7 November 2013

Personal Learning Networks: A brief review


As part of my current MEd Unit, I had to join and review a Personal Learning Network (PLN). I chose to join and review The Educator’s PLN (Thomas Whitby, 2013), as I am already a member and dedicated user of both Edmodo and Twitter. I wanted to try new possibilities, which were The Educator’s PLN and Classroom 2.0, and, after reading the article, ‘Professional learning networks designed for teacher learning’ (Trust, 2012) I decided to try The Educator’s PLN.

I wanted to learn if it would be a good place to connect and learn from educators – are they willing to answer queries and provide links for me when I am researching? Are there constant and consistent learning conversations and sharing? If we are to use PLNS to their best, which can be to provide us with transformative and powerful experiences that are teacher-driven, we need to be able to connect and contribute (Being Connected, 2013).

I believe that the point of a PLN is to grow as an educator, learn from others, and contribute to a community (Trust, 2012, p. 37). I chose to explore edupln.ning.com, as Trust’s article suggested that it is more member-centred than Classroom 2.0, which advocates its own material more than that of educators ( (Trust, 2012, p. 36). I prefer to learn from my peers - as suggested in the video Being Connected, (U.S. Department of Education, Sept. 2013) - as this allows us to learn consistently, when and where it suits us. I think edupln.ning.com advocates this collaborative and creative content well – I like how members can post blogs and even set up their own group if there is not yet one to cater to their particular needs.

What I liked about edupln.ning.com is that when you sign up, you can add in your Blog, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ details etc., which shows me this place is one that recognises the power of connection. Having accounts linked together is really helpful when managing a PLN – because, as suggested in Trust’s article, managing a PLN (particularly at first) can be tricky, confusing and time-consuming.

Each member gets a page to personalize, which shows their activity on the site. There are easy links to blogs, groups, Twitter etc. making it easy to cross-post and connect. Membership has to be authorized however, so I was not able to create my page at first, which was a little frustrating as time is precious. I want to be able to use something immediately and often forget what I have signed up for if I don’t get started. You are able to access most of the content though not the ‘Tutorials’ whilst membership is pending. However, membership was approved within three days and an email was sent to notify me. I was then able to create my own page, as shown below.
My edupln.ning.com Page
Members were global, which is great for creating flat classroom experiences and gaining expertise from educators around the world. A great deal did seem to hail from Australia and many groups seemed to centre around Australian education. A majority seemed to come from the USA, whilst I struggled to find any from the UK. As a connected educator, this seems to be symptomatic of UK teachers (and I trained there). Australian and American teachers are my ‘go-tos’; they seem to be more open, more willing and more focused on continual life-ling learning. They appear to embrace change more readily and are at the forefront of educational innovation. UK teachers are very traditional and staid – one of the reasons I left.

Becoming a member gives you access to a digital badge to endorse your membership with a ‘badge’ – I embedded mine into my blog to encourage others to get involved. The badge links directly to the site making it easy for other educators to get onboard – which is what PLN is all about. Whilst membership is pending, it looks like this:

Digital Badge
This can be customised to your own colours - as you can see, I use my 'brand' pink and green - which is great for keeping colours in sync with your own sites.

I have posted about Twitter previously and strongly advocate all educators create an account. As suggested in the video Being Connected, (U.S. Department of Education, Sept. 2013); your PLN will grow organically as you become familiar with the way that things work, though even after a couple of weeks, I am not sure this is the case with edupln.ning.com. I learn a great deal from Twitter and wondered if edupln.ning.com could rival this? After a couple of weeks though, I am afraid to say that I do not believe I will be going to continue using edupln.ning.com. If my Twitter rates at 5, I would rate edupln.ning.com as 1-2 because it is just not active enough, quick enough or efficient as a user.

Twitter, by its very nature, is short and snappy. I can spend two minutes scrolling through and be guaranteed to find a couple of blogs or resources I want to check out. This is every time I check, which is daily. The use of hashtags means I can also search easily for topics AND post about certain topics. This means I get responses quickly from lots of people. On edupln.ning.com I joined the groups “Global Read Aloud Project”, “Google Tools for Teachers” and “Middle School Book Club” to try to mirror hashtags and target similar and specific areas.


I posted the same question on edupln.ning.com and on Twitter:

What is everyone's opinion on the use of e-readers to engage and motivate our net-generation?

This is related to my proposal paper about Kindles and re-engaging learners as readers, as this is something I want to continue to explore. Here is my post on Twitter:

Twitter
Here is my post on edupln.ning.com.
edupln.ning.com

I received about ten responses on Twitter and started a conversation advocating Kindles over iPads. I received one response on edupln.ning.com.



I do not think I will continue with edupln.ning.com; it is not useful to me as a PLN as it is too ‘big’. I need something that is quick and efficient, and that is Twitter. I am sure other tools will emerge that will rival Twitter and of course, I will keep on exploring. For me, a PLN as to be accessible, global and fit into my busy schedule.

Bibliography
--------------------------
The US Department for Education. (2013). Being Connected. Retrieved from

http://connectededucators.org/

Thomas Whitby. (2013). Retrieved from The Educator's PLN: http://edupln.ning.com/

Trust, T. (2012). Professional learning networks designed for teacher learning. Journal of

Digital Learning in Teacher Education , 28 (4), 34-38.

Twitter, Inc. (2013). Retrieved from Twitter: Twitter.com