One big need I have for learning is to be able to see a “big picture” of my thinking or my activity. Usually this is in the form of some kind of map or visual or a combination of both. Before creating a PLE diagram I didn’t think of the tools that I use as part of a community, but in fact, most of these apps and tools do have a community of users built up around them. For example, Evernote, a collection and organization tool for me, has an active online community of users and developers that is quite helpful if you need it. Building that community and sharing productivity tips through a blog or online forums encourages use of the application product as well as connections between users. The more active the community can be, the more engaged users are with the edtech product or application. I see a similar dynamic going on with online communities of practice including many of the communities that pop up around online courses or MOOCs. The community is active and vibrant for the length of the course, but if there isn’t some mechanism to “continue the conversation” – a chat hashtag, a discussion forum, a community of some sort – the participants or users eventually drift away.
In addition to the community that is out there, I decided that none of these tools are helpful if I’m not taking action in a way that reaches out, shares and reflects on what I see, hear or read. Listening is an important skill at first, but I do need to move beyond that into contributing and sharing on a regular basis.
What I Learned About Me
I think my current PLE is centers around collection of information and content. I’m pretty good at it and have some efficiency with the tools, but now it’s time for me to make inroads in using and remixing that information to create original content of my own. I do have creative communities, but I don’t think I’m looking at my work as an ID as a “creative endeavor” enough yet. How do I bridge that gap and bring my creativity into my course design thinking? How do I get to a place professionally where I feel confident enough to be creating my own content and sharing it freely in a PLN or beyond? A good question to ponder.
Comparisons with My PLN and Other Classmates
Jennifer’s PLE looks simple, but is really quite robust. She has a good combination of tools in each section. I like how she labeled the Research section – I called mine “collection” since I’m usually just grabbing content and putting it into the bucket to evaluate later. Research makes it seem more focused and deliberate. I also noticed that Jennifer and many classmates included Google+ as a social tool. I’ve not used that as much as I probably should, given a lot of people use it as an additional social channel. I also appreciated that Jennifer thinks Google Chrome is a key organizational tool. I totally agree – it is my number one tool for staying organized no matter where I am or where I’m working from. I love those apps that I can “take with me” no matter where I go.
I appreciated Megan’s take on her PLE as she mentioned that she wanted to stick with applications that she used the most. Again, I see Google+ as a networking tool and also see that she is a fellow Evernote user! I am not, however, an Edmodo user and it may have to do with the fact that I have never worked in a teaching or ID situation where I didn’t have an organizationally mandated LMS to work with. We do both use blogging for sharing and creating and I can’t emphasize enough how much I rely on the blogging environment for making connections. It was one of the first ways I got interested in instructional design – by following and reading others in the field.
Melodie’s PLE diagram revealed some similar tools that I use, but I noticed that she categorized some tools in more than one section. That makes total sense and reminded me that I can use various tools in different ways. YouTube is a great example – it can create, share and organize content in a variety of ways. The more versatile the tool the more chances you have of creating connections with it. Maybe using less tools more efficiently at first would be the best way to build a solid PLE?
Darin chose to represent his PLE with a professional section, social section and then specific tools for STEM. When I saw this I was reminded that our PLEs are dynamic in nature and we should be comfortable with some things changing or fluctuating depending on what our learning needs are at the moment. I also thought it was interesting that Darin wanted to represent “old world” vs “new world” learning opportunities. He mentions in his post that he is trying to let go of the old paradigms of how we used to connect like in F2F conferences or in-service sessions. It is so true that we still cling to that idea that the best way to connect is F2F. I’m afraid that the information world is moving to fast for us to rely on F2F connections as the primary way to share and communicate anymore. It is still a good channel when I can do it, but there are other tools for connection that I should be open to exploring.
I appreciated seeing Megan’s take on using a model for a PLE. I liked her approach of defining the quadrants as “behaviors” and not tools. It is action oriented – after all, what good is the tool, if you don’t use it effectively to further your learning? It makes me think I need to go back and look at some tools I think I need for my PLE and those I may not.
Rob’s was refreshingly uncluttered and I think he made some conscious choices to not include a large number of resources. Again, it comes down to where we all feel we need to concentrate our efforts to get them most out of our individual situations. His diagram reminded me that no one PLE is going to look like anyone else’s. We can’t standardize a way to learn personally, so are we somehow doing that unconsciously in our classrooms? Do we need to help our students identify their own PLEs and use that information as a way to encourage their exploration as life-long learners? I think the answer is yes and I need to make room for my students’ personal learning environments when designing courses and learning environments.