The PLN Spirograph (by Jen Wagner)

Our Personal Learning Network (PLN) at times reminds me of a spirograph.

It first starts out very simplistic….you add a few friends on twitter, you mark a few blogs to come back to read posts, and you might join a ning.

Then, you start adding more…..perhaps comments to a blog (or even you own blog), you create a delicious account, and add your name to a list somewhere.

Eventually you journey into facebook and diigo and evernote and flickr and……….add your own ideas here…..and each time you are taking others along as you go.

And suddenly, something that you started out with as very simplistic is now an overlapping of overlapping with people from all over the world….that is now called your Personal Learning Network.

You share with someone, someone shares with you, someone shares what you said, you share what someone said, you comment on a blog, someone comments on your comment, you ReTweet, someone retreets you……and so on and so on and so on —

And at times it is a beautiful thing….and at other times, it might be chaotic, crazy, and seemingly unmanageable.

So what do you do….to make this manageable, workable, and productive??

…………..Well, I am glad you asked…… are my thoughts.

1. Stretch yourself by 10%. Invite more people to be your friend on twitter, join a ning and comment on a forum, participate in a project, try a new option in your classroom.

2. Don’t hesitate to share an idea which you think everyone always knows about. Not everyone is online 365/24/7 and ideas get missed, overlooked, or not seen for a variety of reasons. So go ahead and share….I can promise you that someone will say “wow, I had never seen that before and thank you for sharing.”

3. In total contradiction to #1, it is also wise to occasionally weed through your PLN….it is okay to stop following someone, it is okay to remove names from your blogroll, it is okay to trim your delicious feed.

4. Wander through your twitter friends to see who their twitter friends are and see who their twitter friends are. This is not stalking, instead your twitter friends have given a silent recommendation of people they think are worth listening to.

5. Next time you are at a conference, walk up to a name you recognize, introduce yourself, and then join in the conversation or start a new conversation. Don’t keep your PLN at a virtual arms-length.

6. You don’t have conquer everything. At times, on twitter, on delicious/diigo, and blog posts come pouring forth like a waterfall and you simply cannot grasp everything that has been shared. That is okay. If it proven to be educationally sound, it will come around again. One nice thing of waiting is you let the others conquer and you can read how they did so.

7. Join in a conversation…..but backtrack a bit in case you are joining midstream to catch up with what has been already said. Also, follow a chat. The #edchat conversation on twitter is something I just don’t have time to join yet. But because they use a the hashtag (#edchat —, I can search that tag and go back and reread the conversation when I have time.

8. Walk away. Do something other than tech every so often. Have a conversation that does not include the words Web 2.0, twitter, PLN, google, flickr, 2.0, Tech, etc. (Just fyi, it is okay to turn off your phone sometimes!)

9. Be yourself and find one name that sticks. Don’t be TechGal47 on diigo, JenW49 on twitter, and Hoping4Snow on flickr. Find a way to merge yourself into one name that people will know.

10. Remember, just like the lines in spirograph, at times your PLN will seem distant and far away, conversations will dwindle, and you might post something that gets ignored. Don’t give up. The conversations will return, your comments will be noticed, and your PLN will seem very close…..and without a moments notice….it might all seem far away again. That is fine.
It is normal and its part of being in a PLN of people with lives, families, papers to grade, etc etc etc.

And always remember that like a spirograph, with the single twist of movement the conversations, the contributors, the possibilities might change. Always something new, something different, something crazy, and something beautiful. All the overlaps contribute to make you better at what you do best……sharing the possibilities of edtech with others.

So take a spin — and enjoy your PLN!!


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