies are the Star Wars series, then I could actually put together three PLNs.  I could have one for my job, one for my hobby, and one to connect with other Star Wars fans.  How is this possible? 

            One of the easiest ways to connect with people around the country or even around the world that have a common interest is through Twitter.  I know, one more thing that you need to do or keep up with.  Believe me, I felt that same way when a friend told me about this idea.  I thought great, another social network where people are going to tell me what they had for dinner and when they took their dog for a walk.  Reluctantly, I signed up for a Twitter account.  I didn’t seek out friends or people that I already knew on Facebook.  Instead, I followed people that were keynote speakers at recent conferences.  I followed a few leaders in my school corporation.
            As I would read articles posted by the people I followed, I would begin to follow the people that actually wrote the articles that I liked.  Before I knew it, people were following me.  I began exploring hashtags and would read posts from educators within the hashtag.  For example, #edchat or #edtech.  A hashtag is the pound sign followed by a topic.  While watching your favorite television show you may have noticed a hashtag followed by the name of the show.  You can now get on Twitter and type in that hashtag and read people’s comments as the show is broadcasting.

There are several places on the web to find good hashtag lists.  I have one on my website for education along with a list of people to follow by subject area.  Also on my website, you can check out a PLN Livebinder created by a colleague of mine.  Here is the link to that page:

Well, I said all that to say all this.  At the moment I am now following 234 people, I have 150 followers, and I have tweeted 952 times.  As I login to Twitter I get a plethora of great eLearning articles to read, new webtools to explore, ideas to use, and advice to follow.  If I have a question about something I can tweet it out and usually someone in my PLN will respond with an answer.  It is an awesome support group that I wish I had had access to when I started teaching 20 years ago. 

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