My Personal Learning Network Day 8

20 01 2010

Day 8:  Probably the most encouraging aspect of creating my Personal Learning Network is how, once I created the network, my network of people and resources work towards a connection from the other end, their end; they begin to find me.  I experienced some of this when I first opened my Facebook account (“Welcome to Crackbook,” a friend joked), and soon had a dozen friend requests from people I hadn’t seen in years.  Just the same, this week I have been barraged by former Penn State students with requests to join networks on the English Companion Ning, and I have been corresponding with some of the people whose links appeared on my first post.  My Twitter account now has this customized forest theme, an additional half-dozen followers, and following a dozen more, and my LinkedIn account is humming, thanks in large part to the traffic from my students in my LLED 420 class. My new Blog has a few subscribers and steady traffic, a few comments, and this prompted me to write a few emails and to make comments on their Blogs.

The most embarassing discovery I made is about my own naivete when it comes to technology.  There are no fewer than five seminars being advertised in my Outlook inbox at the moment.  One is entitled Rethinking Powerpoint:  A Premiere, an invitation to participate in Penn State’s Learning and Technology Group (TLT), an “Online Issues Forum” on the topic of using library resources in online classes, an invitation to check out the Penn State Young Writer’s Workshop’s new Blog, and the 2010 TLT Symposium Poster Session Call for Submissions, and such emails have been proliferating in my inbox since I arrived at Penn State four years ago.  What changed is that I am suddenly able to contextualize these groups, seminars, conferences, and webinars relating to education and technology here on campus.  Perhaps this is the most significant gain I’ve made since establishing my PLN eight days ago.

Then, through my RSS feeds of twenty different blogs (and growing) relating to education and technology, and thanks to my daily email from Diigo Groups I am privy to all manner of webinars and whatnot related to Classroom 2.0. It’s all too much information on most days. The sudden recognition of resources is overwhelming, and it’s hard to know where to begin.  But suffice it to say that I am clearly not an early adopter, and the ship sailed long ago.  But like a recent convert, I’ve been really excited, only to realize that most people have adopted many of these practices, have already published books on the topic, and had functional PLNs in place five years ago, if not earlier.  But almost everybody has learned how to play it cool.  I’m pretty proud of myself, and can’t wait for the day when I interface with educational technology with a silky fluidity, instead of tearing around the block like a kid wobbling down the road, saying, look, look, I can ride my bike!

So I’ve reached this point where I know how little I know, and I know that this is a progression, and as Jamie Myers, co-author Inquiry Based Instruction:  Engaging Students in Life and Literature, says, “true understanding lies in complexity.”  I realize that the more answers I find, the more questions I’ll have.  So philosophically I am beginning to identify a new value:  currency.  I want to establish and maintain a network that adapts to changing conditions and facilitates my learning processes and helps me accomplish various tasks, and one that maybe will anticipate my needs and helps advise me towards further progress.

I still haven’t determined what exactly attainment in this area would look like. Worse, I’ve walked my class into this jungle, and today in class I promised to explain to my students just where this is going, and I promised to tell them next week, and I will — just as soon as I can answer that question to my own satisfaction.

Random places this inquiry has taken me:

1.  I recognized the power of  Vimeo to enable the sharing of video.  No wonder my friends Thomas Kanschat (a ridiculously talented former student and (later) my screenwriting partner; check out his reel) and documentary filmmaker Felicity Wood were on there.  The PLN helps me remember that I have people I can contact as resources for things related to sharing and proliferating video.

2.  I have been harping on Twitter a lot, but in the spirit of open-mindedness, I ran into an interesting website made by LeVar Burton, star of Roots,  where he talks about people impersonating him on Twitter and about using Twitter to quit smoking, and finding real community, support, and accountability there among what he calls “his Tweeples.”

3.  I found myself growing interested in (former Talking Heads member) David Byrne‘s performance art “I Heart Powerpoint,” described by Sam Hochberg here.  He writes, “The structure and features of PowerPoint were designed assuming a specific world view. The software, by making certain actions easier and more convenient than others tells you how to think as it helps you accomplish your task. Not in an obvious way or in an obnoxious way or even in a scheming way. The biases are almost unintentional; they are natural and well-integrated. It is possible that the engineers and designers have no intention of guiding and straightening out your thinking; they simply feel that the assumptions upon which they base their design decisions are the most natural and practical. You are thus subtly indoctrinated into a manner of being and behaving, assuming and acting, that grows on you as you use the program.”  With that in mind, check out the spoof Powerpoint presentation Gettysburg Cemetary Dedication here).

4.  Probably the most comprehensive educational technology literature I’ve discovered thus far is Handbook of Emerging Technologies and Learning (2009) by George Siemens and Peter Tittenberger.  I have looked it over and mean to analyze this in depth in a future post, and I recommend it to anyone who is interested in education and technology.

I’m off to water and maintain my PLN, to establish links to people and resources — to take out my nerdy machete and hack through the undergrowth.  Wish me luck, people.




2 responses

22 01 2010

The difference between your PLN and our PLNs is that you have an untapped network you’ve discovered whereas we have few if any connections; therefore our networks aren’t expanding the way yours seems to be. If all I get out of the network is a base of new teachers going through the same first years as myself (ie. my classmates) I’d be content.

22 01 2010
Jason Whitney

First off, I love getting comments!
My first thought after reading your comment was, you’re absolutely right. You haven’t had as much time to develop professional networks of teachers and filmmakers and those sorts as I have. So your getting linked to resources probably isn’t as exciting and rewarding as it might be for me. But then I thought, wait a minute: My network IS your network. All of my resources are expanding, and if you are linked to me, then you are also continuously expanding. And vice-versa.

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