Professional (or Personal) Learning Networks
What’s a PLN?
The way I understand it, a PLN is a loose community of people centered around a particular subject or issue, from whom the creator of the PLN would like to learn and, hopefully, teach. It’s a two-way street, after all. PLNs can include people met at conferences, colleagues within one’s own institution, or members of structured communities or professional societies. Following some ideas from Terry Greene, I’d like to talk about how I’ve used Twitter to help create and/or solidify PLNs, without really calling it that, and think about how I might be able to do so more deliberately and effectively.
How I’ve been using Twitter to (kinda) maintain PLNs
I use lists on Twitter not only to organize people into categories, but also to see all of their tweets in the same space. I have one called Academics, with 77 people in it, and which I probably haven’t updated in some time. I have another called Writers and Writing. Way back when I attended the Great Lakes THATCamp, I put together a list of participants (looking through that list, I notice that I’m still in touch with a good number of them, and maybe I should reconnect with a few others).
I tend to follow many of the accounts in my lists, but not all of them. I’ve found that my main Twitter stream gets quite cluttered, and sometimes it’s easier to follow a list and monitor it from time to time, whether I follow all of the lists’ members or not.
I also subscribe to other people’s lists.
HASTAC, a list of of folks connected to HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory) maintained by @ldinstl_chimera.
Subscribing to other people’s lists is a good way to provide diversity in thought amongst a focused group of people, but if you don’t follow everyone in the group and they don’t follow you, it’s harder to establish a actual PLN among them. These are more for finding people to follow or for input/perusing.
Another way to connect outside of your mutual-follow groups is through hashtags. The #DigPINS hashtag is one good example, as are #ScholarSunday, #AcWri (for academic writing), #altac (for “alternate” academic careers), #AdjunctChat (for contingent faculty).
How do I follow all this? On the desktop, I use Tweetdeck, which is a pretty cool interface for showing saved searches, hashtags, and lists, and even lets you use multiple accounts.
Saved searches used to be a good solution, but the new Twitter interface doesn’t seem to let me see saved searches, which is a bummer, but various mobile apps probably do.
What is the ideal size for a PLN? Is there a point at which a PLN gets too unwieldy?
How much reciprocity should there be within a PLN? The people I follow and consider part of my PLN don’t necessarily know that they’re part of my personal/professional learning network, nor are they always connected to each other. I wonder if there’s a way to more formally create PLNs without becoming rigid or exclusionary.
How can I maintain diversity of thought within my PLN?
How can I remain up-to-date with a PLN without getting overwhelmed?