Thursday, May 19, 2011

Journal 7 - My Personal Learning Network (NETS-T III, V)

Personal Learning Network-
A Personal Learning Network, or PLN, is a network that allows a user to connect, learn, and share information with other individuals within the educational community throughout the world.  An effective PLN allows an individual to get questions answered in a timely and effective manner by members of the educational community.  Further an effective PLN allows a user to gain insight into new and innovative resources that can be utilized within the classroom.  By utilizing the tools such as Twitter, Diigo, and Classroom 2.0 an individual can become a more effective teacher in the 21st century.

Twitter is a social networking website that allows users to follow other users whom they find interesting.  Potential people to following include but are not limited to athletes, singers, actors, actresses, and statesmen.  In terms of its use to an educator Twitter allows those from the educational field to share information with members of their field around the world in a matter of seconds.  For example an educator discovers a new program for computers that allows students to play educational games.  Using Twitter that educator can "tweet" the program, which is read by interested followers, who in turn "retweet" the program for their followers and so on.  In this way a program that would have only been know to a local group of people is shared throughout the world greatly benefiting classrooms.  Twitter also provides great benefits for potential and new educators.  For example a new teacher in Minnesota needs a suggestion for a project on Hamlet.  Instead of using his or her local group of educators or a search site like Google they use Twitter.  They ask for suggestions using a hashtag, allowing fellow educators to see their post.  A teacher in South Africa sees the tweet and responds with a suggestion. 
In developing my own PLN I used Twitter in two ways.  The first way was to follow fellow educators who I deemed important based on their information and previous "tweets."  The first three people I followed were experience teachers on a high school and college level who consistency provided me with relevant information and ideas.  The other two I followed focused on the use of technology in the classroom through apps on smartphones, computers, and tablets.  After developing a foundation I participated in the new teachers chat on Wednesday, April 20, 2011 at 5PM.  The discussion began with an educator posing a question on setting up a classroom library.  Many participates added to the discussion by posting comments about cost effective ways to build a collection of books, types of books to collect, organizational systems and systems to check-out and check-in books.  I was incredibly surprised about how a single question regarding a classroom library developed into a variety of suggestions that if all utilized would create an ideal library.  Despite spending the entirety of the chat as an observer I found it difficult to follow along.  It appeared that throughout the chat there were random suggestions and various conversations occurring simultaneously.  Despite this I feel I gained great insight in how to use Twitter to greatly benefit my growth as an educator. 

Diigo is a social bookmarking website that allows users to conduct subject specific searches of bookmarks other users have deemed benficial.  Diigo allows users to both bookmark websites that can then be accessed from any computer and tag the bookmarks so they are easily identifiable.  Furthermore Diigo contrubuts to a PLN by allowing users to add fellow users to their network so that any bookmark made by a member of the network will appear on one's homepage.  Finally Diigo allows users to conduct searches that are not bogged down by useless materials as is the case with traditional search sites.  In using Diigo to contrubute to my PLN I preformed two actions: build my Diigo network and find and bookmark resources that discuss PLNs.
In building my network I first looked towards my instructors Diigo page where I found and began following three of the educators he follows.  In order to find users that personally benefit me I conducted a search of users whose interests included history.  In doing so I found two users who are instructors in high school level history and believe in the use of technology in the classroom.  The second I step to develop my PLN using Diigo was to bookmark three PLN websites that fellow educators deemed beneficial.  The first site I bookmarked was Creating a Personal Learning Network with Web 2.0 Tools.  The website provided an educator with a tremendous amount of free or cost effective tools to assist the building of his or her PLN.  These tools included but were not limited to Skype, educational blogs, iTunesU, Twitter, and Google Reader.  The second site I bookmarked was iTeach: Creating a Grassroots PLN at Your School.  The reason I choose this site was because it stresses the importance of starting a PLN at one's own school.  While the concept of PLNs are important to those who know about them many in the educational field don't know them.  The purpose of this site is to give a PLN conscious teacher ideas to inform fellow teachers.  The third site I bookmarked was Teacher Reboot Camp.  This website consisted of a blog that offers educators a place to share and brainstorm ideas to get their student more involved in school.  It also has many posts that are designed to help teachers with hard to teach subjects such as mathematics as well as interesting ideas on how to improve test scores.  I bookmarked this blog because I think it will be beneficial when I have my own classroom as it gives several ideas on making history more fun for students.

Classroom 2.0-
I joined the digital discussion forum Classroom 2.0.  Classroom 2.0 is an online community for educators who are interested in incorporating Web 2.0 and social media in education.  In Classroom 2.0 I watched a video called Integrating Online Resources Into Your Teaching.  This video mainly explained the benefits of online resources and also touched on the right ways to use these resources.  Online resources can include online articles, journals, interactive websites, and digital archives that contain both primary and secondary sources.  The featured educators of the videos warned of being aware of copyright laws and that resources must always be used appropriately.  I found this video useful because as a future high school history teacher I can definitely use many of the online resources the video mentioned for research projects.

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