Monday, October 7, 2013

Personal Learning Networks and Twitter

A personal learning network is for anyone and is defined by the entire collection of people with whom you engage and exchange information, usually online. I think of it as something that teachers engage in for their own personal benefit and interests to better their classroom, either traditionally such as coworkers or modern technology with Facebook, twitter, wiki's and more. PLN can also reach to the students and anyone who wants to make meaningful connections and learn about a topic.

Here is a video named "Networked Student" about how students engage in their own personal learning networks and shows how learning with "connectivism" is 21st century learning tool that will enhance the learning experience and memory of the topic. 

Video Credit Wendy Drexler

Teachers use PLN for some of the same reasons that students do. Teachers have the same or similar curriculum and all need help to get the objectives into lessons with interaction and is memorable for the class. In my personal experience, most teachers have natural niches for some subjects even in elementary schools. So why not have the teachers who are exceptionally good a one subject help the other teachers with their lessons? PLN response is teachers should share and help each other out, but why stop at the confounds of the school walls, or school system for that matter? PLN says go global, find anyone who can help you. That could mean meeting a 2nd grade teacher in South Africa, or a science teacher in grade 8 in Canada or a professional reading teacher in California. It could be global, continental, country wide or local. It could be all the same grade level teachers or just educated people on the topic. The exciting thing about PLN is the flexibility of the group that you are  learning with. 

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Not only is PLN flexible with the group you are sharing with, it is also flexible in how you interact with the group. There is no right or wrong way to get in touch with a personal learning network team in the 21st century. Some use social media (facebook or myspace), micro-blogging (twitter), blogging (blogger, wordpress,etc.), wiki (wikispaces, wetpaint, ect.), and many others options for PLN exploration.

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A new exciting PLN outlet is twitter. How to get more out of your PLN using Twitter is by learning to use hashtags correctly, joining some chats and make lists on twitter to help your filter whats on your live feed. This could help some intimidated teachers with twitter as their PLN. 

Twitter can also be a tool that educators can use in the classroom not just for their PLN. Here are some tips with 60 Ways to Use Twitter in the classroom by category such as communication with parents and secondary students, organization, resources and writing skills. Twitter is interactive with students and can help an ordinary lesson become memorable. Some unexpected pros to using twitter in the classroom is with shy students, twitter can help shy students feel apart of the lesson even if they do not feel comfortable raising their hand or talking in a discussion. 

The challenge is with the range of students and availability of technology for each student in the classroom. The latter is for a different discussion but the first can be broken down into grade level groupings. The older grades can have their own personal twitter accounts, the teacher can give quizzes  reminders and assignments out on twitter.

Video credit CNN

The younger grades, the students are too young to have a personal account. An idea is for the teacher to have one mass twitter account, no names of the students would be out, and each day have a rotating child do a daily tweet on the summary of the day, to work on spelling, and read other classes tweets, to work on reading. With a class twitter, parents could stay updated and have better communication with the class.  

Video credit Kathy Cassidy

Using Twitter in the classroom seem like a good idea to me. At first I think it will be challenging with parental consent and creating a safe environment for the students all the while I am trying to figure it all out too. But after hearing many success stories, I am sure that the early work will be worth it. I think it is a good idea for students to get early interaction with technology and be interactive with their learning experience. 

Using Twitter as a PLN for me as the teacher and for the students, I am all about. So often we discuss and strive for specialized learning for each student for their own goals, twitter can create that field  Depending on who the follow will drastically change their new feed, what chats they attend will help each of them think independently to reply to a tweet question. As for the teacher, I think it is great for all the same reasons. 

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