Developing Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) with Twitter

Educators who use Twitter know it’s one of the most powerful web tools available for use inside the classroom and out. The Chronicle of Higher Ed’s Wired Campus (04-06-2009) refers to it as a “global faculty lounge” where you can “pick up some great higher-education gossip, track down colleagues to collaborate with, or get advice on how to improve your teaching or research.”

College Humor posts a parody of what “Real Life Twitter” would sound like if we talked the way we tweeted.  But, listen to what Evan Williams, one of the co-founders of Twitter, tells us about the evolution of  Twitter.   Evan Williams on Listening to Twitter Users

Now, why do I recommend you get on Twitter?  You already have more than enough email to read and probably Facebook to check every so often to keep up with your friends and family.  The answer is that Twitter is your key to international collaboration, your entrance to that global faculty lounge where educators, professionals from all around the world meet to discuss issues, share up-to-date research, and inspire each other to look at things a little differently.   By developing a global personal learning network (PLN), you have the opportunity to collaborate with people all over the world who will encourage you to experiment with new ideas, develop new strategies, and create new expectations.  @djainslie (Dodie Anslie), a teacher mentor and technology integration trainer out of New York put this video together to show why she and 102 others believe a global PLN is important to have as educators.   PLN Research 2010: Why Have One?

How do you get started?   Take a look at  How to Use Twitter and get yourself a Twitter account.

How do you go about building a personal learning network?  Start out by following people on Twitter whom you respect and whose writing and thoughts you appreciate.  If you enjoy reading their blog, usually they’ll post their Twitter name or Twitter account on them.  If you can’t find their Twitter names, do a search on Twitter.  Find them, look and see who they follow, and follow along.  Look at their profiles and blogs and decide if their ideas seem interesting to you.  You can always “unfollow” people later if you change your mind.

Another way to develop your PLN is to search for groups on Twitter to connect with who share your profession or your interests.  Twibes is one useful site for that.  Twitter Groups is another.

Once you have found a person or two to follow, your next step is to jump in.   At first, you may just want to observe how and what people are tweeting.  Then, retweet (RT) good information that you’re getting so that your followers will have access to what you’ve learned on Twitter. Next, add your thoughts to the conversation.  Respond to what others are saying.   Ask a question.  Create a poll (Poll Daddy) and ask people to answer a few questions.  Post the results. Then, add a link to a blog, online journal or newspaper article that you’ve found interesting, write a brief comment,  and there you are!  You’ve tweeted!   Getting started on Twitter reminds me of what is like to join into a conversation of people speaking my second language.  Before I jump into the conversation, I listen and get comfortable.  I need to know that if I make a mistake, I won’t be shut out.  Remember, one nice thing Twitter has that live conversations doesn’t – a delete button.  If you make a mistake, hit delete.  But know that nobody will shut you out if they know your motives are good.  On the contrary, they’ll expect and look forward to your participation, and they’ll encourage you to continue by recommending to their other followers that they follow you as well.  PLNs, like teams, are only as strong as are their individual participating members.

You will want to contribute to your PLN by microblogging on Twitter, but you’ll also want to start blogging.  At this point, you may be thinking that you don’t have anything to blog about.  But, if you teach, you, no doubt,  have plenty to say and plenty to contribute to your PLN.  You may not know what you want to say yet, but give yourself time to see what others are writing about, and you will find your voice as well.

For additional information about Twitter and PLNs, please visit The Educator’s PLN.  This Ning site was developed by educators on Twitter who decided they needed more space to communicate, share and save information.  Another must read is The PLN Spirograph.

If I still haven’t convinced you of the value of PLNs and Twitter, here are videos, slide presentations and articles to inspire you to give them a try:

PLNs

Personal Learning Networks:  An introduction to what’s in them for you

Personal Learning Networks:  Continuous Professional Development

How to Build a Personal Learning Network

Powerful Personal Learning Networks PLN

Tweets for Teachers

The Five Most Important Things I Have Learned from Twitter

5 Responses

  1. As always. This is informative and encouraging for those who need help with finding resources.

  2. I completely agree! Twitter is a goldmine of information just waiting for the professional educator. I wrote about the same thing (though admitedly, not full of wonderful links-great job!) on my own blog. Nicely done!

    • What did we ever do without Twitter? Thanks so much for your comments and for supporting my efforts at writing.

  3. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mrs_Dem: Developing PLN’s with Twitter- http://bit.ly/9Fy4um

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