Category Archives: PLN Challenge
PLN Challenge 5 asked educators to reflect on the use of blogs as way to building a Personal Learning Network.
While twitter is great for quick conversations and finding people to connect with, tweets are only 140 characters long. Blogs are a way to develop more comprehensive thoughts and conversations
As an old-time blogger it never really occurred to me that blogging was a great way to learn. In the past I had mostly used blogs as a way to keep in touch with families and friends while I was overseas and also as a way to ramble on topics of interest/annoyance.
But when I stepped back and asked myself the question should student teachers blog? I found that there was a lot of learning to be found in blogging. Since I’ve started this blog, I’ve developed a Graduating Teacher Standards eportfolio page for posts where I have reflected on one of the standards. I’ve found this process a highly useful tool in developing reflective practice. So much so I’ll likely continue blogging against the Registered Teacher Criteria next year (if I’ve got a teaching job).
How do I blog?
I suggest that you first start reading blogs. If you are already on twitter, you probably get tweets announcing new posts on your favourite blogs or you can also subscribe via email for post updates to your favourite blog but the best way to manage blogs is via RSS feeds.
What are RSS feeds?
RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. You might notice a lot of blogs have buttons like this:
Some websites just have the letters RSS. But the point of the RSS is when a blog or newsite is updated they’ll send out a notification which is picked up in your feedreader. A what?
Feedreaders are ways to centrally manage updates from blogs, instead of visiting a blogsite everyday, you can just look in your feedreader to see who has published a post. A lot of newspapers also have feeds you can subscribe to. So for instance if you are a New Zealand-based teacher you might want to subscribe to the education feeds of Stuff and the New Zealand Herald so that every time the papers publish an education, you’ll get an update about it. If you have a google account, then you already have a reader account Google Reader. If you don’t have a google account, then sign up and you’ll have one! Google has more information about how their feedreader works here.
Commenting – go for it!
Blogs are essentially a social platform, so please feel free to comment! As a blogger I love getting reader comments or tweets about my posts. Commenting on blogs is also a great scaffold for blog readers before they decide to set up their own blog.
So you’ve been reading and commenting and now want to start writing. There are a lot of free blogging platforms for you to set up your blog. You simply sign up with a username, decide on your theme and away you go.
I initially started over at Blogger, which is also owned by google, back in 2003 but made the (easy) move to WordPress in 2010 and much prefer it. Aside from the interface what I like about wordpress is that is easy to moderate and edit comments. At the moment first time commentators are moderated but then they are able to respond freely. There is also an option to moderate all comments and edit comments which I find useful. There are also microblogging sites like Tumblr which is kind of a hybrid between facebook, blogs and twitter.
Perhaps the biggest tip I could give anyone looking to start out a blog is that you need to commit to a regular posting regime. Blogging is a bit like exercise, it works best when you do a little bit regularly rather than a huge amount in one go. Try and use something like a Weekly Reflection to keep you in the habit of blogging regularly. Most blogs now have the option of scheduling posts ahead of time, so if you happen to bang out a couple of posts then you can schedule them to appear over the course of a few days. You could also think about teaming up with a group of teachers to form a blog with multiple authors which is a great way to lessen the burden of content and increases your readership.
Driving traffic to your blog
Let people know about your blog! Put updates on Facebook and twitter when you update it (a lot of blogs now will automatically send out tweets when you publish posts). Install buttons to enable readers to share your posts through their social networks. Make sure that your blog has an RSS feed enabled, link to other posts and also keep commenting on other people’s blogs.
PLN challenge #4 was making time for your PLN. As someone who conducts her life through a browser, the idea that people wouldn’t want to interact on twitter and blogs seemed foreign. So for this post I have drawn experience from my foray into marathon running.
For reasons unknown a few years ago I decided to that I needed to run the Auckland half marathon. Over the winter I told enough people about this crazy plan that when the time came to sign up for training in the spring, I knew that I had to go to the next level. Then I started actually training. Despite brining up the rear of my running group every.single.session. I still came along. I gradually got faster and stronger, I was able to get my 2.4km run down to the time I would need to join the New Zealand police. But best of all, I finished the half marathon and lived to tell the tale.
My time didn’t break any land speed records, but I finished.
Building my PLN has been much the same as running that marathon. Without telling my friends and family that I was going to enter a half-marathon I doubt I ever would actually entered the competition. Likewise my coach and fellow runners in my group who were always there to give friendly encouragement were instrumental in keeping me running the streets of Auckland on the cold, wet and not to mention dark Auckland nights.
1. Start small
Anyone who tries to go from couch potato to marathon running puts you at risk of injury. Likewise the well-publicized risks of social media are amplified by jumping in without first watching and learning from others. I started off with a PLN that included people that I knew (some virtually, some in real life). Over time my network evolved as I started commenting on other teachers blogs, joining twitter and participating in education chats.
2. Get help
Like my running group, a PLN functions as a place to draw encouragement and support. It is also a place Teachers by their very nature are (usually) quite generous with their knowledge. Find a mentor on twitter to help you find your feet. Contact people via traditional means, email, the phone, in person and ask for advice.
3. Do a little bit each day
A bit like exercise, its easiest when you do a bit each day. The beauty of twitter is that you only get 140 characters to make your point. Spend 30 minutes reading twitter, respond to a few posts and you are on the way to building your PLN.
4. What’s your purpose?
I’m sure why I decided to run the half marathon, I just did. Which is a criticism I would also have of myself on twitter: I have a bit of a scatter gun approach, however my activity is derived from two broad principles: connect with others and learn from them. What I’m learning and who I am learning from are aspects of my learning that I will need to reflect on when my time becomes scarce.
5. The time is now
For student teachers in particular, the best time to build your PLN is before you end up teaching for real. Your PLN is there when you need help or at least provide light relief during the tough times both on your course and the first few years on the job.
To recap, a PLN or Personal Learning Network (because educators love our acronyms) has been around forever. In the past they tended to be the friends, family or colleagues you were to for help and guidance. In a university setting that might also include lecturers, mentors or other students. Since the advent of web, our networks have the potential to expand beyond our physical sphere. These days I have friends I’ve never met and some I’ve met through the internet and have an IRL (in real life) connection through. So how do you meet other teachers online?
So how do you build your PLN through twitter?
I’ll make no secret that I came to twitter through blogging. After setting up my account and following friends and family, I started following the tweets of bloggers I enjoyed reading . So if there’s a blog you enjoy reading follow that blogger because….
Bloggers have friends
I started following the followers of my initial teacher tweeters. If I saw an interesting conversation I’d follow the other tweeter as well. Also if an interesting retweet came out I’d follow that person to which brings me to…
The power of the retweet
Probably one of the easiest ways to build a following on twitter is by having other people retweet your ideas. A retweet is when one person sends one of your tweets to all their followers which means your name is getting out there. But how do you get a retweet?
- Participate in an #edchat or #ntchat
- Ask other tweeters for an introduction to their followers. Most tweachers (ha I made a portmanteau) are happy to help newbies out on twitter and before you know it you’ll have a great bunch of followers
Quality not quantity
Unless you are part of a food community, twitter is not a place to tweet what you are having for dinner. Do think about your audience and purpose when you tweet.
Twitter is not all work and no play
Obviously as a social networking site twitter is in essence a social platform. Respond to other people’s tweets. Retweet ideas.
Twitter feeds are constantly updating and the pace can be quite frantic so…
Think about who you interact with
At first you’ll probably be finding yourself wanting to follow everyone and everybody. Then once your twitter feed becomes a bit crazy you might tend to be a bit more judicious with who you follow. I tend to interact with are New Zealand/Australian tweeters. Firstly our educational systems are quite similar but more importantly time zones make it hard for us to interact with people who are asleep or are teaching. In general I’ve found Sunday night is a good time to catch a lot of New Zealand-based teachers on twitter, obviously during school hours you’re not going to get much interaction with teachers.
Having inadvertently completed the first educ blog challenge, What the heck is a PLN? with my Twitter will change you life post, I thought I would take part in the second PLN Challenge, what is is it I want to learn from my PLN?
1. What do you hope to learn more about with respect to your PLN in the coming weeks?
Being a student teacher with 6 months more in my course I am in a state of constant learning.
Watching the construction of Hingaia Peninsular school on the blog has me thinking a lot about the importance of learning spaces.
Interacting with student blogs has me ‘visiting’ schools in different cities and different countries. It was wonderful to pop into @Cait_Hedge’s classroom to see the work that the children are doing on learning about new cultures. But if I want a new search, I do a twitter search #comments4kids and I have a new class to visit.
I think any future teacher should be reading the parenting blog of Autism and Oughtisms for an insight into the world of the autistic child and his family.
Over the coming weeks I’ll be looking for advice from my PLN about making effective use of my time on Teaching Experience and tips about getting my first teaching job.
2. What have you learned with creating your PLN that you wish that someone had told you before and what tips do you have to share?
I wish someone had told me about twitter! I started blogging initially as a personal reflection and a way to keep my friends up to date with my course progress. However with twitter, a whole new level of support and guidance has opened up to me. It took a while to find the education community, but now that I have I really couldn’t be without it.