(This is step eight in the free Teacher 2.0 course/"experience" at Mightybell - participate at https://mightybell.com/experiences/3ff5259e1c4d9948-Teacher-2-0.)
Previously, a PLN was a "Professional" Learning Network: a somewhat fixed group of people that you join or are asked to join for your professional development. Now PLN is being used instead to indicate a "Personal" Learning Network: a very personal (individual) set of people you choose to follow or communicate with for your professional development, usually outside of any formal requirement.
The Web has made a Personal Learning Network possible, largely through the technology of RSS, or "really simple syndication." The orange RSS button that you often see at websites represents a "feed" or "stream" of new information from a website that you can use to aggregate items from a variety of sources that you care about into one, easy-to-read place.
There are a number of tools that allow this kind of aggregation--like creating your own uniquely personalized newspaper of the new information on the web. Instead of going to five or ten or more sites a day that have content you're interested in and checking to see if anything is new, instead you can use one site or service to have that information come to you! This is how you can "follow" the bloggers or websites that interest you, thus creating your own PLN.
What tools and practices have helped you build your PLN? Are there tips or tricks you would share?
TIP: do not get overwhelmed by Google Reader reporting that you have not read the latest 3426 posts. You can't keep up if you follow very many authors and they are heavy posters, so you should not beat yourself up. Read the things you notice. You are still going to get more out of it than you would have if you had never subscribed to the feeds at all!
I think there are a number of useful tools out there, and this idea of "curating" is especially interesting. Curating and subscribing to feeds isn't really the same thing, but there are some quite interesting new tools out there. http://mashable.com/2011/01/06/curation-tools/
I use an iGoogle page to keep up with my content, mostly because it is pretty functional and it takes advantage of the Google suite of tools. Less mental overhead with interfaces, credentials, and URLs. I like tools that work from within my browser, because then they are only a click away.
I love your first paragraph. Wisdom!
And another great link from you. :)
I have my PLNs firmly embedded in my iGoogle pages. Here's an image of one of those pages.
I like having separate pages on iGoogle for my various PLNs and can flip to those at call. Here's a link to a webinarI co-facilitated on developing an iGoogle page.
My very first PLN was created with email. Then iGoogle. Now it's Reader, Pearltrees, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, G+, ISTE Ning and of course, Teacher 2.0 now. I use PublishSync to make one post for some of them. These are my main resources and there are others I frequent when I can find the time. As A.T. notes in her post on Sunday, it's easy to get overwhelmed by Reader. I scan the titles, tap the ones that look best, and then mark all as read. I can't possible get through them all--human beings sure are verbose, and some bloggers and tweeters spend the bulk of their time writing. It gets very noisy.
Yes, the RSS feed has become a wonderful tool and I'm teaching my students to use it as well so they can become well-informed. Newsy provides them with a format they enjoy the most--the video news feed. I think that's more of a trend among 18-20 somethings than people realize. It adapts best to mobiles and I think its charm lies there.
I really appreciated the iGoogle suggestion; for some reason, it had never occurred to me to use that as an aggregation tool! Perhaps that's because Google+ has been filling that role for me so well. Thanks to our friend Laura Gibbs (hi, Laura!), I got a very early invitation to G+ over the summer. So I have been building up an amazing PLN over there, augmenting it by following many of the same folks (and some others) on Twitter, and now by participating in a couple of interesting (and closed) Facebook groups.
What I love about G+ is that it can serve as a short-form blogging tool, an aggregator, and a Twitter-like way to broadcast links to others, all at the same time. I had not been blogging regularly since January of 2011, partly because I was extremely busy with other stuff but partly because blogging itself had come to feel like a chore rather than a joy. I think that was because my blog (which you can find if you go to my profile page) was so very focused on the development of the Tres Columnae Project. I really didn't have a venue to share non-TC-related things online, and I was too busy actually building the project materials to talk about how I was building them.
I agree with Leanna -- my earliest PLN was the amazingly congenial, generous group of Latin teachers I met through the Latinteach listserv back in the late 1990's, when it was still the only game in town. I recently discovered the printed copies of great ideas I'd made "back in the day," when e-mail inbox space was limited and there wasn't an archive of postings. Then there were Yahoogroups and other things, and now I'm happy with my hybrid approach and the remarkable PLN that has grown from it.
I just checked out igoogle for the first time. Very user friendly as most google things are. My concern with using this tool in the classroom is the inappropriate gadgets that you can add to you page with ease (such as Playboy pictures). Is there any way to filter this for student use? I know that you can use the search box to find the subject area that you are interested in but if you allow "play" time for students to learn a new tool then it is inevitable that they will find this content. I do like the ease of the program for PLN organization and ease of access.