Twitter and Building Your Personal Learning Network

Image of twitterIt’s well known that I’m a self confessed Twitteraholic and twitter is an important part of my personal learning network. I’ve even written a Quick Start Tips for New Twitters.

Yet I’ve never been comfortable with recommending twitter as a starting point to build a personal learning network.

Maybe I’m too conservative?

Twitter is currently ranking the highest from 128 response in my Personal Learning Networks survey question “Which five (5) tools would you recommend as a starting point to build a personal learning network?”

My thoughts are twitter must be freaky and intimidating to people new to using Web 2.0 — especially given the etiquette involved in using twitter. Let’s not forget there are numerous very experienced elearning professional who aren’t comfortable using it.

So I’m interested to know:

  1. I started as a podcaster — where did you start?
  2. What was the first tool you used to build your personal learning network?
  3. Is twitter a good starting point to build a personal learning network?

Also there’s still time to add your responses to my Personal Learning Network survey!

And if you’re enjoying this blog, please consider Subscribing for free!

19 thoughts on “Twitter and Building Your Personal Learning Network

  1. I got into it because I kept wonder what the Twitter board was in Second Life, and why people stood and watched it. Second Life was the first PLN – I met some crazy chic called Ruby and listened to someone called Limitless, who introduced me to complex phrases. No, Twitter isn’t a good starting point, as you have to have so ‘need’ for it. I don’t thing Twitter is a genesis application, it is a ‘second wave’ thing.

    Best starting point … http://classroom.20.ning.com if you can’t handle Second Life’s 3Dness.

    The best learning conversations I’ve had, started in Second Life and spilled out to Twitter. ISTE Island and Jokaydia have some amazing event/talks – which lead me to go find out more by reading … and eventually getting to know people. I think Twitter provides 40% PD and 60% Social. But n00bs won’t get it. Twitter does not directly lead a n00b teacher to better classroom practice IMO.

    Dean Groom Reply

  2. I started with an RSS aggregator (Google Reader) to start collecting education blogs. Basically, I found a couple blogs I liked, then added blogs those authors read, and so on.

    Not too far in, this Twitter thing popped up, and that has been a major boon for my PLN building.

    Ben Wildeboer Reply

  3. This is actually the first time I have heard of the term “personal learning network”. I googled it and found that it is “a group of people who can guide your learning, point you to learning opportunities, answer your questions, and give you the benefit of their own knowledge and experience.”

    Twitter is a good starting point but to build something that lasts, I would think you need something a little more involved than Twitter. I mean, you can only say so much in 140 characters. πŸ™‚

    David Reply

  4. I started my PLN in Quest Atlantis, then added SecondLife. From there I followed people and their blogs, and it was a blogger who introduced me to Twitter.

    I began very timidly, because I really could not see why anyone would be interested in the minutiae of my daily life, but began to add more of the people I met in education settings particularly in Second Life. Now Twitter feels like a family or highly motivated staffroom discussion. The amount of valuable information shared is stunning, and it is nice to also maintain a social connection with people I have met since joining.

    For n00bs? My experience suggests that taking things at your own pace, for your own interests or area of expertise, and letting a network grow ‘naturally’ makes it more manageable, more enjoyable, and ultimately more useful and long lasting. Find tools that suit you, and resist change for change sake – but if another tool does it better, easier or quicker, give it a go.

    AngelaC Reply

  5. 1. I started on IRC (Internet Relay Chat) in the early 90’s, first on oz.org and then on AustNet.
    2. The first tool I used to build my personal learning network was IRC, and then LiveJournal. I still use LJ to manage my feeds and it’s my “core” PLN.
    3. I don’t think Twitter is a good starting point. It’s complementary to other networks you have established, and easiest to build through people you already know. Personally, I find twitter incredibly annoying, and only open/check it on my phone when I find myself standing around with nothing to do (e.g. waiting in a queue at the bank, waiting at the bus stop). The same with Facebook updates. Twitter is also useful at conferences, but only if you know other people are using it too!

    Penny Coutas Reply

  6. Well Sue as you would know after being very knew to twittersphere I initially found it very overwhelming and difficult to begin with, as did Kate. However after diving head first into it with your assistance the power and my network that twitter provides is clear.

    My experience with my peers introducing it to them was positive at first, however it has slowly diminished. I’m inferring that due to twitter still being new (I had never heard of it before the first week of semester!!). There is also the comparisons to Facebook updates as Penny makes note of.

    As for new PLN I agree that twitter would complement other mediums of communication such as social networking sites and blogs. Building a network from scratch however is a daunting task without assistance!

    mferrinda Reply

  7. PLN’s are critical to the success of the use of web2.0 tools implementation in education, for improving learning outcomes for all involved.
    I started my PLN through http://www.classroom20.com and still regard that as one of my top two places to continue to create PLNs. Twitter came next for me. However, when I first started, I found it quite difficult to make sense of, but now highly recommend it to all who feel confident enough to have a go. See how I felt at http://murcha.wordpress.com/2008/01/19/one-little-tweey-bird/ If they are not confident, people should just lurk and that was the advice given to me initially, by @dmcordell. This is no.1 PLN now, classroom20 no.2 and blogging no.3 (through comments, shared posts and global projects that we are involved in.) Delicious is another less daunting network in the initial stages.
    Time commitments, needs and interests determine how, when and why PLN’s need to be broadened.

    murcha Reply

  8. @Dean Would be interesting to know what personality types attracted people to the different tools. Second Life is such an important part of some people’s network and less of an attraction to others. Classroom 2.0 is definitely a good starting point provided you learn how to manage the information flow from it using RSS.

    Not that many typos and that Rudy really rocks πŸ™‚

    @Ben Twitter and my blogs are my most important parts of my PLN; they both complement each other well. Twitter allows for a deeper personal connection for me.

    @David I’m not necessarily a fan of the term because it’s often not a term people have heard of and unless you experience it yourself can be really hard to explain. I find I can say a lot in 140 characters which is amazing but you do need to be careful as it’s very easy for others to misinterpret text.

    @AngelaC I’m definitely one of those now resist change for change sake. With so many new tools available on a daily basis it is really easy to be swept along with the excitement.

    You are right — take it at your own pace. For my presentation I gave them the list of the top 5 tools recommended and told them to make their own decisions as to where they start.

    @Penny as I mentioned to Dean I wonder how much personality types influences which tools we like. I’m not a fan of Facebook and yet often when I go in to respond leaving it open people will contact me there. For example one of my former students text me last night in Facebook. So I walked him through setting up Skype and we had a great talk. Twitter I can’t live without and yet know others that absolutely hate it.

    @mferrinda You and Kate were living proof how much twitter can strengthen connections and provide assistance. The key as you point out is “Building a network from scratch however is a daunting task without assistance!” Based on your comment and others people’s in my survey I really emphasized the need for people to find others that will mentor them on their online journey. My mentors guided me and played an important role in my development online as hopefully I do to people I mentor.

    @murcha Totally agree that PLN is critical to the success in implementation in eduction; yet it can be a hard skill to impart because it really is a journey working out what works best for you. Do you prefer Delicious or diigo?

    Sue Waters Reply

  9. As a member of some (annoying) listservs I was definitely ready for new ways of getting and sharing information. I got into Web 2.0 first up via blogging, then moved onto other things. I find twitter useful, but would not recommend it as the first port of call as @deangroom explained, it will not change learning in the classroom as quickly as other ways of sharing will. However, twitter is the easiest way there is on earth to stay in touch with a vast number of cool professionals, and for that it has to be up the top with important tools – for now anyway. Second Life has also proven to be a mainstay of my own professional learning though I must say Ruby Imako hasn’t been part of that group for a very long time LOL. Like all things, SL can be as puzzling to teachers moving into more networked ways of learning, as Twitter is. Right now I am happy to use Twitter. Frankly there are way too many tools to use, and even all the Ning groups I belong to are incredibly annoying because there are so many of them. The good thing about Twitter is that it is all in one place, and travels with me in my pocket or bag via my mobile or iTouch. You don’t get that convenience with any other tool!!

    Judy O'Connell Reply

  10. 1. I started reading The Edublogger and there I found the question”Are you following me?”under Sue’s photo; I clicked, found twitter and decided to follow Sue.
    This was my beginning in web2.0 world.
    I never came back again, I’m on the road, but if I think Twitter may be so important it’s due to this fact at the very beginning of my web2.0 journey.
    2. Twitter has been there since the point zero, I discovered it as a portal to a new, unsuspected world; I’ve found my best blogs ever through twitter, I’ve received the most essential informations though twitter, I keep relying on it to listen and share with my virtual companions on education and even to just enjoy their presence when I need to be encouraged to go on with my work: the quick twirl flashes, here and there, on my screen, bring back to me the awareness that we are an immense virtual team supporting each other even by just being reciprocally present through twitter.
    3. These are my reasons to consider Twitter as a good starting point to build a personal learning network.
    Ines
    (Sue, I can log in to Edublogs again πŸ™‚ )

    inpi Reply

  11. @Judy It’s funny how I absolutely hate the idea of any listservs and yet for many mainstream educators this is what they like — probably since it is similar to what they are used to.

    Ruby finds Second Life too consuming and struggles to multitask while using it. Whereas twitter doesn’t have the same problem because you can come and go as you please. Definitely way too many tools.

    @Ines I hadn’t realised that is how you got involved in twitter. I removed that twitter image from The Edublogger because I was worried that perhaps my rants on twitter mightn’t be the most appropriate for that blog. Mmmm maybe I will add back — everyone should know about blocked toilets.

    Excellent points as why Twitter was a good starting point for you.

    Sue Waters Reply

  12. @Nik Yes I know some people who use Google Groups as part of their courses which uses emails. I haven’t used Yahoo Groups so not sure how similar. Trouble is email is attractive to less savvy but tends to be annoying for people like me.

    Sue Waters Reply

  13. 1. I started as a ‘tweeter’
    2. Twitter was the first tool I used to start building a professional learning network and I still use it (maybe not quite as often, but new functionality has helped me keep in touch!)
    3. Twitter a great starting point to build a personal learning network… people recognise me at conferences from Twitter and call out my online name (flairandsquare), and it ALWAYS surprises me!

    alexmiller Reply

  14. @Alexmiller Well to me you will always be flairandsquare. I’ve decided my approach is to suggest each of the main options and explain that what works best for some doesn’t for others. And it’s about finding where you feel the most comfortable.

    Sue Waters Reply

  15. I see Twitter as more of an optional, almost accessory part of my PLN. If I happen to catch a tweet with an interesting thought or link, I’ll see what else that person has been up to and usually find more new and interesting things…but that’s only if I happen to see that tweet.

    The most resourceful network that I have been apart of is the Classroom 2.0 group on Diigo. I read the daily digest of bookmarks almost religiously, and usually follow every one of the 2-15 or so links. You’ll find many neat things this way – it’s like having 500 pairs of eyes!

    http://groups.diigo.com/groups/classroom20

    Kate Klingensmith Reply

  16. @Kate I love the fact that each of us choose the tools that suit us best. Twitter is great for me because of it’s instantaneous nature. Whereas I can’t cope with links from sites because I’m already subscribed to so many blogs that I can’t cope with more information.

    Sue Waters Reply

  17. You know that I am not as competent in this question as the others but I know that everybody must choose their own way to develop his knowledge. I have learned what this notion “a personal learning network” means and I have chosen my way, I’m still using Twitter.

    Aimee - Mp3 Crocodile Reply

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