Friday, August 10, 2012

(6) Week 2: Growing your professional learning network...

Our tasks for this week are to:
1) understand what a Professional Learning Network (PLN) is
2) grow our own PLNs by connecting to people and following our topics of interest in Twitter

This week's task will take a couple of hours. But it's worth it. It's a valid part of our jobs. Do it with a friend or colleague, and enjoy it.
Growing your Professional Learning Network

In the 21st Century, three forces have impacted significantly on learning: 
1)  Connectivity: the speed and distribution of knowledge, ideas and practices enabled by the internet
2)  Mobile: smartphones and tablets mean more people are never really offline (digital residents rather than digital visitors)
3)  Social changes: the rise of collaboration, the death of privacy and (arguably) increased transparency and responsibility , citizen journalism, and the democratisation of knowledge.

The advantage of this transformation is that we can be connected to the people, resources and information we need at any time. We can learn, share, ask for help, mentor and be mentored 24/7.

The disadvantage is that there is so much information that it can be overwhelming, and difficult to find good quality relevant information. 

As a result of this explosion of available content, and connectivity, increasingly people are working together to act as filters, to recommend sources and people we can trust. We are using online communication and collaboration tools to share resources, develop and challenge cultural practices, exchange and challenge eachother's views, build communities and create meaning. This concept is called the Professional (or sometimes Personal) Learning Network, or PLN.  

Task 1: Understand Personal Learning Networks
Step 1: Read this blog post from Eric Sheninger on the Connected Educator.
Step 2: Watch this video of Will Richardson discussing the role of PLNs
(link here if you can't see the video below)

Twitter is a very powerful platform on which to build your Professional Learning Network.
You may be concerned it is a waste of time, or that you will only hear trivia such as what someone had for breakfast! This is not the case - Twitter can help you save time and support your learning, collaboration and sharing.

Step 3: Read this article published in The Age on November 12 about how educators are using Twitter.

How can I use Twitter? 
Ultimately, I think this differs for each person - if you use Twitter, after some time you will develop your own style, frequency and purposes.

Step 4: Watch Eric Sheninger in the video below describe his journey with using Twitter.
(Here's a link to the video on Eric's website if the video doesn't play on your device.)


Step 5: Learn the Twitter basics:

Firstly, watch this 5 minute video:

Now, read this 11 page guide to Using Twitter in university research, teaching and impact activities. GO ON... READ IT. I know you don't have time. I know. But it's #brilliant. SERIOUSLY. (It also explains all the key terms and ways of using Twitter.) Below are some other ideas for using Twitter. Which seem useful to you?

Your own professional development
This is probably the most powerful reason to use Twitter. Following interesting people in your field on Twitter means you are continually being exposed to new ideas and practices as they evolve. For me, hearing from generous, smart people about exciting topics I follow is like being at a conference all the time, and with the best people in the room. (I have often been in conferences where I had learned more about a session I was following than someone who actually attended it - as I had seen the Twitter discussion on the issues, and the links to resources that participants had posted!)

  1. Crowd-source your research: ask for help in finding resources, recruitment etc.
  2. Disseminate your publications: build community first though!
  3. Connect with your fellow researchers:  follow, share, debate other's work
  4. HDR support: Encourage HDR students to follow @thesiswhisperer (Inger Mewburn) and the topic #phdchat
  5. The 11 page guide above (I told you it was brilliant) has more ideas for using Twitter in your research ;-) 
Lectures - Step 6: Read this article on how Twitter is being used in lectures.
  1. Engagement: students tweet questions or ask for clarification during the lecture. One student can select questions and read them to you.
  2. Feedback: ask students to tweet the most interesting aspect of the lecture
  3. Presentations: autotweet during lectures the links to the resources or articles you are describing.
Supporting students' continuous learning
  1. Provide resources: Provide links to good resources and articles. Encourage students to do so too. 
  2. Engage students outside the classroom: Students complete a task relevant to that week's lecture - e,g tweet the sugar content of a 'low fat' food, or their own incidental exercise. The whole class will see all the tweets if everyone uses and follows the same hashtage - e.g.  #HSN103.
  1. Follow issues: students follow a person, organisation, government department or topic in class activities or assessment tasks
  2. Career Development: students set up their own professional Twitter account, connect with people and organisations active in their field, and begin to contribute ideas and resources
  3. Placement learnings: students tweet a key learning after each day of placement using Unit hashtag so all students can share the learnings and you can monitor progress.
Ok, so now let's get set up.
Task 2: Set up Twitter

Step 1:
Twitter and complete your profile (including photo!). Step 2: Download a Twitter client You can use Twitter on your computer just by logging in to, but it is a basic interface with few features. Instead, download a good program ("Twitter client") to manage your tweets - TweetDeck for your computer , iPad or Android, or Hootsuite for the iPhone. You will need to set up another account for TweetDeck, with your email address and a different password than your Twitter password. Step 3: Following people is a great way to learn about how to use Twitter. Follow some people or organisations from the list below.
Susie: @susie_mac
       Joyce Seitzinger: @catspyjamasnz ...and 50 million others!
Deakin: @Deakin
Deakin Library: @deakinlibrary

The Conversation: @ConversationEDU
The Age @theage
ABC news @abcnewsMelbrne
The Age Sport @theagesport 

Nature: @NatureNews
BBC Health:@bbchealth
World Health Organisation @WHO  Norman Swan Health report:

Yale Rudd Center: @YaleRuddCenter
The George Institute: @georgeinstitute
Harvard Health: @HarvardHealth
Food Navigator USA: @FoodNavigatorUS
21st Sensory: @21stSensory

Sport / exercise sciences

Exertion Games Lab 
Australian Sports Commission: @Ausport
Exercise and Sports Science Australia @ESSA_NEWS
Canadian society for exercise physiology @CSEPdotCA
Task 3: Use Twitter
Step 1: Read your incoming tweets for a while. Get to know how people tweet. Talk to me or someone else doing the program about what you notice.

Step 2:
Read these tips  for using Tweetdeck.

Step 3:
a tweet you find interesting. Retweeting is a form of recognition of the person who originally sent the tweet. They will know you retweeted, and may thank you.

All your followers are able to see your retweet. Also, anyone who searches you or a term in your tweet, or who is following a hashtag in your tweet will see it.

Step 4: Use a hashtag.  If you want to send your tweet to those following a particular topic, add the hashtag for that topic. Anyone who searches or follows that hashtag will then see it, even if we aren't following you.
To learn what hashtags to use, notice the hashtags that those you are following use. Click on the hashtag to conduct a search and read all the tweets people have sent with that hashtag.
Step 5: Send
a tweet about how your students, fellow lecturers, research team or admin team might use Twitter. Again add in the #SENSDeakin hashtag so we can all see it.
Step 6: Tweet at least one tweet each day for a week :-) Then decide.... 

Step 7: Relax! Early Twitter users worry about how much time it will take to read all those tweets - but Tweets are temporary, coming in a stream that moves quite quickly due to the number of messages. It is not like email: there is no need to read all tweets... just as when you are appreciating a waterfall, you don't worry about missing out on the section of waterfall that flowed before you arrived and after you leave... just dip in to Twitter and make use of what you find.

If you are at an event, conference or seminar and there is no Twitter hashtag, you can get one going! Chat to a few people and find out if there is already a hashtag. If not, ask the organisers if it's ok to Tweet the conference, what hashtag they suggest, and how to announce it to delegates. 

How to create a hashtag by Alicia Cowan:
  1. Choose a hashtag that is short, memorable and appropriate. No one wants to type a long hashtag or use up valuable space imposed by the 140 character limit in a post
  2. When you’ve decided on your chosen hashtag – check it’s not already in use. You could have chosen something that will have negative connotations. It’s simple to check – just search for the hashtag you’ve chosen and if it’s already taken, find another
  3. If your hashtag includes more than one word, like ‘World Cup’, remember to close the space between the words (like this: #worldcup) otherwise your hashtag could take on another meaning (e.g. in the case of #world cup – ‘#world’ will be the hashtag)
  4. If your tag is for an event such as a conference, remember to tell people before, during and after that event, and encourage them to use it so Twitter is used effectively during the event.
Lastly, keep in mind (despite the occasional "what i had for breakfast" or "what I am wearing today") most people on Twitter are motivated by the desire to connect and learn. So use those 140 characters for sharing, acknowledging, thanking, reciprocating and appreciating!

AND, importantly... if you are stuck or confused:  
(a) don't worry it's natural - Twitter takes some time to understand, and feel at home in (see this graphic - which stage are you?!) and  
(b) ASK me or someone around you for a hand... we are part of your Professional Learning Network, after all!

Further resources
Article on cultivating a Personal Learning Network, by Howard Rheingold
Great ways to grow your Personal Learning Network by
The 100 Best Twitter tools for teachers
50 ideas for using Twitter in the classroom  and,
a real book: Richardson, W and Mancelabelli, R (2011) Personal Learning Networks: Using the Power of Connections to Transform Education, Solutions Tree Press (I have a copy you can borrow)

Ok, well done, you have TOTALLY earned your PLN badge :-)
Now you deserve a humour break: check out this Social Media Parody (video).


  1. Lots of great content here Susie! Awesome stuff :) This blog is going to serve as a great resource for the SENS community to keep coming back to over time.

  2. Thanks for your interest Jac. That's a great idea, I hadn't thought of that. A good reason to keep it up to date :-)

  3. Hi Susie, as a relative digital 'newby' I'm really impressed with the range of tools and applications available and can already see lots of potential for their use in research. I wonder if you or others have suggestions for useful strategies/best practices for 'filtering' the vast range of information out there and preventing use of digital technologies from becoming 'yet another add-on' in a busy day? - eg do people check twitter/linked in feeds constantly/on the go or set aside time each day/week? any other tips on avoiding information overload/overwhelm would be appreciated :)

    1. Kylie, a great question. That is really what this 12 week program is about - learning to use tools such as Pearltrees, and Twitter to connect with others who are doing the curating with and for you. You can then dip in to these streams of personalised, customised, relevant information as you need.
      In the 12 weeks we will cover each of the key digital skills and learn one or two tools you can use to help you locate, filter and curate.
      My experience is that when you commit some time to learning these tools, it pays off in spades. I no longer have to research many topics as the information has already been curated for me. I no longer feel overwhelmed by information, as I know how to categorise, select, filter and store it. And I work collaboratively on this with my Personal Learning Network.
      Perhaps other have observations on Kylie's question?

  4. I've found Twitter to be a great tool now that I've gotten over the 'useless information overload' fear before I jumped in and tried it. Yes, if you just use it natively then you have a huge stream of both useful information and tweets that are more just colour (a dog just peed on my leg!). If instead you make use of something like TweetDeck and get on board with Hashtags and make 'lists' where you group similar people/organisations you are following together, then you can sift out specific information on a separate stream and that way keep on top of all the relevant info all the time, and have the rest of it floating around in the background that you dip into and out - Susie's analogy of the waterfall is apt.

  5. Great points - thank you both - I am a new convert (borderline obsessed/geek..)

  6. Each moment that we spend with our children is so important because they can never have that moment again.

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