Thursday, December 07, 2017

Reflecting on my Professional Learning Network (PLN)

     When asked to reflect on my Professional Learning Network (PLN) for our Internet for Teachers course I must admit... I was frustrated and a little stuck on where to start. As someone who very purposefully began developing their PLN while in their undergrad degree I see my online networks as simply regular aspects of my life.... it was like asking me to reflect on the value of conversing with my colleagues while at work.

     So I started delving back into my blog posts to see how my PLN developed over the years and how my experiences may have changed. If you are interested in following along with that journey, here are a series of links to some "prominent PLN milestones through the ages":

January 12, 2012     Welcome to Twitter
June 10, 2012          Leibster Award
January 4, 2013       1 Year Blogiversary Celebration!
February 20, 2013   Twitter... 1 Year Later
February 24, 2013   ManACE TIN & BYTE
July 11, 2013           300 Follower Giveaway
January 2, 2014       2 Year Blogiversary Celebration!
April 19, 2014         MTS Awakening Possibilities Conference
August 1, 2015        Digital Literacy & the ICT Curriculum
October 7, 2015       #TRSD32 is on Twitter!
February 26, 2016   Building Your Digital Literacy Tickletrunk - BYTE
September 17, 2017 Back in the Blogging Game!
                                 Room 132 Info

     As someone who lives in a small rural setting I don't have a lot of colleagues in my building, or even in my division, to connect with. Add in maternity leave(s) and busy schedules and I find myself even further removed from opportunities to connect with others face-to-face. Tools such as my blog and various social media outlets have allowed me to develop connections with other educators in the province, across the country, and even around the world. I have been able to build relationships that have led to in-person friendships as well as exciting opportunities such as presentation offers. I have been able to share and learn in ways that never would have been possible without the use of technology. The value that these tools have added to my life is the reason why I continue to maintain utilizing them.

     If you are just starting out with developing a PLN, I'd like to offer the following pointers. These are adapted from my experiences shared in the posts above:

1 ) Find Platforms that Fit Your Style/Needs/Comfort Level
- There are countless platforms online that are designed for networking,
  learning, etc and it can be a little overwhelming at the start. Find one
  or two platforms that fit what you are looking for or that you are most
  comfortable with and begin developing your PLN from there.
- If you choose too many it is easy to get bogged down and not gain anything
  meaningful from them. If you have been online for a while, start going through
  the multiple platforms that you've signed up for, update the ones you want to
  use and disable the ones you don't use anymore.

2 ) Pick Your Standard Identity
- Determine how you want to represent yourself online and keep it
  consistent across whatever various platforms you decide to use. This 
  ensures that when someone searches online, they can determine if they
  have found "Jane Doe" the teacher, or "Jane Doe" the dancer.
- Your name, picture and location are all part of your identity. Whatever
  you decide to use with one platform, you should use with all of the others
  to maintain consistency. 

3 ) Include Your Professional Contact Information
- Most schools have webpages that include teacher's names and school
  contact information. If applicable, we suggest including this information
  in your online profiles to establish your professional identity and ensure
  you are not mistaken for someone else.
- This can be as simple as including the school name or as detailed as 
  including full school contact information depending on your comfort level.
* Remember to review your school/divisional online sharing policies before
  posting full school contact information. 

4 ) Keep Your Profiles/Information Updated
- Your profile is often the first thing that is reviewed when you have new
  visitors to your page and it is a direct reflection of you. Out-of-date 
  information can lead to misrepresentation or might even suggest laziness.
- Make sure that whatever information you include matches the standard
  identity that you maintain across all of your online platforms. 

5 ) Manage Your Privacy Controls
Privacy controls help determine who has access to your information and
  can also help prevent your account from being hacked. Set privacy controls
  that work for you and ensure that your information is only shared in a way 
  that you approve.
- Privacy controls are especially important if you are using certain platforms
  for personal use and others for professional use. It is one thing to have a
  public Twitter account which you use professionally to develop a PLN and
  having a public Facebook account which you use personally to post pictures
  of your weekend activities.
* Use your professional judgement to determine what privacy levels your
  platforms need. 

6 ) Keep it Small (at first)
- It is really easy to get sucked into signing up for multiple tools once you're
  online but it can quickly get overwhelming to maintain. Until you feel very
  comfortable with the digital identity that you want to establish, try to limit
  yourself to a few platforms that you use well as opposed to signing up for
  everything and letting your digital identity suffer.
- Remember to use your standard identity each time you create a new account.

7 ) Establish Your Network 
- Once you are comfortable with the platform that you have chosen and have
  "lurked" around for a while you should begin making connections and building
  your network. Think about what you want to get out of your experience and
  connect with people who can help you reach your goals.
- For example, if you are on Twitter and teach high school Chemistry, you may
  begin to follow other educators, chemistry departments from various universities,
  chemistry resources for students and/or find applicable hashtags like #education,
  #chemistry and #chemchat.
* It is okay for your network to change as your needs and goals change.

8 ) Remember the Golden Rule
- Interact positively and enthusiastically with those who are in your network.
  If someone responds/shares/likes/etc  one of your posts/tweets/pins/etc 
  make sure you respond back, engage in conversation and thank them for
  their interest.
- If you want to have a positive online experience and get the most out of your
  network make sure that you use proper etiquette and pay it forward whenever

9 ) Contribute, Don't Be Just a Consumer
- To get the most out of your online experience and help solidify your PLN
  it is not enough to simply be a consumer of information. The best
  networking opportunities and learning experiences occur when you are an
  active part of the process and contributing to the experience.
- This can be as simple as passing along helpful resources to others in your
  network or as complex as creating your own videos/blogs/podcasts/etc.

10 ) Re-Familiarize Yourself with Your Code of Professionalism
- One of the most important tips to remember, online and offline, is that your
  behaviour must reflect the standards outlined in your Code of Professionalism.
  It can be easy to assume that you are anonymous when it comes to online
  behaviour but in order to develop a professional digital identity and have a
  positive online presence then your Code of Professionalism must always be
  in your mind.


     Now that you have those tips in your back pocket it is time to determine what online platforms you are going to use to help create or re-vamp your professional digital identity. We compiled what we believe to be the "Top 4 Social Networking Sites for Educators" as well as some how-to guides to help you get started.**

1 ) Google+
- We recommend Google+ For Educators: LiveBinder created by
   Steven Anderson
- To read about an educator's experience with Google+, see Will
   Deyamport's post (with video!): Google What? Google+
  My MECA 2013 Presentation
2 ) Twitter
We recommend Twitter for Educators: A Beginner's Guide created by Amber Coggin
3 ) LinkedIn
We recommend Social Networking Part 3: Teachers Guide to the Use of LinkedIn
  created by Med Kharbach.
4 ) Facebook
- We recommend the Facebook for Educators Guide put out by Facebook themselves
  and The Complete Guide to Facebook for Educators by Lisa Nielsen.


     Now if you've found yourself at the bottom of this post because you scrolled through quickly (I know, its text-heavy). Here is a short summary video from Common Sense Media on the use of PLNs by educators. 
Good luck with developing your own PLN!


  1. Kirsten, I look forward to continued learning from your writing. I love your blog!