Personal learning network power

My personal learning network is really coming through this week. I found out about the Berkman draft literature review on internet safety and Berkeley report on informal learning of digital youth. We are preparing two evening technology events for parents. Together, these reports will help us contextualize parent concerns about their children’s safety within a broader understanding of why kids value the time they spend online, especially on social network and gaming sites. Our administrators particularly appreciate the detailed, research-based studies.

One of our middle school spanish teachers proposed a session on Voicethread, in order to share teaching techniques with his language teacher colleagues. I invited Barbara Cohen, noted Voicethread enthusiast, to join us via Skype. What a great meeting that was! Barbara contributed her experiences working with a set of teachers in a different school, quickly solved some longstanding technical issues we had experienced, and picked up a few new teaching tips from us. We should include colleagues from other schools more often.

Voicethread training

From blogs and Twitter, I sent a number of links to teacher colleagues: tech ideas for the social studies classroom, Life’s archives online at Google Images, and Google Earth’s ancient Rome layer.

The BAISNet community came through repeatedly. When I was looking for a way to ensure that Macs prompt for network logins using the username instead of the real name, the network sent me a command-line statement to set this as a preference. As I consider how to apply Drupal to build our next web site, BAISNet scheduled a meeting on open-source software for January. This will be great place to try out some ideas and seek development partners.

As I suddenly found myself in possession of three long videos to post online, I recalled colleagues’ Twitter posts regarding and gave it a try. I have been so pleased with the results. Why should I necessarily evaluate a wide range of streaming video providers when others have communicated the results of their experiences (and I have a dozen other things to do this week)?

The network learns, and it knows far more than I do.


  1. arvind s grover says:

    Richard, I learned a lot of the same things last week via my network; granted, our networks probably overlap a lot. I couldn’t agree with you more on how much I’m learning, without having to cull through so much junk, and salespersonship, but sometimes I worry that our network is too small, and we might miss stuff. Is the worry too silly?

  2. Richard says:

    Not silly at all. Let’s think about when it might be advantageous to use one’s personal learning network, and when one might want to reach out more broadly.

    If I want to know the best Apache log analysis software or blogging plug-ins, then our new networks are likely best. They’re also most effective when I need an answer right now.

    If I am want to hire a database specialist or choose a new content management system for our public-facing web site, I consult more broadly and over a longer period of time. I still include my PLN, but I also consult with colleagues face-to-face, form a committee on campus, find parents with industry expertise, read the popular IT press, and (gasp) evaluate other schools’ web sites.

    Maybe the distinction is that our PLNs do contain many of the leading experts in particular fields, so it’s pretty representative for those fields but not others.

    How about you?

    This reminds me of Steve Hargadon’s telling of the history of Classroom 2.0. When he first launched it, leading edubloggers commented that they didn’t know any of the members. Steve saw this as a good sign — drawing out more participants who just happened not to be blogging.

    You’re constantly broadening your PLN, right?


  3. Colette Cassinelli says:

    Have your teachers checked out http://voicethread4educatio… ? Teachers from all over have posted examples of how they have used VoiceThread in their classroom.

  4. arvind s grover says:

    I’m definitely expanding my network all the time. I think Mr Twitter is driving hordes of people towards me. I’m actually having a hard time keeping up with checking their Twitter profiles before I add them. A small price to pay for being part of the network. I’m faster to add people when they @reply me first then if they just add me.