Personal Learning Networks & Twitter

What exactly is a Personal Learning Network, also known as its acronym PLN, and why do we use them? Concerning their definition seems to be somewhat elusive, however I found this article and I think this excerpt does an excellent job describing PLNs

A PLN [Personal Learning Network] is a tool that uses social media and technology to collect, communicate, collaborate and create with connected colleagues anywhere at any time. Participating educators, worldwide, make requests and share resources.

How Do I Get a PLN? by Tom Whitby

From this definition PLNs are very broad in their scope, and it is because they are largely informal process where people casually learn, different than formalised education in a classroom. The most common platforms people seem to operate their PLNs on are LinkedIn, Medium, and Twitter (I use twitter personally). Although for many years academics have used books, journals and conferences to congregate with like minded scholars to debate complex topics or subjects, with the advent of globalised technology and consumer level hand computers (smart phones) we can now be connected with anyone we want at anytime, even reclusive scholars.

If you remember the definition from earlier, you may have thought “I use twitter and this applies to me, but I don’t have a personal learning network.” Although the definition beforehand is good I do want to add one more thing: PLNs are slightly different in scope from professional twitter accounts in that a PLN twitter seeks out learning information and engaging with scholars more than just being connected to other scholars. Although a PLN will engage you with other scholars, the PLN’s true purpose is that it seeks out to curate new content that you can learn something from. It just so happens that it consequently gets you in contact with other scholars or professionals in your fields of interest.

In my PLN, I seek out the fields of music theory, philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, and theology. In most of these fields the most common medium scholars share their information through are books and journals, however there are at least some who use Twitter, such as Steven Pinker, Ryan Reeves, Peter Singer. Although twitter is good, you may also run into the same problem that I had, and that is many people can get very politically very quickly. The topic of politics can’t really be avoided, because it affects literally everyone. However, when I first started using twitter, I really was hoping to avoid it all costs. I have now become accustomed to it, however I still have my fingers crossed that it wouldn’t be so prolific in my feed at times.

Although I have that one slight issue with twitter, I still think its pros far outweigh that one con. With twitter you can still curate a feed largely dedicated to your own interests by following certain accounts, for me some of these are Classical FM and OUP Philosophy. Furthermore, with the scholars in my fields that are on twitter, I can easily engage with what they publish on their accounts with the press of a button (retweeting). For some, the thought of everything you say becoming forever published on the internet is scary, however people change with time, and I think twitter can serve as a quirky form of a time capsule, allowing you to see how your thinking has matured over the years.

When I was first made to create my twitter PLN in my Introduction to Interdisciplinary Studies class two years ago, I wasn’t super keen on making it. Thus, whenever I had to do anything with it, it felt like a massively boring chore. However, this time around in my Capstone to Interdisciplinary Studies class, I think I’ve become somewhat more fond of twitter. Below are the objective criteria my course instructor Matthew Cheney (@melikhovo) outlined as successful weekly engagement with a PLN

  • Following 1-10 new academic and professional accounts per day
  • At least 1 simple academic/professional retweet a day
  • At least 1 quoted retweet a day
  • At least 1 comment a day
  • At least 1 tweet of your own per day
  • 1-10 liked tweets per day
  • Active use of the #IDSSem hashtag (this is the hashtag for our course, check it out if you would like to see what my amazing peers are up to!)
  • Active use of your relevant academic/professional hashtags
  • 5 days a week (minimum) of this tweeting

Although I am technically required to use twitter to get a high grade in my capstone class, I would like to be more enthusiastic about the experience this time around. Also if you haven’t noticed, I have massively revamped my website from “ehh” to something a lot more aesthetically pleasing. If you would like to share any thoughts, about this article or with just how life is going, don’t be afraid to tweet at me on twitter @KoreaEatsRice!

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1 thought on “Personal Learning Networks & Twitter”

  1. Matthew Cheney

    This is great! One way to take more control over your Twitter feed and avoid some of the stuff you most want to avoid is to mute some words and/or hashtags — for instance, if you can’t stand to see the name of a certain politician, you can mute that politician’s name and you won’t see any Tweets that contain it. Here are some instructions: https://help.twitter.com/en/using-twitter/advanced-twitter-mute-options

    This is a tool that I know has saved the sanity of at least a few people…

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