Tag Archives: PLN

Drinking from the Online Firehose — Preparing for the #FutureEd Coursera #MOOC

A few weeks ago, my colleague Jeff Merrell and I decided to participate in two different MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) related to education that are running at the same time. We have regular morning chats over coffee to catch up on what we are learning about the content in each course as well as the learning ecosystems being created. We tried this divide and conquer strategy last year in order to learn from each other and it worked quite well; in 2013 Jeff participated in #etmooc (Educational Technology and Media) and I participated in #edcmooc (E-Learning and Digital Cultures). I found it fascinating to watch the interaction between two MOOCs that cover related topics and take place at the same time.

This winter Jeff is participating in Dave Cormier‘s #rhizo14 Rhizomatic Learning – The community is the curriculum MOOC and I’m in the #FutureEd History and Future (Mostly) of Higher Education Coursera MOOC being facilitated by Cathy Davidson.

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Participating in #edcmooc last year was intense to say the least. I learned some things along the way about how to filter out some of the online noise so I could focus on content that supported my own learning goals and helped me develop my personal learning network. As I started exploring the #FutureEd Coursera discussion forums this week I came across a forum about Twitter that reminded me of how overwhelmed I was last year. One of the participants posted the following comment about Twitter:

Don’t you find the word limit a bit of a struggle?  And how quickly does your tweet disappear in the flood of other tweets?  It is a challenge to even read all the posts coming in.

In the hopes that some fellow MOOCers might more easily join in on the Twitter conversation, I share below how I have set myself up to wade through the flood of #FutureEd, #rhizo14 and #moocmooc tweets to find the treasures that can be uncovered.

How do you drink from the social media firehose? Share your practices in the comments.

Find Your Fellow Learners

My brain cannot wrap itself around the massive part of MOOCs so I almost immediately attempt to connect with a few people online who are in the class and are active in the spaces that I use on a regular basis. I can’t be everywhere so why not find people who I am likely to bump into more easily with my existing online practices? Before the class began, I started following the #FutureEd hashtag on Twitter in order to create a public Twitter list of people who are using the #FutureEd hashtag.

Screen Shot 2014-01-30 at 11.42.35 AMCreating a public Twitter list does two things:

  1. Starts to create a community of learners who can more easily connect with each other during and after the course
  2. Allows me to follow the tweets from people on the list in a social media management tool called Hootsuite (see below)

When I add people to this #FutureEd Twitter List they get notified that they have been added and they can subscribe to the list and decide whether they want to follow other #FutureEd participants on the list. I have found that focusing on the human element while participating in a MOOC is what motivates me to stay involved — see My Human Element in the EDCMOOC.

In addition to finding fellow learners on Twitter, I also found them in Google+ and created a #FutureEd Google+ Circle for myself. Check out what is being shared on Google+ about #FutureEd. There are some people who prefer Google+ and I don’t want to miss out on what they are sharing.

The Power of Hootsuite: Create Filters to Slow Twitter Down

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HootSuite is a social media management tool that allows you to sift through the the onslaught of information that bombards you when you try to learn via social media. What follows is an explanation of how and why I will be using this tool to follow the #rhizo14, #FutureEd and #moocmooc tweets. I’m sure there are other similar tools out there as well – share in the comments!

I find that setting up Search streams in HootSuite helps me quickly scan through tweets that might be of interest based on particular hashtags. Note that you can use OR searching to have one stream bring back tweets from different hashtags that you want to group together in some way. I can’t imagine using Twitter without a tool like HootSuite. I do not monitor Twitter on a regular basis so want to be able to see older tweets that I would miss if I only look at my real-time stream. Screen Shot 2014-01-30 at 12.51.59 PM

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Screen Shot 2014-01-30 at 12.51.50 PMAnother great feature of HootSuite (and I swear they aren’t paying me to say this) is that you can create a stream that follows a particular Twitter list. So, for example, I have a HootSuite stream that is showing me all of the tweets from people on the #FutureEd Twitter list I created.

Q: Why would I want to do this in addition to following the #FutureEd hashtag in a stream?

A: Because I can learn so much more and further develop my PLN (personal learning network).

When I follow a list in HootSuite, I see all of the tweets from everyone who has been included in that list, not just the tweets that include the #FutureEd hashtag. I’m going to make an assumption that people who have signed up to participate in #FutureEd are a pretty interesting bunch (and this has proven true so far!) so I’d like to see what else they are sharing on Twitter, not just their #FutureEd tweets. And this is one of the benefits of building a personal learning network. I will likely learn something new from one of these tweets. I will be able to get a sense of who amongst this group of seminar participants I might want to connect with in other ways outside of the context of this particular online seminar.

Screen Shot 2014-01-30 at 12.30.12 PMNOTE: This is a remix of a previous blog post I wrote while participating in an open online seminar called Exploring Personal Learning Networks.

It is also an attempt to #showyourwork, an idea put forth by Jane Bozarth.

firehose photo credit:  donnaidh_sidhe via photopin

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Exploring Personal Learning Networks – #xplrpln

I’m not Catholic but I feel like I should start this post with, “Forgive me father for I have sinned. It has been six months since my last blog post.” Instead of wallowing in guilt, I choose to take some advice that my colleague Jeff Merrell recently shared about it being okay not to blog on a regular basis. He said to view blogging on a glacial scale – it’s okay to move at an extremely slow pace. Over time there will be some nuggets of wisdom built up or at a minimum some reflection on my learning journey that might help me gain some insight.

So what prompted me to pick up the virtual pen again? I recently registered for an open online seminar called Exploring Personal Learning Networks: Practical Issues for Organizations that runs from October 7 – November 8, 2013.  We will be exploring the following question:

How might it be possible for organizations and individuals alike to benefit if individuals develop personal learning networks within and outside the enterprise–namely, their employers?

I hope you will join me — register by October 1.

If the purpose of a personal learning network is to help me focus on my learning (and to support the learning of others), it seems a good place to start is to identify what I want to learn during this online seminar. Here are some initial thoughts which I hope to refine over the next few weeks leading up to the official kick off:

1) DEVELOPMENT OF ORGANIZATIONAL LEARNING NETWORKS: One question I have been pondering is how personal learning networks and organizational learning networks (OLN?) interact with each other. By organizational learning network I mean the external network of people and organizations that members of an organization intentionally decide to learn from, through social media and other methods, in order to meet the organization’s learning and strategic goals. I am distinguishing this from an individual’s personal learning network. At this point I am not even sure if this is a valid construct but we are experimenting with building an organizational learning network within my own organization so I am curious if others have too.

If individuals within an organization enhance their PLNs will that enhance the organization’s learning network both inside and outside the organization? Are there ways to make that an intentional process as opposed to solely something that happens by chance? Do many organizations even think in these terms?

How might the intentional development of an organizational learning network be the same or different from the development of a personal learning network? For example, an individual can include a disclaimer on social media accounts and blogs to make it clear that she speaks for herself not for her organization. Organizations have no such disclaimer and often limit their social media accounts to marketing megaphones. This probably reduces the ability to experiment as they build a learning network.

2) THE CARE AND FEEDING OF PERSONAL LEARNING NETWORKS: I am also interested in exploring the ways that personal learning networks are nurtured (or neglected) over time. How similar or different are PLN relationships that start via online technology from friendships or work relationships that are started via face-to-face interactions?

Once I decided to register for this upcoming online seminar, I was excited to connect with some members of my PLN who I thought might be interested in exploring these topics. Then I realized that I was a bit reluctant to reach out because I hadn’t been in touch lately and I wondered how this invitation would be perceived. Some of my E-learning and Digital Cultures (#edcmooc) colleagues have invited me to various open learning opportunities over the past six months. While I initially intended to join them, I made other choices about how I spent my time — Chicago is just too beautiful in the summer. Has this been perceived as lack of interest in continuing to learn together or just simply as not being the right time for me? It is certainly the latter for me, but I am not sure I adequately conveyed that when invited.

This begs the question…how are online PLN relationships different from other types of relationships if at all? How do we read social cues in 140 character tweets from people we have never met in person? It seems there is a skill to develop in this area.

In order to truly include someone in our PLN do we need to go deeper than interacting with him or her on Twitter by using tools such as VoiceThread and Google+ Hangouts or leveraging techniques such as quad-blogging? For me, I am finding that there are various levels of connection within my PLN. Some people are in my PLN but they may not realize that they are helping me learn or even know who I am. Others are people who I would meet for coffee or a meal if I visited their city.

I intentionally start this next learning experience with more questions than answers. What are the questions that are surfacing for you as you start reading the seminar materials? How can we support each other in our learning?

Related Resources

#xplrpln – Introducing PLNs

Personal Learning Networks: Knowledge Sharing as Democracy by Alison Seaman

Personal learning networks – notes and resources by Jeff Merrell

The Personal Pull into Social by Jeff Merrell

Business+MOOCs: the Hangout recording | Business+MOOCs tweetstream on Jay Cross’ blog
photo credit: Anne Davis 773 via photopin cc