Wednesday, April 3, 2013

PLN Plan 2013

I have no idea if anyone will read this blog now that the ETMOOC course is over. That's okay, really. I've met a few folks through that experience, and I follow their blogs. With the magic of the Internet, perhaps I can pick up a few readers in this next phase. I started this blog as part of the assignment for ETMOOC, and at the time, I thought I would begin another blog once the class was over. I felt pressured by the idea of coming up with something clever for a title, and I chose a very, very generic URL. How very un-English major of me!

I'm going to keep the EdTech2013 title because this is the year that I stumbled upon a new research love. Like all great loves in life, it entered my life when I wasn't even looking for it. All along, everything I've been doing has come together. I put off a course in my grad program until the very end, and I had the worst attitude going into the first night of class. Reviewing my notes for the first assignment yesterday filled me with a deep shame. Here's what I wrote:

"The 'new culture of learning' honestly wears me out. Not only am I supposed to be a master of content, I need to innovate constantly and be an IT specialist. I have to become a seer of the future, a cheerleader for student creativity, a personal counselor, and a graphic designer by never leaving my electronic devices. And I have to do all of this with the knowledge that I am a part-time, contingent worker with no future of full-time employment."

Whoa. And I was in good mood when I wrote that! One of my colleagues responded on the discussion board that she thought "it doesn't have to be that complicated." She reminded me that we can take one thing at a time and as long as the students know we are trying, they will try too. When I read that, I really wanted to delete my post. What I decided to do instead was suspend judgment about the class. I spent hours checking out of the readings, links, and the "Big Questions" that the teacher created. I could sense that she really loved what she was teaching, and although her background is in K-12, she teaches college students.

After week two of her course, I was hooked. I haven't had this type of realization about my learning since I was undergrad. I saw educational technology as a way to bring together my work as an English teacher, adult educator, and instructional designer. The research about curriculum instruction and assessment has even made me love statistics (honest). All of my work, both on campus and in freelance can be contextualized and analyzed by the great umbrella field of Ed Tech. Where have you been these last ten years? 

Truth be told: I get really bored with scholarship surrounding the teaching of writing. I read it because I like to stay current, but I've never found a research question that can sustain me into the creation of an article for publishing. I'd rather write about my experiences with trail crew or hiking. I've been able to create a few conference presentations, but the Comp. Rhetoric articles have never come. Believe me, I've tried. I might still try.
Give me a question about teaching and technology, and I'm ready to go! In fact, I can't find enough time in the day to make it happen. This blog is a start, and so, that brings me to what I'm working on next and why I am keeping this blog title through 2013.

So, turn the record over, and let's listen to something new.

On May 2, I am presenting at the Assessment, Teaching, and Learning Conference, and I'm going to use this blog to draft my 90 minute presentation (yikes, that's a long time). I've got most of my research on paper, and I'm changing some ideas since I wrote the proposal. I've got amazing colleagues going to this conference, and I'm going to see a beloved friend who lives in Idaho. I might even do a mountain bike race that weekend. It's the best of all possible worlds coming together in Spokane, WA! Who knew?

The Personal Learning Network Plan is to use the next thirty days to create what I'm presenting. My inspiration for this type of transparency is Stephanie Delaney's Stephanie Plans a Class blog.

I'll post my title and abstract in the next day or two, but for now, just know that my intended audience is teachers who are interested, yet intimidated by, all of the technological choices for teaching. I hope to reach people who mentor others or who are interested in learning about Ed Tech, but never have the time to brush up on their skills. 

My first question, for my readers (if you exist) is to solicit definitions of your Personal Learning Network (PLN). I'm interested in learning from people who are relatively new to creating a PLN.  I'd prefer layperson language, and not URLs for definitions. If you rock my world, I'll cite your work and provide a link to your blog or website.

How do you describe/define a PLN to people who have never heard the acronym?


  1. Hi Alyson. I'm in a group of ETMOOCers who have banded together to continue our relationships post-ETMOOC. I have had the idea of PLN in my mind for a few years, but I think it's one that evolves over time. The definition or scope of the PLN is different for me than it was a year ago. Some of that had to do with the time and energy I was able to put into it.

    I taught first as an adjunct Psychology instructor at a small Christian college and then 7 years in multiple grades in a small, rural school in N. CA. The connection with technology grew for me as a teacher as the access to technology and the growth of the resources on the Internet grew. The real online connections with others didn't occur much until after that time. My first real connections came the last year of my time there when I piloted the use of Palm handheld computers in my class and found a few others around the country I could correspond with by email. We would share ideas and our learning about using the technology and websites in our classroom. You can see my artifacts here:

    For me, a PLN started with someone else's definition: Professional Learning Network. But then I found that Personal Learning Network was more appropriate, as it described how the connections I was making and the learning that was occurring were about me - not just the teaching profession. It's about a relationship with others and learning that takes place through a variety of ways: webinars, blogs, websites, Twitter, Diigo social bookmarking, and now a number of other ways, too. Because of where I live, my network of online relationships and opportunities for learning are what help sustain me, and allow me to share what I'm thinking and learning with others who are likeminded in their passion for education and technology. I guess the emphasis I would share with others is that the PLN represents a relationship with others and learning. I don't know what your topic is for the conference, but with 90 minutes to present, I hope you'll take the time to engage the participants in some kind of interaction with each other. Maybe with some encouragement, they will seek to connect beyond the "event" and continue the learning of ideas you've shared with each other. I wish you the best. You can find me on Twitter and Google+ as SISQITMAN. Thanks for the chance to comment on your blog post.

  2. Thanks for all of your great ideas and resources, SISQITMAN! You've given me a lot to consider, and I'm going to look up your group of ETMOOCers. The evolution of one's PLN is something I'd like to discuss because it is so overwhelming. There are so many choices that I think it overwhelms people who are not comfortable with technology. Small steps are actually giant leaps for teachers who already have so much on their plates.

    I do plan on audience engagement, and my hope is to create a learning network at the conference. I'm not sure about your experience with conferences, but I feel like I never make sustained connections. So yes, audience engagement will be key. I'll post my proposal and abstract soon, and I'd love to hear your ideas. Thanks for the link to your work as well. I'll be sure to check it out:)

  3. You have a reader for life in me - thanks for sharing. :-)

  4. Thanks, Alec! I have no idea if you shared my blog with others, but it was the first time I went over a hundred readers of my posts. It was a bit shocking and very cool. I can't thank you enough for the ETMOOC experience. I really appreciate the feedback!

  5. Hello Alyson,

    For me, PLN is an experience such as our etmooc. Although I have been hearing a lot about MOOC's especially the kind sponsored by Coursera, the etmooc offered a different kind of experience. The term "connectivism" has been tossed around, and it does apply to how we experienced this course. We could elect to participate in the Collaborate sessions or listen to the recordings, check the Google Community, go online to Twitter, read one another's blog, check one another's digital stories, and engage in one another's multimedia productions. Although I often turn to Twitter for PLN and also attend edcamps and like conferences, on a daily basis checking Twitter, blogs, and other online resources allows for unlimited PLN.

    Like you, I am an English teacher by trade. But after completing my dissertation in the area of computers and writing and earning a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction, I turned from teaching high school to teaching college and doing administrative work related to writing program administration. I agree the literature on writing, which I have been reading for decades, can get tedious and repetitive. However, the technology angle always creates a new way of thinking about communication. When I first started my dissertation on computers and writing, my colleagues who were English teachers could not understand why I would want to explore this area. Since then, the field has expanded and continues to change, and I am glad I got my initiation when I did, as I had a firm foundation.

    Now, most of my focus is more so on teaching teachers to use technology effectively in their teaching. Although writing is part of it, technology means multimodal composing.

    Keep in touch about your upcoming conference. I am on Twitter at @judyarzt and have numerous blogs and websites. Students in my courses also create blogs and websites. Their work is also part of my PLN.

    Great meeting you through the #etmooc on Twitter. I think that speaks to what PLN is.

  6. Thanks for your great ideas, Judy. You have a new follower on Twitter in me. I really like what you mentioned about "multimodal composing" and the teaching of writing. I realize now that my post may have a negative tone about the comp. scholarship, so to add something positive, I'll share a short anecdote. I was forced to teach in a computer lab during my TA days. If I was given a choice then, I would have chosen a more traditional class with books, a white board, and students. I was really scared of looking like I didn't know what I was doing with computers (because I didn't). I'm so grateful that my program directors had an eye toward the future. That experience really helped shaped how I teach to this day. Your anecdote about your dissertation made me think about that. I also love that you list students as part of your PLN. Great to connect with you!