Building my PLN

In my first week of my COETAIL learning journey I read an article and two chapters of  Reach: Building Communities and Networks for Professional Development by Jeff Utecht. It is an in depth guide to understanding networks and communities. He went through the process of setting up RSS feeds and how to build and grow your professional network. I enjoyed reading these two chapters and found some very useful information within them. Although I have used RSS feeds and Twitter for my own PLN I was barely scratching the surface of what they are capable of. I had never thought to directly target specific information that could be useful for my classroom. I would consider myself to be a passive user of Twitter. Instead of targeting information that I want, I wait to see what kinds of information, thoughts and ideas the people that I follow share and sift through them to determine what I need or do not need to read. I thought that targeting specific information using my RSS feed was a great idea that I plan to add to my practice immediately. Most references to creating an RSS feed from a search was related to Google Reader. I am not sure how to add this search to my Digg Reader (except by typing in the key terms in the Digg search bar). I did find that you can add a search alert in google (see image below) but I am not sure how useful this will be. This would be very useful if I could figure it out.


I am definitely a “lurker” in my Twitter PLN. I mostly read tweets and generally my greatest participation is by retweeting what others have put out there. I see how increasing my activity can provide greater opportunities to make connections with other like minded professionals and expand my knowledge base. I also have problems with the “self-promotion” required to build and expand my PLN.

4 thoughts on “Building my PLN

  1. Hey Andrew…

    I would also consider myself an online “lurker” and would argue that this is not necessarily a bad thing. At least you are reading what others have to say and digesting multiple sources in order to inform your own practice.

    For me, this is true for both educational information and my personal interests. Take the guitar for example. There are hundreds of sites that provide info on the latest gear or how to play a particular song and I am often “searching” or “messing around” or even “lurking” to see the scroll of conversations between people. Is it strange that I would consider myself part of that musical “community” without having participated digitally? My justification is that I have many conversations in person about songs or guitars or other musical bits and pieces… perhaps that makes me a member of the actual community… not a virtual one? Not sure. Jeff mentions in his book that “If everyone were a lurker, no information would be shared.” I suppose this is true, however, since I feel that I am often one to sit back and observe before commenting, I need others to get things started. I need to “lurk” for a bit before I can feel comfortable to join in.

    Your final comment about being apprehensive toward “self promotion” is definitely something that concerns me as well. The second chapter of Jeff’s book indicates that self promotion is akin to having an open door policy to your classroom. I am very comfortable with anyone walking into my room at any time, yet I feel very apprehensive about the online version of this. “Branding” my online profile is yet another level. I get that people want to “identify” themselves online so that others can gravitate to like-minded people, however, I just can’t get past the word “brand”. The word immediately brings the corporate world to mind. Perhaps schools could have a “brand”, but individual teachers? I’ll have to think about this as we progress during Course 1.

    Ok… I’m off to lurk on some acoustic guitar blogs! See you tomorrow!

  2. Hi Andrew
    Unfortunately Google Reader is no more (much to my horror and I am still mourning it’s loss). That also shows you how quickly some tools can come and go and why we hammer on about teaching skills not tools!).

    At the moment I use Feedly as my replacement for Google Reader. It’s ok, and I’m getting used to it as Google Reader’s replacement.

    Even without Google Reader, you can still set up a google alert – I use them all the time so that I know when I’m being mentioned on the web so that I can respond. Once you’ve set up your alerts you can change the settings so that you get a “digest” in your inbox (I have a weekly digest delivered). In my inbox, I have a filter that automatically shifts that digest email into a folder for me to read later – that way it doesn’t clog up my inbox but it’s there when I’m ready to check it! I don’t think it is possible to have your google alerts come into an RSS Reader (that’s one of the great things about all things Google & why I miss Reader so much!!) but I could be wrong!

  3. Andrew,
    I am proud of your admitted “lurking” prowess via Twitter. I cannot say that I am even this proficient in utilizing this application. Retweeting! Wow, how do I do that?! As with you, I know that this will be a journey into learning and growing a PLN. This experience looked very different only a few years ago. It is a task that seems a bit overwhelming at the moment (for me at least), but through time, trial and error, “pointing and clicking…and seeing what happens,” and learning from those who are more experienced (what is retweeting again?), we will all get through this and benefit greatly from it.

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