Saturday, October 31, 2009

Personal Learning Environment/Network

As somewhat of a lurker in the Connectivism 2009 class facilitated by Stephen Downes and George Siemens I have been squeezing in viewing the Elluminate archived sessions when I can. I have to say I am grateful to George and Stephen for their work on this course, it has been fascinating. I am also grateful for the opportunity to be introduced to and begin to define my personal learning network/environment (PLN) and ponder the resources I have in my PLN.

Before I launch into all the different nodes on my Personal Learning Network or Environment (PLN/E) it seems to me that defining what these terms mean is in order. According to my current favorite resource, Wikipedia, a personal learning environment is a system that helps learners take control of and manage their own learning. This includes providing support for learners set their own learning goals, manage their learning; managing both content and process and communicate with others in the process of learning and thereby achieve learning goals. A PLE may be composed of one or more subsystems: As such it may be a desktop application, or composed of one or more web-based services."

At the foundation of my PLE/N are the Google Alerts I have set. Google Alerts basically harvest new stories, blogs, and other resources on the web for information on topics that I have set. I receive this information back, on a daily basis, in an email. There are directly links to the website, however more importantly each item is listed with a line or two of text the is just enough for me to determine if I want to continue reading the article or not. I usually read these on a daily basis..if I let too much time elapse I can too far behind. These alerts go in to my Gmail account where they are automatically sorted in to folders for me to review. I also use Google Reader, however I continue to see as kind of "clunky," perhaps with time and use I will change my perception, but for now it is something I look at about once a week. The essential benefit of Google reader to me is to be able to set feeds for blogs, websites and individuals I like to follow online.

Another primary tool of my PLN/E Twitter. I use Twitter for many things, to identify people to follow who will provide me with those specific resources that are related to my particular interests. In addition to that I also use Twitter to present my own blogs, those of others and articles related to my area of interest for feedback and comments from the followers I have attracted over the last several months. Someone once mentioned it is not so much about who is following you but who you are following..and I truly agree with that, there are certain people I either search for to see what they are tweeting or those I quickly identify in the tweet stream, who consistently have good links. I also look for Delicious, which are automated tweets based upon bookmarks put into the social bookmarking system and I get alerts from Tweet me news.

I also use Evernote. Evernote captures all those Tweets I want to use as future resources when I put @myen at the end of my tweet. Evernote captures websites, images, and documents or reports that I want to use for future referral. I can tag and sort all of this by projects. The real bonus of all of this for me is that I can access these resources from any PC.

I also have Livescribe Pen. I have found it essential that I take handwritten notes on somethings as I plan out what I am going to write, sometimes to even get motivated on what I am going to write for a blog, for work or just as reminders. On occasion I find that these handwritten notes are just what I need to overcome writer's block. I have never been a journal keeper but the use of the Livescribe Pulse Pen has given me the means to do that. What I like about the pen and notebooks is that my notes are up-loadable to the web and search-able. The only drawback I have found is that my handwriting is bad enough that the translation of the written notes to word processing has not been particularly successful. I also blog and love to blog..obviously. I maintain two other blog sites in addition to this one, and Steve Hargadon noted that he uses Google Docs as part of his PLN in a discussion with HOward Rheingold and I now use Google Docs almost exclusively having purchased a new PC and not following my usual pattern of purchase MS Office for this computer.

I have also used Twine, since starting to look at and use Evernote I have kind of drifted away from Twine, but I hope to take another look at it again. I think this is kind of an example of the problem with their being too many tools...sometimes you can lose focus on a certain Web 2.0 tool before fully evaluating it. I do think Twine is wonderful and has great potential. I understand that revisions are being made to Twine and an upgrade will be made available around the first part of 2010 if not earlier.

I am also in Second Life®, I have benefited a great deal from a variety of professional development activities in Second Life.® These range Metanomics, to Gronstedt's Train for Success, Pathfinder LInden's office hours, and events held by VIO Business,to evening events. I also have spent a great deal of time touring Second Life's® education sites, and chatting with others who share my interests. There are many things which illustrate the potential of Second Life for professional development to tour, historic sites such as Caledon, events like Burning Life, educational conferences and events as well. I am also a member of the Second Life Educators list serve and it seems that there is a continuous stream of thoughts, questions and observations on education in Second Life® from that list serve.

Two WEB 2.0 tools I think I have neglected are Facebook and Linked In. I need to work these sites that I have established to present a more "polished" image to those who view these pages. I view my Facebook page as more personal, for family and friends, however the groups that available for professional development via Facebook seem to be overshadowing that use of Facebook and I am seeing that there is a great deal of overlap. The connections that i have made via Second Life over lap a great deal, not just on Twitter but Linked In as well. Many of my Second Life connections are also my Linked In connections.

I have several connections beyond the virtual in my real life. These extend beyond conferences that I attend in person! I am a member of several national organizations and serve them in one capacity or another as well. These include Merlot and WCET. I find that I can access the people from these organizations with questions regarding the work that I do as it relates to their organizations.

When I remember I try to catch Steve Hargadon's Elluminate sessions through, these are in the evenings and if I don't catch them "live" I can listen to the podcast later. I subscribe to a variety of podcasts. It's not possible to catch them all but I do what I can!

Last but not least, I have blogged about this before, is my participation in John Jamison's Imagilearning SLemester class. I have enjoyed this opportunity very much and looked forward to an ongoing relationship as an alum of the program which focuses on virtual worlds for education and training. John always has a recommendation for another good book to read!

There is also the interesting work of Micheal Trout and the connections that I have made by working with him on eSingularity.

Other resources (and these are sporadic) include Ted Talks, Fora TV and You Tube, I have to confess I am not a huge user of these, my use of these define as sporadic at best. For the last several months I have spent a great deal of time exploring Second Life® almost exclusively.

There are some tools I have "on the back burner" so to speak that I intend to pick up and use more diligently. These include Zotero, Mixbook, Ning, and FolkSemantic.

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