I am writing this in response to DS Water’s request to help her demonstrate the importance of Personal Learning Networks.

My name is Dani Vaughn-Tucker and I am an Archivist, Reference Librarian and history instructor at a small Catholic university set in the beautiful mountains of Northeastern Pennsylvania.  This is where I blog about everything related to those three aspects of my professional life with a bit of the personal thrown in to show that librarans are more well-rounded than what popular culture would lead folks to believe.

 

1.  What do you think are the 3 most important aspects on personal learning networks I should cover?

  • How to find experts in the individual’s area of knowledge – sometimes just locating someone can be tough, but once you find one person to connect with it’s usually easy to create a network
  • What technologies are available and how to use them effectively – there’s so much out there that it can be overwhelming, so people need to know which ones are just “for play” and which ones are valuable
  • How to join in the conversation – when I first started venturing into the world of social networking, I was afraid to join in conversations, I was afraid I’d be rejected as an “outsider.”  But people need to be shown that it’s ok (even expected) for them to join in the fray, ask questions, offer opinions, etc.

2.  Why is your personal learning network important to you?  Which tools are the most important part of your learning network, and why?

My personal learning network is important to me because I work at a small institution where we simply don’t have the opportunity to attend big conferences and workshops, so I’ve had to create my own professional development network.  This network also helps me to meet people in the field that I would, otherwise, never get to meet.

I use Diigo, del.icio.us, Twitter, Facebook and Friendfeed to keep  myself informed.  My del.icio.us account is more personal than professional but there are things there that I think may be of interest to everyone regardless of their profession.  I use my blog to synthesize what I’ve learned or to bounce ideas off people and see what they think.

I think the social networks are the most important part of my learning network because they help keep me connected to professionals in my field.  I find it especially useful when individuals tweet their blog posts or topics from conferences they’re attending.   

3.  Can you provide examples of how your Personal Learning Network has enhanced student learning within your classroom?

I began teaching my first history course last night; a five week Expressway Course that meets one night a week for four hours.  During my introduction to the class, I asked if the students (all adult learners) have regular access to a computer and, if they do, are they familiar with social networking or any other web 2.0 tools.  They knew about them but weren’t familiar with them, so I see this as an opportunity to encourage them to explore the cyber community and learn how to use these tools to supplement their in class learning.  And, once they graduate, to create a professional network.  This weekend, my plan is to put together a little demonstration that I can show them the next time class meets. 

4.  Your tips for educators on how to get started setting up their own Personal Learning Network.

My tips for how to get started setting up a Personal Learning Network are:

  • Talk to people face to face and find out what they’re doing online and then check them out
  • Create an account in Google Reader or Bloglines, then surf the net for the blogs of movers and shakers in your field of interest then add their blogs to your reader
  • Check out who’s reading their blogs and find out what tools they’re using and give them a try; find the ones that work for you and
  • Join in the conversation
  • Have fun!