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Smart Ways to Manage Your Personal Learning Network

The Internet provides instant access to education experts—but it can be overwhelming. We’ll help you find the best sites and people to follow, and organize your most important information.

Over the past several years, the number of online sources educators can utilize as part of their personal learning network (PLN) has grown exponentially! A PLN is a group of experts and colleagues you connect with to exchange professional information on a regular basis. The power of the PLN lies in having constant access to experts, the ability to gather great resources and the personal/professional sharing you can engage in.

Trying to locate people and places to add to your PLN is no longer an issue. Now the challenge is learning how to manage the vast amount of information that comes in while finding quality new resources to keep your PLN fresh—this takes strategy!

Here are a few tips to help you effectively manage the tons of sites, resources and information you gather every day from your PLN.

Manage your Personal Learning Network

Cleaning house every few months by taking a look at the sites and people you follow in your PLN is an important step. Take the time to click on the people you follow on Twitter, Plurk or Facebook and look at their last 10 posts. If there is nothing of current use to you there, simply unfollow, unfriend or unsubscribe. Cutting down on the amount of information that comes in can help you more easily get to the information that is most important to you.

One of the most effective ways to save time is to gather all the posts from your PLN members in a single place using RSS (Really Simple Syndication). RSS allows you to add a special Web address to a newsreader and anything new from that source shows up. Try online readers like Netvibes and Pageflakes. By utilizing a newsreader, you can easily monitor all your “feeds” in one place, whether from blogs or social networking sites. You just need to sign-up to use a newsreader, look for a little icon on a page that looks like this, and simply click on it to add that person or source of information to your newsreader. You can choose to follow a person or site for a day or forever. (Twitter has taken the RSS feed icon off their pages, but if you visit this page and enter a Twitter name, you can then easily add the user to your newsreader from the RSS feed you receive.) There are also social media aggregators, like Friendfeed, which allow you to gather just the posts from your social networking sites all in one place.

Maintain your Personal Learning Network

You have a great group of users you follow on Twitter, Google+, and Plurk, but how do you find new users to add to your PLN? You can click on the educators your trusted experts are following or their categorized lists and chose to follow some of those people. You can also watch to see whose posts your experts are re-publishing and check out the original poster.

However, you might want to look in other places to find educators to follow, too. There are categorized lists of educators who tweet like Twitter for Teachers, where Twitter-using educators add themselves to the appropriate content area. There are also recommendation engines, like WeFollow, to which users add themselves and you just search by topic (try searching by edtech). See who is following the NEA or search for your state affiliate.

Another easy way to find new educators to add to your PLN is to monitor the “backchannel” conversations from conferences. Many conferences publish an agreed upon hashtag that everyone at the conference uses when tweeting, blogging, or posting about the conference. You can search Twubs without having a Twitter account to follow attendees’ thoughts and resource postings during and after a conference.

Another way to find experts to follow is to join some online communities. Most educators include their Twitter, Skype, IM or Google+ username in their community profile, so it makes it easy to add them to your PLN outside of the community. Some relevant online communities for educators include the NEA edCommunities, EdWeb, the Adobe Education Exchange and Classroom 2.0.

Taking the time to manage and maintain your personal learning network can provide you with exciting new experts to follow and information to support teaching and learning!


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