So, it’s time to put my money where my mouth is. As you may know from reading my other posts, I’ve assigned my students to collect 20 blogs on one topic and subscribe to them in Google Reader. Once they have become an “expert” in their field in terms of getting to know what these 20 bloggers are contributing to their area of interest, they are to blog about their Favourite Five. I have to say, it’s always a lot easier to assign something then do it yourself!
I promised the group that I would do the same. I’m not sure if it’s been easier or harder for me given that I’ve been following a few hundred folks for a while. I currently follow 132 blogs across a number of subject areas. My first task was to select a subject area and then narrow that down to my top five influencers. Living at a cross-section of library, education, and technology makes even selecting the subject area a challenge. I did, however, decide that the most useful post in my current context would be to look at the top five folks who have influenced my thinking around Personal Learning Environments.
Before I list them, it is important to note that they are not necessarily all active bloggers, or their influence on me has not been limited to their blog output. Some I know personally, some through books or articles, and others through social networks. At the end of the day, a PLN is about people, regardless of their mode of expression and so, with this in mind, here are my current Favourite Five influencers in my thinking about Personal Learning Environments. They are listed in no particular order:
I’m in the process of reading Richardson’s books, Personal Learning Networks: Using the Power of Connections to Transform Education – which he co-wrote with Rob Mancabelli, and Why School? I love the way he presents the idea of a Personal Learning Network. He has a solid, hands-on, how-to approach coupled with enough theory and real-life examples to help the reader understand the power of and the whys behind what he proposes. He is very much into the connected classroom and breaking down the physical barriers of the classroom to extend learning out into the real world. His blog works with ideas in education and technology and is a good read for anyone, regardless of their experience in connected learning. He can also be found on Twitter.
David Loertscher and Carol Koechlin
Loertscher and Koechlin are very active in the K12 Learning Commons “movement.” They talk a lot about the concept of a hub of learning in the school environment that is a constructivist and social learning space that is integrated with the physical, digital and human resources that support that learning. Part of the Virtual Learning Commons discussion includes work with Personal Learning Environments. One piece of the equation that is that the PLE must contain a portfolio that is an outward expression of the learner’s knowledge. It is both a place for a learner to demonstrate and record the knowledge that she has constructed and a vehicle for contributing back to the PLNs. They have collaborated on a number of books. Most relevant to this topic is The Virtual Learning Commons. Loertscher also has a Facebook page that he uses to promote anything of interest to him. Koechlin can be found on Twitter.
Downes works for the National Research Council in Canada. His work tends to be more academic than practical in some ways but he has explored the idea of PLEs more deeply than most. He has taken his interest in PLEs and developed an integrated software package that can be installed on a server to centralize the PLE. His software breaks down the PLE into more components than I tend to think a PLE contains, but it is a self-contained knowledge aggregation, production and publication platform. I’m still looking for someone to give me some server space to install this platform so that I can actually play with it. It seems intriguing to me. Whether you put his ideas into practice or not, he always has some fascinating things to say at his blog.
Quite recently, a colleague and one of my most respected members of my PLN sent my a link to Morrison’s blog. In a post about PLNs, she wrote a concise paragraph on the difference between PLEs and PLNs. I loved it and started following her. This morning another post came through in my feed from her blog (which I now follow) on the portfolio’s role in a PLE. I can’t say that my “relationship” with Morrison goes back far enough for me to say anything broad and sweeping about who she is and what she tends to write, but she is currently in my Fave Five. Check her out at her blog.
OK, so Pam is a bit of an anomaly in this list. Although I do follow her on Twitter, my primary relationship with her is through classes in the MLIS program at San Jose State. We’re classmates. I don’t think that we’ve discussed PLEs in any depth and the courses that we have taken together thus far don’t discuss PLEs. Having said that, when I posted a couple of weeks ago asking about favourite PLE tools, she responded with her Netvibes homepage. I’ve had a Netvibes account for a while, but she has completely changed my thinking about the tool and how it can be used. I’m currently thinking that it may be the only portal tool out there right now that can address what I want out of the portal portion of my PLE. For this, she makes my Favourite Five.
As you can tell, if I were to create this list again in a few months time, it would be different. There might be some who stay, but others would likely be replaced by those that are most immediately affecting my thinking. But that’s a good thing. The fact that my influences are changing means that I’m growing.
I’d be curious to know who your Favourite Five are in any category. Feel free to comment below and tell me who influences you or write a post on your own blog and post the link in the comments. I think that the process is a growing process for the writer and hopefully is a useful resource for the reader.