Below is a draft of a script for a video that I’m about to record for my LIBR250 course. The assignment has shifted my thinking about the relationship between PLNs and blogging. I thought that I would post the script here. What you might lose in imagery from the final video, you gain in links. With luck, working links will be provided for all tools. As always, I am more than open to comments, thoughts, criticism…
Before I give you the script, I should give you a little background. As explained by Dr. David Loertscher of San Jose State University, a Personal Learning Environment is constructed in three parts. There is the portal through which all of your news/rss/social media feeds aggregate. Then there is the PLN (Personal Learning Network.) This is the group of folks that you choose to hang out with because they post things that inspire you. Finally, there is the portfolio. This is where you put yourself forward by offering your thoughts on what you have absorbed from your PLN.
I have to say that I love the idea of a personal learning environment. I have been on Twitter for 4 years but it wasn’t until 2 years ago that I had a retired librarian show me the ropes as far as building a PLN is concerned. Since then, I’ve been actively building and maintaining my PLN on a variety of platforms but have, of late, been concerned that I’m barely scratching the surface of everything that I’m now exposed to. I’ve also been an irregular blogger. I think that my attitude of “why write when nobody is reading” has really hampered my enthusiasm for it. The concept of a personal learning environment as an individual’s organic knowledge building centre has brought my prior experiences with blogging and tweeting full-circle. What I now understand is that by creating a centralized information flow, I can expose myself to a plethora of ideas from my PLN that I can then use my blog as a space to work through concepts, build connections and build knowledge in a constructivist manner. While it is still nice to dialogue with those who take the time to read my posts, the true value in my blog is personal knowledge construction.
In that light, let’s take a look at my PLE.
In my mind, the key elements to any successful portal is that it brings together as many of your information feeds as possible in one, easy to view interface. It must also allow you to re-share posts out with your networks on a variety of platforms. I need to be able to share great tweets that I’ve read with my Google+ community or share an inspiring blog post with my Facebook friends.
I currently use two basic aggregation tools as portals. Unfortunately, neither is perfect but both are very powerful. On my mobile devices, I use Flipboard. Flipboard, particularly on the iPad, allows one to flip through multiple information feeds as if they were a magazine. Let’s face it, no matter how big an idea you cram into a 140-character tweet, they look boring. Flipboard brings all of my streams to life in a way that the sunday morning paper does. I can browse and delve to my heart’s content. I can also share posts across networks. This tweet from Buffy Hamilton (sorry…example from the video) can be retweeted or shared through Facebook or via email, all within Flipboard. Of course I can also star, like, comment or reply as well.
I have recently, thanks to this course, discovered Feedly. Although it is also available as a mobile and desktop app, I prefer to read Feedly on the desktop. It tends to emphasize my RSS feeds but allows for the inclusion of my Twitter stream and Facebook wall. Images are also embedded for a more visual experience. The advantage that Feedly has over Flipboard is that it allows greater control of the organization of your RSS feeds, importing folders from Google Reader as well as the feeds themselves.
Two other tools that I use are Google+ and Packrati. Google+ doesn’t get as much attention from me for two reasons. Google seems to be keeping the api close so other platforms, like Flipboard and Feedly can’t embed the Google+ stream in their services. Secondly, the community simply doesn’t seem to be as active as it is on other platforms.
Packrati is a workflow automation that allows me to bookmark everything that I retweet in my Delicious bookmarks. The assumption is that, if a tweet is worth retweeting and it contains a link, then the link is worth bookmarking. I’ve often been able to go back to Delicious to review cool ideas that I’ve discovered through Twitter.
Of course, no social media tool is of any value if there isn’t a quality community gathered behind it. I truly started to develop my PLN through Twitter. Through following a small handful of people, paying attention to who they followed and retweeted, and looking through people’s lists, I have developed, and continue to develop, strong PLN. I have looked for many of my favourite Twitter folk on Google+ and this is how I’ve started to develop my circles there. I have to say that I follow what is often statistically reported in term of my use of the various social networks. The people I friend on Facebook, tend to be people that I know and have met face to face. This network is primarily social. My Twitter crowd tends to be people that are united by common interests but not often people that I’ve actual met. Google+ is just a weird cross-section of folks. I would also include people that I connect with via social bookmarking and various other avenues, but I either connect with them on other platforms as well or I consider them somewhat peripheral members of my PLN.
I admit that I am still an irregular blogger. This assignment has made me reconsider my motivations for blogging and I expect that I will write more often going forward. As stated before, the act of putting cyberpen to cyberpaper, forces me to think through the concepts that are rattling around in my head. Sometimes my blog posts don’t make a lot of sense, but that’s OK. It is the act of turning thoughts into words that helps me to build knowledge. I recognize that others love to record videos or podcasts. If I were more of a visual artist, perhaps I would draw or paint to formulate my thoughts. Music is my medium, but it is too abstract for the type of thinking that I’m doing in my PLE, so words are the vehicle of choice. This script is actually my second attempt at putting together my video for this course, and it is much clearer in concept than the first. The act of writing and ruminating brings depth to knowledge that reading, alone, cannot do. At least that’s the case for me.
The Personal Learning Environment has the potential for creating much deeper personal understanding. Although I am early in the game yet, I look forward to using my PLE as a personal Knowledge Building Centre.