Blog Post 7 – Choose Your Own Topic

I know, not a very interesting title, but it is the topic for Blog Post #7.  If you have been reading, you know that I am currently teaching a course (HRD4407/5507) on Technologies in Human Resource Development.  I have chosen to focus this course on the creation of a Professional Learning Network (PLN).  You could also call it a Personal Learning Network, Personal Learning Environment or a Personal Learning Ecology (as I did here).  I purposely selected the term “professional” to emphasize how social media can be used in a professional setting.

At the heart of a PLN is social media.   This is a broad term and most people simple equate social media as Facebook.  But there is more to this social media.  From an article in 2011, Heidi Coehn, a marketing professional gathered a variety of definitions of social media.  But for me it is about the connection between the individual and the tool.

A Brief, Very Brief History of the Internet

In the beginning there was information. The Internet was a place to find information, it still is a place to find information, but in the beginning only those who could write fancy code could put information on the Internet.  (This would be Web 1.0).

Then there was writing or creation for the masses.  Some incredible people made it possible to “write on the web” without knowing the fancy coding.  The Internet became a place where anyone could create and share information. (This would be Web 2.0).  You see lots of references in education to Web 2.0 tools.  There are still great tools available and more every day!

Then there was connecting. (And you guess it, this would be Web 3.0.  Although there are many who would argue that it is really still just Web 2.0, but that is another discussion.) Now, not only are people able to create and share, they can connect and broadcast.  The tools that were created allow people to follow others using tools like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

So the Internet has moved from a read-only resource to a mass creation and sharing to connecting and broadcasting. Which leads us to the emerging learning theory of connectivism.


In midst of these new tools for connecting, George Seimens presented a learning theory called connectivism, which is based on connecting (see the Web 3.0 connection).  The basic principles of connectivism are:

  • Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions.
  • Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.
  • Learning may reside in non-human appliances.
  • Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known
  • Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
  • Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill.
  • Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.
  • Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision.

(Seimens, 2004)

If you are interested in learning theories, you should go to and read the article.  Better yet, make sure you are logged in to your Diigo account.  Then you can experience how social media tools can change the way we interact with information.  Throughout the article are highlights and comments from other Diigo users.  Not only can you read the article, but you can see what others feel are important based on the highlighting and you can see their thoughts and additional insights based on the notes they add.  And as you start reading the comments you realize they are all from the same time period – looks like a group, perhaps a class co-read this article.  You and I were not there for the discussions, but we do get to see some of the virtual learning footprint they left behind.

What Does Your Virtual Learning Footprint Look Like?

As you create and build a PLN, you are able to explore the virtual learning footprint of others.  As you create and comment and share your learning you too are creating a virtual learning footprint.  Does this matter?  Well, if you’d like to know how that one person you admire achieved and grew, perhaps they left a virtual learning footprint you can explore and learn from.  As you move forward always working towards that next goal, do you ever stop and reflect on how far you have come?  If you have left a virtual learning footprint you can look back and see.  Or you can be reminded of why you are in school, again, or why you took that second job when you didn’t really need the money.  These can be powerful reflective moments that help keep you on track.



Seimens, G. (2004) Connectivisim: A learning theory for the digital age. Retreived from


LinkedInGroups, Twitter: Finding Cool Stuff

As we, my students in HRD 4407 / 5507 and I continue to grow our PLN, the task at hand is first to find a group on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn Groups

Joining a group on LinkedIn allows you to see what others are sharing in the group on LinkedIn.  You can see what topics and especially who people in your group are following on blogs, twitter and other social media.

Two groups I have joined on LinkedIn are the Instructional Designers Group and the Moodlers Group.  Instructional Design is the area of my doctoral degree and there are so many different areas of employment for instructional designers.  This is a large group (67, 519 members as of 6/4/2014).  I do not expect to connect with or “get to know” all of them, but I do like what people in this group share.  As I was looking up the group to link in this blog post the article below was shared – which I thought was appropriate considering Michell’s blog post on identity, privacy and social networking

A tale of two doctoral students: Social media tools and hybridised identities

The Moodlers Group is much smaller with 1,788 members, but as Moodle support is a large part of my job, I thought it would be valuable to connect with others using Moodle.  This group tends to have discussions on best practices in implementing and supporting Moodle.


The second task is to find someone new to follow on twitter and then to look at who s/he is following.  I enjoy seeing who those I want to learn from are learning from.  There are some amazing learning paths and connections as you explore who is following whom in social media.

I happened to be looking up a book by Douglas Rushkoff – Program or Be Programed.  I really needed to find it on Amazon and place an order, but being lazy and since the Google search page was open I simply searched the title of the book, knowing there would be an Amazon link in the results list.  At the top was Douglas Rushkoff’s website, and it occurred to me that this would be a good person to explore his website and possible blog.

On the book page, at the bottom I found easily identifiable social media links.



So, I click on the twitter icon, logged in to my twitter account and “followed” Douglas Rushkoff.

Once on the page below, I can see that there are more than 27,900 people following him, but he only follows 317 people.  I can also see that he recently gave an “astoundingly refreshing keynote” at the BEA2014 conference, based on the first tweet listed.

There are also some suggestions of people Twitter thinks are simliar to Douglas Rushkoff and recommends that I follow them too.




But the second step of this task was to see who he is following, who are these 317 people.  In the six people that showed up first, there is an artist, a book publishing professional, an optimist, a software artist, the office of creative research and the 18th chairman of the joint chiefs of staff.  As Douglas Rushkoff is a “media theorist,” it does not surprise me that terms like “artist,” “publishing,” and “creative” come up in the descriptions.  Of these, I too added the Office for Creative Research to those I am following.



There are so many ways to find people to add to your PLN, follow the paths, search with key words and explore the profiles.  Add to your own profile, the keywords, phrases, descriptions and ideas that best represent who you are and who you want to become.


Social Media: Drinking from a Fire Hose

Social Media can feel overwhelming.  Between all the various tools to connect and navigate, the options on sharing – photos, urls, text, videos etc., the other tools to organize your social media not to mention all the usernames and passwords, it can quickly feel overwhelming – like trying to drink from a fire hose.


by Official U.S. Navy Imagery on Flickr  creative commons button by-sa Some rights reserved

This is a phrase I heard during a keynote by Alec Couros at the NWelearn conference several years ago.  At this point in time, I was not active in social media and was seriously wondering if it was worth “adding one more thing.”

stacked by Chrissy Wainwright

by Chrissy Wainwright on Flickr  Some rights reserved

Stopping to Explore

The solution Alec Couros suggested was to not worry about what you missed.  You just need to stop by every now and again and take a drink from the river of information.   I have followed this advice and found some incredibly helpful information when I needed it, or an introduction to a new idea or technology that proved useful later.

daughter of milam by anurag agnihotri

by anurag agnihotri on Flickr  creative commons button by-sa Some rights reserved

Blogs and RSS

One of the first tools I used was an RSS reader.  RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication – which while it does make you feel like it is something you could wrap your mind around – really doesn’t answer the question  of what is RSS.  You can search “define RSS” in google and you will get the definition along with a number of sites to explore.  Or we can turn to CommonCraft on Youtube for a visual explanation:


So, you use RSS to help you keep track of your blogs and other sites that use RSS.  I currently use Feedly to gather all the RSS feeds I have discovered.  I like the ability to sort, organize, and search.  It can still be overwhelming, but you have to remember that you are not “required” to read everything, just the titles or images that catch your eye.  Or maybe use the search for terms like “presentation” to find people talking about technology for presentations.

 People, Products and Twitter

I have found that twitter can often provide a quick look at something new. With only 140 characters there is a limit, but often links will be added using a url shortner (,, that take you to blog posts, articles or other expanded information.  It has been through these short moments in time that I have found some cool tools (gingko), insights from big names in my field (, informative graphics (), and inspiration

So, while social media can be overwhelming, don’t feel you have to “do” or capture everything.  You are in charge of how you use social media.  Explore a little, but do some planning as well.  Plan to take time to use the tools in a way that in useful for you.

At times you may feel like you are letting information go down the drain, but there are tools – searching, filtering, etc. to help you find the information when you need it.  Take the time to learn those features and you will be in charge of your social media.

fire hose drain Kat N.L.M.

by Kat N.L.M. on Flickr   Some rights reserved


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