Blogging Challenge #8: Building your Personal Learning Network – not just your readership

personal_learning_network

Although I have been blogging for a few years now, it is probably only in the last twelve months that I have been getting significant numbers of visitors from outside my own school. “Technoscience” was originally intended as a class blog, for storing links to resources, lesson planning, reflecting on practise and gaining feedback from students. It has developed a “split personality” now, with some posts directed towards my students and some towards my colleagues and peers. The Teacher’s Blogging Challenge has helped me to recognise this and decide to make the split. I will leave this site as my professional blog, for reflecting on my practise of teaching and for communicating with colleagues and I will start a new blog for my middle years Science students (link to follow!). As we are just starting a new school year, this is the best time to set up a new class blog for my Year 7 and 8 students. Hopefully, I can maintain my exisiting readership and build on my PLN (personal learning network) using the following strategies:

  1. Writing regular, informative and interesting posts, targeted towards teachers using technology, mainly with middle years Maths and Science students. Use these posts to encourage reader interaction with questions, polls, surveys, offers of assistance and requests.
  2. Using Twitter (@brittgow) often, to notify followers of new blog posts, good links and resources and to assist people I follow with answers to questions, requests for help and general feedback.
  3. Attend virtual and face-to-face conferences, as a presenter, moderator, assistant or participant, regularly throughout the year. I already plan to attend the “Toolbox for Environmental Change“(Melbourne), “World Environmental Education Conference“(Brisbane) and “Slide to Learn” (Gold Coast), as well as several online conferences.
  4. Frequently visit other bloggers and leave comments on posts that I  find relevant, well-informed and interesting. Make connections beyond blogging.
  5. Attend Professional Development opportunities via “Elluminate”, an on-line conferencing platform that allows participants to communicate via text chat, audio, video and an interactive whiteboard. The Victorian Education Department (DEECD) has an excellent program of PD at the “Educator’s Guide to Innovation Ning” and the virtual sessions can be booked for class use as well.

Even though I really like my clustrmap with lots of red dots showing visitors to my blog, building a personal learning network is far more important to me. These are the people I have met at meetings and conferences and then kept in contact with online, or the ones I have met online that I have connected with in some way – because we share the same interests, teach the same subjects, have similar opinions or ask the same questions. My personal learning network are the people behind the avatars, who respond when I send out a tweet asking for help, who comment on my photos and posts, share their resources with me and make me feel that I am part of a community. These are the readers and online friends I value. Sue Waters has created an excellent wiki, “PLN Youself”  about gaining the skills to build your PLN.

Many, many posts have been written on the subject of building your blog readership (different to building a PLN), and if that is important to you, here are some of the better ones, in my humble opinion:

Would you rather have lots of readers or a supportive PLN? What do you think is the difference?

P.S. I created the image above by copying and pasting the images and arrows into a Powerpoint slide, saving as a JPEG file (use the drop down box “save as”) then using Irfanview to resize to 450pixels wide.

19 comments

  1. Jenny Gilbert

    Hi Brit – I have to say not only is your post inspirational but so are the comments! I know I intend to have one group of students blogging this year and they are excited about it so i am looking forward to setting up the class blog. I will do it here in edublogs and will use this space to learn with them. As for PLN I have many options, and I belong to a lot of communities. Time is my greatest enemy, especially once I get buried in VCE sac marking. I am a tad dependent on twitter and Diigo and give and take without doing much in ‘conversation’. I have found the few online events I have been to very very useful for networking/pln development. I do however love when I get the time to read some of the blogs in my RSS feed.

  2. Kristie

    I have really enjoyed the Teacher Challenge. Especially a chance to find helpful posts like yours. Thank you for the guidance for insight into blogging with creating the personal learning network.

  3. Serge Puchinsky

    Thanks for such a great post – I too have been working on the Edublogs teacher challenge and I’ve been faced with many of the same issues – setting up a PLN in my district, but also getting readership to my blog. As a music teacher who teaches students interested in going into the arts professionally, I’ve been trying to get my students to use the internet to promote themselves as artists. This post has really shed some light on some things for me. Thanks so much for your help!

  4. MrDCarson

    You haven’t given me something to think about. I too have wonder if its time to split into two blogs. One for my class and one for professional development.

    One reason I haven’t done so yet is that I like my students to see that I’m still trying to improve my skills (hopefully leading by example).

    P.S too – good use of simple tool to create your own image. Hope you don’t mind me sharing with my students. I always try to encourage them to create rather than copy.

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  6. Jee Young

    Hi Britt,

    I enjoyed reading your post. I also liked the three links to articles about creating more readership for your blogs. I looked at all those posts, and there was a lot of good information! Thanks for sharing your tips as well. I think I will try to attend a virtual conference. I have never done that before.

    –Jee Young

  7. Anne Mirtschin

    My preference is to have a supportive network. Time commitments are great at times and I do not have time to read a lot of blog posts, but I hope that I am always there for others should they have a query, require assistance or just looking for support. I am sure there are many like me. However, an audience for the blog keeps it ‘alive’ so there needs to be a balance between the two as the blog is a blogger’s window for the world to see and visit.

  8. mswoodward

    Dear Britt, I always find your posts informative and interesting. I have added you to my RSS feed so I can keep up to date with my online reading. I agree with developing your PLN and using twitter has really helped. I only recently discovered the benefits of social bookmarking and building up your PLN with other sites such as Diigo.

    Thanks again for a great post.

    Jodi

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  10. Lydia Schultz

    Thanks so much for all the useful resources you have shared during the Challenge. I think you are right about the PLN being the most important for most teachers, since our goals tend to revolve around becoming better at our practice. I look forward to your future posts.

  11. Kathryn

    Britt
    Thanks for this post and indeed all your posts in this challenge. I think I now see you as someone shining the light on where I need to move!

    I think one of the next things for me to do is to establish my PLN and I am slowly being converted to Twitter as one place to do this.

    In your links I liked Glyn Moody’s the best.

    I am envious of the conferences you will be attending and I immediately start to think what can I start to nag my Principal into allowing me to go to one IT conference this year. Oops he came in as I was writing this so I baited the hook right now!
    Kathryn

  12. Nancy C

    Hey Britt,
    Thanks for your post. Building readership or a PLN is a great question. At first I was hoping to build a readership and this challenge has me thinking more in terms of a PLN. I love reading other posts and commenting on them. I love chatting about education, technology, education.
    What has really been great is connecting with people from all over – getting points of view from Tech Specialists, Media Specialists, High School Teachers, and more. For me it opens up a whole new world and takes me out of that elementary focus.
    So it is my hope to still follow folks and remain in the conversation!

    Great post!
    my bread crumb: http://teachingiselementary.blogspot.com

  13. Glenda Morris

    Hi Britt,
    thanks so much for the links especially to Moody’s and Godin’s.
    Thanks so much for being part of this challenge – I have certainly learnt so much from you and your blogging experiences. I look forward to following you with your posts and on Twitter.
    Glenda.

  14. Mrs S

    I agree with the quotation at the end of your post – thanks for letting us in to your thinking and thanks for all the links to follow. I am definitely a beginner in terms of building a PLN but have been convinced about the benefits.

  15. Anna Bring

    Britt,
    I hope I have started building my PLN with this challenge, and for me right now I think building readership and building PLN are two sides of the same coin. I hope to be able to build a PLN, that will help me out although we are teaching in different parts of the world. So I can’t join you on all of those conferences but I hope to be able to bump into you online every now and then!

  16. Christy Berry

    I like your idea of creating a new blog for your students. Because then that blog can focus on their needs and learning.

    You pose a very interesting question. It’s neat to have lots of readers but I think a supportive PLN would be beneficial to people in my PLN and myself because then we can directly relate to each other.

    I like your links on tips for blogging. Thanks for sharing.
    -Mrs. Berry

  17. Janelle Wilson

    Britt,

    Thanks for sharing. I like the idea that you have decided to make this blog a professional focus and to create a new one for class interactions. That is what I do, and I have found it works well for me.

    I think building a strong PLN is more important to me than having lots of random readers. Even now with my new tracking, I love seeing people return and leave comments who I have been interacting with. Would it be great to have a large audience? Sure, but building deep relationships and connections with like-minded educators is definitely more important to me.

    I look forward to your continued journey.

  18. Malyn

    I can honestly say I value my PLN more than having lots of readers. That said, my PLN grows through my readership particularly those who leave comments which are crumb trails back to them (read more on my challenge post: Reader, you are important to me).

    Growing one’s PLN does require an effort to connect and the strategies you outlined above have been effective for me as well.

    I made a conscious decision to make my blog a professional one from the very start. We had Sharepoint in my previous school so that was an easy way to set up a class blog (and wiki, etc). That said, I experimented with another one that was more open via Weebly.

    Thanks for all your posts in this challenge. You’ve been quite inspirational. As someone once said to me, “Thank you for making your good thinking public”.

    Long may your blogging continue.

    cheers,
    Malyn

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