The site focuses on the top 5 tools for building your own PLN based on 196 responses in my Personal Learning Network (PLN) Survey.
This site has been popular but is it catering adequately for people new to using web technologies? For those already engage in social networking we appreciate the value of building our PLN. But it must seem very foreign concept for new people? Perhaps tools that help them manage their workload or do it more effectively would increase their desire to learn how to use web technologies?
So I’ve decided to build onto my PLN Yourself site by adding the 5 top tools for for managing your workload. Once again I would like to model how PLNs work.
All of this is pretty amazing considering I live in Perth, Western Australia and are hearing about this happening on the opposite side of the World.
Best of all Rob and I engaged in conversation in Twitter and later he joined us at Free Online PD where we talked about Communities of Practice and Professional Learning Communities. After seeing how we are using Elluminate to connect with each other he is now trying to set up something similar for educators living in Canada.
Please contact Rob De Lorenzo if you live in Canada and are interested in being involved.
This post is a quick overview of The Connected Trainer workshop (45 mins) that I presented with Simon Brown at Converge08. Since the participants were shown an overwhelming number of online tools throughout the conference we decided it was better for them to reflect on they could become more connected.
Survey of Workshop Participants
Before the workshop we tried to survey how connected participants attending our session were so we could design the session to better suit their needs. Unfortunately people choose which sessions to attend on the actual day of the conference which made the task hard. However we did get 15 responses to our survey.
The image below shows the number of responses to use of each tool. Please note : Basic meant they had heard of the tool but had minimal experience using; Average meant had used the tool and have reasonable ability; and Advanced meant they had their own site that they regularly update.
So instead we ended up quickly surveying the participants at the beginning of the session using a shortened version of the survey and writing their response on the Powerpoint. Majority had minimal experience to no knowledge of using blogs, wikis, podcasts, photosharing, feed readers, personalised start pages, microblogging tools and social bookmarking tools. However there were also some very experienced users within the workshop.
With both surveys it was interesting to see the limited exposure to some of the more handy tools such as Google Documents, Slideshare and Personalised home pages.
Getting Participants To Reflect On Their Connectedness
Instead of doing a workshop where we did all the talking we decided to engage them in conversation by using Flipcharts. I’d had seen Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach use Flipcharts effectively at a workshop.
The idea was for them to work in groups to consider the issues and challenges facing them plus work out the actions they needed to take to become more connected. For those already connected we asked them to consider ways of helping others within their organisation become more connected.
Unfortunately we hadn’t factored into account that the room would be a sloping Theatrette with fabric on the side walls that restricted the area where the flipcharts could be used. While it did work room layout made it harder.
As groups they rotated through the Flipcharts answering the following questions:
Question 1: What are the barriers that are stopping you from connecting now?
Question 2: How would you connect if you didn’t have any barriers? What would your choices be?
Question 3: How will you find the answers to learn how to become more connected?
Question 4: What are three action that you will take as a result of attending this conference to become more connected?
After the groups wrote their responses on the Flipcharts we got a person to read out the answers on each Flipchart and then we all discussed the responses. Both Simon and I also learnt about tools neither of us had heard of which was excellent.
Its been good to see that people at the conference, as well as people within my personal learning network, are using my PLN Yourself website and are increasing their connections to other educators.
Why this title? To highlight how increasing numbers of people are using online tools to create their own personal learning networks (PLNs) which enhance their professional development (PD) beyond what is often achievable in traditional f2f workshops.
Throughout the entire presentation (1 hr) I tried to model how a PLN works by:
Making the conference participants part of my personal learning network (approx. 300 people) by giving people tasks and encouraging conversation
Asking my online PLN to engage with the audience (using Twitter)
Using Conference Participants as a PLN
I explained that in a PLN members frequently help each other and provide assistance. This is how I used conference participants as my personal learning network:
Official photographer (Becky) – used my Canon Powershot to take photos of whatever interested her.
Flickr Poster (Steve Cahill) – used my iphone to take photos and upload immediately to Flickr using FlickrUP.
MacBook Assistant – Seconds before my presentation was due to start we discovered a problem with my Internet connection so had to borrow Carol McCulloch’s laptop to use her wireless and she had to use my MacBook for the conference live blogging. She had never used a Mac previously so an audience member stood behind Carol and helped when necessary.
Office 2007 Assistants – I’d never used Office 2007 or Vista so I enlisted the participants to help whenever I got stuck
To answer questions and vote (on if they used a tool and off course their favorite chocolate )
Becky, Steve and Carol had never used the technology which I used to emphasize that in PLN’s we learn by playing until we find out how it works; and if we get into trouble we ask others for help (which they all did). PS Carol may have muttered some un-nice words about both the MacBook and me (I definitely owed her big time! Thanks so much Carol for the help).
Poor Steve, my iphone was playing up and the SIM card locked up on him….. So he also learnt that being part of a PLN can be stressful sometimes
Very few had used Twitter so during the presentation I demonstrated the instantaneous nature of twitter by sending the following tweets to my twitter network:
I added the discussion of chocolate so I could highlight that what question you ask impacts on whether people respond and how online tools like twitter can be used to build relationships.
Interesting fact — dark chocolate was the most popular chocolate by both my twitter network and conference participants. I used this to highlight that you can’t always trust your PLN (chuckling).
Thanks to eWorks for inviting me to Converge08 and all the people at the conference who made me feel welcome. Special thanks to Dean Groom for helping choose the title of the presentation (with added help from my twitter network) and for writing the conference abstract.
So far there has been 196 responses in my Personal Learning Network (PLN) Survey since it was created in October. And I know a lot of people are interested in what it all means and how I am using this information so let me explain.
About the PLN Survey
I’ve been doing a few presentations on building your own personal learning network (PLN) and wanted to demonstrated the power of a PLN in action. My focus on PLNs was for two main reasons:
If our aim is to use online tools with our students we first need to be using these tools for our own learning to appreciate how they benefit our learning and to ensure we use them effectively with our students
Ability to receive and give advice in our normal f2f interactions is mostly limited. Personal learning networks greatly enhance our ability to get assistance, increase our learning, reflection and innovation.
Originally I asked my network to help me by sharing their advice by responding in the form of comments on a blog post. While it worked extremely well analysing the information was hard due to the number of comments. This is when I decided that an online survey was the better option.
So in October I created a PLN survey using Survey Monkey and promoted it using Twitter and blog posts. The questions asked in the survey are:
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from your PLN?
Rank tools in terms of importance in your PLN
What 5 tools would you recommend as a starting point for building a PLN?
What are your 5 tips for new people to help them get started building their PLN?
What country are you from?
Thoughts on The Survey Design
The main design flaw in the survey is Question 1 where respondents were asked to rank 10 types of tools in level of importance in their own PLN. I decided to use ranking of tools that I provided rather than allow respondents to name their top 10 tools because I felt it was more likely they would miss an important tool and it would also make responses harder to analyse.
While the concept of ranking was a good idea unfortunately I missed two important tools – wikis and virtual worlds such as Second Life. It also meant by supplying the tools to rank potentially I was biasing what options people choose. Also it would have been good if the survey design provided greater flexibility for respondents to replace the supplied choices with their own options.
Other challenges were with 196 responses analysing short answer questions such as your 5 tips and most important thing learnt from your PLN became harder to analyse.
Due to the number of response it was necessary for me to pay to use Survey Monkey which was great in terms of the fact I was able to download and analyze the responses using Excel. If you would like a copy of the raw data please leave a comment and send to you.
Most of the people who responded where from USA, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom and Canada.
For Question 1 about ranking the importance of tools in your PLN I used a weighted formula to determine the relative importance of each tool. The following diagram shows the importance of each tool in their PLN with size indicating relative importance.
Based on these results microblogging tools was the most important tool in a PLN. Would be interesting to know if how the survey was promoted (i.e. via blog posts and twitter) influenced this result.
For Question 3 “What tools would you recommend as a starting point” responses were not weighted and it was based on counting the number of responses for each type of tool. The top 5 tools were:
Set up your own Twitter Account
Start your own blog
Subscribe to blogs
Start using a Social Bookmarking tool
Join a Ning community
Please note the order above doesn’t indicate order of priority as respondents weren’t asked to rank.
There was lots of great advice and it’s impossible to provide all the tips for building your own personal learning network however these are the main points:
Start slowly and find mentor(s) to help you.
Use the same username across tools
Share as much as you take
Ask as much as you answer
Try new TOOLS before you decide they’re not worth the time
Comment on other people’s blogs
Life long learning is the key!
How I have Used The Survey Results
I used the survey results for form the structure of my presentation and I have created a PLN Yourself site to help new people work through setting up their own Personal Learning network. Hopefully people will find my new PLN Yourself site useful. All feedback welcome as to any changes required.
One concern I now have is while thePLN Yourself site site explains how to work through setting up your PLN based on the top 5 recommended tools I think it is lacking in terms of top 5 handy tools. Why handy? Well there are some tools that are everyday tools that are important to us all that aren’t necessarily as important for building a PLN.