As the creator of the Educator’s PLN Ning site, I can admit on this post, that the EDU PLN was never a planned destination, but more of an afterthought. My original plan was a result of a need that I had for my undergraduate methods students. At the time, I was a novice in the world of social media. I understood the concept of a Personal Learning Network, but still had not found an efficient way to build it up. Linkedin was very rich with professionals, but it was a slow and cumbersome process. I spent a great deal of time cultivating connections with little return of real information for my efforts. I had created successful Education Groups in Linkedin which eventually led me to engaging people on Twitter.
My experience with Twitter was not unlike many others. I did not get it at first. When I finally got the concept, that who you follow is the driving force of Twitter as a tool for developing a PLN, I maximized that idea with Linkedin. I went to my contacts and Educational Groups and gathered the twitter names of any educators who then used Twitter. My follow list grew quickly and it was with all the right people, educators. There were now two components to my PLN Linkedin and Twitter.
My purpose in all of this was to be able to supply my methods students with the most relevant methods being used in education from people who actually practiced those methods. This was a simple plan with complex results. It worked too well, which became a problem. Twitter, with the right people being followed, is rich with sources. I began to get link upon link of great educational information ranging from tidbits to websites. For my own sanity I learned about digital bookmarking. I used an application called Delicious to begin bookmarking all of this information as I gathered it. This app, Delicious, became yet another element of my developing PLN.
My problem, as I assessed it, was clear yet complicated. I had great information in a multitude of forms. These were immediately usable links for any educator to apply to his or her class. There were solutions, applications, videos, discussions, webinars, podcasts, and websites for the taking. The problem was that my methods students were not yet prepared to even know what they were looking at, let alone have a place to apply it. I attempted to pass links along to them through emails sent almost daily. This was best compared to the old standby metaphor of filling a glass of water with a fire hose. It was too much too fast. I needed a depository to place all this great educational stuff until my students were equipped to handle it. I needed a place that they could access it on an individual basis whenever they had a need.
My college had Blackboard available to us, but I wanted to model something that my students could use in any place that they were hired. Most Public schools do not have Blackboard since it needs to be purchased. Ning seemed to be the best solution. At the time it was free, and, because it was an intuitive application, an introduction and tour was all the training needed to use it. I could make it a private site and provide a safety net for my students to train them before their foray into the big bad world of Social Media. I created the site and called it Methods Matters. It was slowly accepted by students skeptical of technology, and wondering what any of this had to do with teaching. In a short period of time they got it. It became a focal point for their PLN’s which I now began to require them to have. Yes, I require Twitter, Ning and Delicious as a minimum for Personal Learning Networks for my students. Most go beyond the minimum requirements.
With that as the Background I can now move on to the story of The Educator’s PLN. As I engaged more and more educators on my PLN, I discovered many similarities in attitudes and experiences of educators compared to my students. The light bulb lit the room. I could do the same for the people in Education. I could link up people who have a need for relevant educational information. Together, we could deposit information until people were ready to access it. Beyond the information it also provided access to educators worldwide for further and fuller connections. This site provides a rich connection using Social Media. The Educator’s PLN is not a PLN in itself, but rather a source for sources for any educator to access in building or improving his or her own Personal Learning Network. As of this post the Educator’s PLN has a global membership of 5,565 educators, 351 educational videos, 70 Groups, 219 discussions, and 257 blog posts.
I am a firm believer in using Social Media to advance professional development for educators. I also believe that social media will be a driving force in advocating and enabling much-needed educational reform. The details of the development of my PLN are described in a five-part post, The PLN Blueprint. I also quite often write about the PLN development on my Blog, MyIslandView.
This post first appeared as a guest blogger’s post for my friend Jason Bedell.