” In the Cloud ” Expanded – Part 1 Professional (Social) Networking

After writing Wednesday's post, I really felt that I needed to break out each of the topics "categories" into a post of their own to both further clarify my ideas and thoughts as well as provide some insight on educational uses both for educators and students.
Looking at "the list" I threw out there, I am easily drawn to this topic first. While I enjoy the collegiality of my friends and colleagues in my school and district, I have to say that: I learn more from my personal learning network (PLN) than I do from any other resource hands down. Additionally, you should know that very few of my district educators are in my PLN. That right there is a statement of some weight and needs clarification to let you know the context of where I am coming from.
I am a member of the largest high school district in Illinois. We have over 13,000 students and approximately 1,400 certified staff and administrators. We hold building level and district level in-service programs, summer in-district courses, and have a professional library. We have staff development committees at each one of our buildings, a robust tuition reimbursement program, and a district level director overseeing professional development… I go to conferences and seminars throughout the year, and still I hold to my statement above. I grow professionally through interactions with my personal learning network at a rate far… far… greater than any other way.
imageWhile I am not a Facebook, or MySpace kind of person, and I do not (that I know of) have a profile on either of those or other true social networking services, I still participate in a network of educators and technologists through a service called Twitter. Twitter has been called a microblog, "your life in 140 characters or less," confusing, addicting, and hard to describe.

A PLN using twitter gives you a place not only to begin to learn, but to ask question and seek help, advice, support, ideas, resources, and it is just down right fun! As your professional relationships grow so will your personal ones as well.

The basic gist of twitter is that you "follow" people and you have "followers." Often those groups consist of the same people, but they do not have to be… When you follow someone, it enables you to receive the 140 character messages that they post to their group of followers. There are times that you feel like you are only getting half the conversation as the people you are following are following folks that you are not. Therefore, you get a reply to a question, but you do not know what the question was that sparked the reply… [This is often where twitter gets labeled as confusing.] However, if you are really interested in learning that other part of the conversation or you see a number of people you are following reply to the same person, you might want to take a couple of clicks and add that person to your network as well.
Dean Shareski is one of the individuals that I learned about and now follow his life, growth, knowledge, and insights through Twitter. I learned about Dean by watching a number of people I did follow continuously reply to @shareski (yes there is twitter etiquette) with outstanding comments and questions. After seeing this pattern for a few days, I began "investigating" Dean to see if I wanted to follow him.

1:30pm CST ~ Perfect example of the power of the Twitter network. I just "received" a tweet from Will Richardson. He is presenting on Blogs and RSS at TIAS and his presentation is being streamed via uStream by Scott Merrick.

Here is a bit from Dean's bio on Twitter:

  • Name Dean Shareski
  • Location Moose Jaw, SK
  • Web http://ideasandth…
  • Bio Seeking relevant, authentic and engaging learning

But, when you follow to his blog, you see this:

Dean Shareski (that would be me) is a Digital Learning Consultant with the Prairie South School Division in Moose Jaw, SK, Canada. I specialize in the use of technology in the classroom. I hold a Masters of Education in Communications and Technology through the University of Saskatchewan. I also am a sessional lecturer for the University of Regina. I consider myself a digital learning specialist.

Based on this information and reading some of his blog posts, and the "half" of the conversations I was picking up Dean was someone I wanted to follow. This is how your network grows. While I have learned an amazing amount of things from Dean over this year, one recent blog post and podcast rings out. Dean recently participated in a podcast with an educator in Seoul Korea, Clay Burell. Clay is a phenomenal educator who is currently teaching at a 1:1 Apple laptop international school (Who I also follow and found out about on twitter). This podcast was about Natural Global Collaborations and Networked Learning. An incredible "listen" and it was followed up by Clay with this post detailing the first six weeks of his students learning journey through networked learning.
None of the above I would have discovered through my school and district level contacts / professional development initiatives. Twitter has opened amazing learning opportunities for me occasionally the 100+ folks that I follow post so much information I need to archive it to get to later. But THAT IS A GOOD THING! It proves to me and frankly forces me to continuously be grazing information (a skill in itself) and learning continuously.
So, how do you start? go to http://twitter.com and create an account. If you would like you can "follow" me I am vanishingpoint on twitter. Click my name here or Search for People and enter vanishingpoint then click on "following". to see a listing of all of the folks that I am following. From there you can click the "Follow" button next to their names and begin following those folks you are interested in as well. I'd recommend starting small and getting a feel for twitter, what you are learning and what you are posting then expand as needed. Here are a few people that I would recommend adding to your initial group:

The best possible thing that I can say is it is a must that you begin to develop your own Personal Learning Network. Regardless of the resource, twitter, Diigo, Facebook, etc. Reach beyond your school / district / conference resources and you will grow exponentially!
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Photo from Flickr user : RoseMarieVictoria Artwork

One thought on “” In the Cloud ” Expanded – Part 1 Professional (Social) Networking

  1. It’s always interesting to chronicle the journey of building a network. I can relate to your story of finding me as it usually involves relying on trusted sources and filters to come up with a viable connection. I can tell story after story about how this has happened to me.
    I’m continually asked, “How do you know so and so?” I think for many it’s about building the network. That’s where you start. For me it’s now about using the network. Leveraging things like tagging and rss to fine tune ideas and creativity to enable me to do my job more effectively.

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