Social media is now more popular than ever. I have led a few workshops on how to build a PLN with the use of social media. These sessions have also had low attendance. It could be that I am a terrible presenter and nobody wants to come to my sessions. However, that may not be the case because my Weebly, Webtools, and Google Docs sessions are busting at the seams. My guess is that most people simply 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 have a PLN for any topic that you want to learn more about, so it is possible to have more than one. For example, if I am an educator that teaches history, has a hobby where I collect WWII memorabilia, and my favorite movies are the Star Wars series, then I could actually build a PLN in each area. I could have one for my job, one for my hobby, and one to connect with other Star Wars fanatics. How is this possible?
One of the easiest ways to connect with people around the world that have similar interests is Twitter. I know what you might be thinking, I don’t need one more thing 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 normally connect with on Facebook. Instead, I followed people that were keynote speakers at recent conferences. I followed a few eLearning leaders from around the state.
As I would read articles posted by the people I followed, I would begin following the author of the article itself. Before I knew it, people were following me. I began exploring hash tags and would read posts from educators within the hash tag. For example, #edchat or #edtech. A hashtag is the pound sign followed by a topic. While watching many of your favorite television shows you may have noticed a hashtag followed by the name of the show in the corner of the screen. 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: http://elearningtolife.weebly.com/developing-your-pln.html
The Indiana Department of Education’s eLearning division has #INeLearn. Each Thursday night from 7:00 to 8:00 PM Central Time there is a Twitter chat that anyone can take part in. The chats cover a wide range of topics for all educators.
Well, I said all that to say all this. At the moment I am now following 352 people, I have 273 followers, and I have tweeted 1792 times. If I can do, then anyone of you could too. Each day as I open my browser and go to Twitter, I get a plethora of great eLearning articles to read, new webtools to explore, great 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 access to when I started teaching 21 years ago.