Growing my Personal Learning Environment

My Personal Learning EnvironmentIf I was a seed at the beginning of this week, I’ve definitely gained a few roots, stems, and possibly even a leaf or two. Cultivating a professional online presence is not an easy task. It takes time and know-how to select, design, share, contribute to, and otherwise refine my digital footprint.

In EdTech 543 I joined several new online learning communities this week (the usual ones Facebook, Diigo, and Twitter didn’t count ). I had to be an active participant (no lurking!) by sharing resources, links, making comments, and otherwise contributing. What I originally thought would be an easy task turned out to take a significant amount of time and strategic planning.

Take Pinterest, for example. I purposely avoided this site in its early stages because, well, it was just too…pretty. Time-consuming. Crafty. I knew my baked goods, job charts, or bulletin boards would look nothing like its gorgeous pictures. What started small in early  2010 has become the third most popular social networks in the U.S. It’s huge. Just like they did with Twitter, people have started using Pinterest in all sorts of creative ways: including education.

Realizing its educational potential, I finally created my first board. It was actually a fascinating experience but not because of Pinterest itself (I found the interface quite easy to grasp), but what I realized about myself during the process. Rather than create a general resource on Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) – there are many, and great ones, too – I chose to create a visual depiction of MY personal learning environment. It is a visual collection of my favorite websites, online learning communities, productivity tools, professional development ideas, and other resources that capture the brilliant intersection of education and technology. In short, it is my digital footprint. It is me.

[PLE’s, by the way, differ from Personal Learning Networks (PLNs). PLEs are the larger circle, that include our resources, productivity tools, blogs, etc., whereas PLNs are a smaller circle inside our PLE circle consisting of the networks are are part of.]

So, I joined several as depicted on my Pinterest board including Edmodo, Global Ed Con and iEarn (I even submitted a learning proposal and was accepted!), and Classroom 2.0. I also spent some time on Learnist and Google Plus exploring, finding people to follow, making comments, and gleaning resources.

I created a PLE diagram that shows connections between all of these communities. While I like the interactivity of the Pinterest board, I needed something that could visualize a network, nodes, connections, branches, growth, or other relationships that are core to a PLE. I chose to use, an online infographic design tool (pretty but a bit tricky). I even attempted to align my communities and resources with the NETS for Teacher standards. Here is my finished product:

In comparing my PLE representation and that of my classmates, we share some commonalities and differences. We are largely part of the same core group of networks (Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter), use many of the same productivity tools (Evernote, Diigo, Google Apps, Zotero), share via some of the same platforms (Slideshare, VoiceThread, Prezi), and include job-specific resources, blogs, and communities. While our representation of such networks differ visually and in their taxonomy, the overall effect is that of being connected to a greater pool of knowledge, resources, and individuals that we would ever achieve without today’s technology tools.

This idea of growing our network, of growing ourselves, aligns well with the connectivist framework I have been researching lately. Like George Siemens said, “The learning is the network” (2004).

Additional Resources on PLEs from our course module:
PLE for Sustainable Learning
PLEs: A Collection of Definitions
What Is An Online Community?
Ten Reasons to Be a Connected Educator
5 Reasons to Join a Niche Online Community
How To Build An Online Community: The Ultimate List Of Resources (2012)
Personal Learning Networks
A PLN Quick Start Guide
Personal Learning Communities
8 Ideas, 10 Guides, And 17 Tools For A Better Professional Learning Network

Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A theory for the digital age. Retrieved from      

10 Be’s: My Digital Footprint and PLN

I have read through dozens of articles, links, blogs, and articles to formulate a strategy to guide me as I grow my Personal Learning Network (PLN) and create a positive digital footprint.

Here is the direct link to Google Docs.

Professional Development: Webinars

Last night I stayed up very late in Nepal to catch a few webinars on SimpleK12. One was a fast-paced Web 2.0 smackdown where each presenter (me included–cool!) shared his/her screen and told about a useful tool. I chose PollsEverywhere, not because it is the best polling system out there, as others provide more analytics and assessment (InfuseLearning was highlighted as well), but because it is an easy way to turn any device into student response systems. I also learned about some other great tools such as screenr for instant screencasts, Doug Edmonds YouTube music videos that teach content, and BeeClip student digital scrapbook alternative to Glogster. I asked questions on the backchannel that were later answered and left feeling enthused and full of ideas. ]

The next webinar was on Symbaloo, which I am actually teaching this week during a professional development discussion, and I gained some new ideas on how to incorporate this tool. For starters, I’m going to set the homepage of all of the laptops to my Symbaloo webmix so that students don’t waste so much time pulling up websites and to keep them on task. I didn’t realize there were so many useful webmixes already created, such as “Surprisingly Edu Apps” and “Best Education Blogs.” I will definitely be spending some time webmixing this week.

I’ve tried a few times over the years to attend a successful webinar and have always left frustrated. It was either was boring or laden with technical problems. This webinar experience has encouraged me and I will be looking for others on topics of interest.