We are going to focus on three tools to grow our PLN, namely Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+. If you have existing accounts here, great. If not, you are going to create them and start to build your PLN.
A note first about how to create connections essential to a fruitful PLN. The following are general guidelines, though they will vary depending on the specific nature of the connection:
You are going to create accounts at the following four sites, and then explore some potential new elements to add to our PLN.
Start by reading these three brief introductions to Twitter, then watch the two videos.
Now, navigate to https://twitter.com/. Find the New to Twitter box and sign up.
Once you've entered your name and email address and password (make it a strong password), click on Sign up for Twitter.
Make sure you choose a username that makes sense to you and that will make sense to others, as this is what they will see on your tweets.
On the next few pages, they will ask for your interests and suggest some people you might want to follow. You can add some or skip them; they are not the people you want in your PLN. Unfortunately, you must click the X to the right of each one in order to NOT follow them, so put your cursor on the first one and click 40 times.
The next step is to customize your account with a photo. This I do suggest, and you can do it right there by taking a picture with your computer's camera, or you can upload one that you already have.
Next Twitter will offer to import contacts fro your email; here again, I suggest skipping this in order to avoid your stream getting overly crowded, but you can certainly choose people from amongst your contacts if you wish to.
Note that they really want you to do this,so it can be hard to see the option to skip this step in the lower right corner, but it is there.
Around about now, you will receive an email from Twitter asking you to confirm your account. Go to your email, open this message, and click on Confirm now. Go back to Twitter and here's what you should see (depending on whether or not you already chose to follow people):
Now let's find some people it may be worthwhile following, at least to start. I am going to suggest 4 educators to start. In the upper right Search Twitter box, type @dwarlick
If this is the picture you see, this is the person you want. Click on him, then when his page comes up click on Follow on the far right.
Do the same with @willrich45 and @langwitches and @sirkenrobinson. You should see
Once you have followed these four educators, go to the upper right of the screen and click on Home to see what your stream looks like. You should see tweets from all four of them.
Now let's look at some hashtags. Hashtags are akin to keywords. Choose a few from the following list that interest you. Enter the hashtag - with the # - into your search box to see all of the tweets with that hashtag. If you see many tweets from someone and you find them interesting, click on the person's username and Follow them (just as you did with the four above).
General: #edchat, #satchat
Math: #mathed, #mathchat, #math, #hsmath, #statschat, #geomschat, #stem, #stemchat, #msmathchat, #calcchat
Science: #scichat, #science, #scicenter, #edsci, #middlesci, #elemsci, #chemchat, #biology, #biochat, #physicsed, #apbio, #apchem, #stem, #stemchat, #stemhq
Art: #arted, #artsed, #artsedchat
Music: #musiced, #musedchat
English: #english, #engchat, #engedu, #english-teacher, #grammar, #reading, #elachat
History: #sschat, #histedchat, #history, #historyteacher, #historyteaching, #geographyteacher, #geoedchat, #geochat
Physed: #physed, #health, #healthed, #coachchat
Foreign Language: #bilingual, #aplangchat, #langchat, #authres, #spanishteachers
ESL: #esl, #esol, #tesol, #tefl, #ellchat
Library: #library, #librarians, #teacher-librarian
Age Specific: #prek, #kinderchat, #kindergarten, #1stchat, #elemchat, #middleschool, #mschat,
Others: Project-Based Learning #pblchat; Principals #cpchat; Standards-based Grading #sbgchat; New teachers #ntchat
The hashtags that ends in "chat" are normally regularly scheduled chats that take place once a week.
The easiest way to follow multiple hashtags is by using Tweetdeck. Navigate to https://tweetdeck.twitter.com/, sign up using your Twitter account, then set up the hashtags you want to follow.
I would delete the columns to the right so you can put in the hashtags you want to follow. To do so, click on the icon in the upper right, the cik on X Remove. Do that with each column.
Next, click on the + plus sign on the left hand menu to add a column.
Click on Search, or just click on the Search icon directly and enter your hashtag, click on it, then click on Add Column at the bottom.
The result looks something like this:
Now you have a Twitter account and some hashtags to follow. Spend some time exploring and you will quickly find people worth following.
LinkedIn is a social network aimed at business/professions. Start by watching these two excellent introductory videos.
Navigate to https://www.linkedin.com/
Enter the necessary information.
Whether you want to let LinkedIn access your email contacts in order to get them into your account is entirely up to you. It is a shortcut, but you may feel that you want to manage your contacts yourself, more selectively. There is no right or wrong here, so do whichever you feel comfortable with.
You will have to confirm your email address, so either use the pop-up or go to your email and find the message from LinkedIn and click on Confirm your email address.
LinkedIn has a Premium account but, unless you are actively looking for a job, I would stick with the basic (free) account, so choose that.
At this point, they want you to create a profile. You can do this now - it's always good to get started while it is fresh - or you can move on to finding groups that will be useful to have in your PLN.
Note, however, that providing your company/school, where you have worked before, where you went to school, etc. will allow LinkedIn to suggest contacts, so this is worthwhile as a way of getting your network up and running. You can aways come back later and complete your profile.
Providing a photo is also a good idea so that other LinkedIn members can identify you.
Let's look for some good groups for you to join. Choose an appropriate search term and put it in the Search box at the top of the LinkedIn page. You could try "education," but you will get way too many results.
If you are a Chinese teacher, you might search for "Chinese teacher"
Here you get a more manageable 26 groups. You can see how many ,ebers a group has and how many discussions. These can be good measures of whether the group is active.
Note that some groups are locked, which simply means you have to request membership. Go and find at least two groups to join right now.
Once you find a group or groups that are of interest, join them to start growing your PLN.
Below is what a fairly complete profile looks like. Note that she belongs to and follows a number of groups directly related to her job.
If you have a Google account (which you do), then you automatically have Google+. Google+ is a more serious attempt at social networking than Facebook, and so the groups are a lot more serious and, therefore, useful for professionals. Access Google through the Google menu in the upper right of your Gmail screen.
As with other similar services, you will need to set up your profile. and, as with other services, Google wants to help you connect. Here again, how much information you choose to give is entirely up to you.
Add the various information they ask for (or skip these steps. Eventually you will come to this screen, offering you suggestions for connecting. You should scroll through these and choose any that you think will be of value.
In addition, we can search directly for groups of interest, but on Google+ these groups are called Communities. Google+ provides a nice page for each community. By clicking on the Home button in the upper left, you wil get a drop down menu. Choose Communities.
A search for Math, for instance, yields dozens of communities, but can see how many members each community has and, equally important, how many posts there are.
Unless a given community restricts membership, you can go directly to the community's page to see what it's all about. If you are interested, you should join as that way the posts will make it into your Google+ page, making them easier to find and follow.
Now, find at least two communities that you believe will add value to your PLN, and then join them.
Other Social Networks
There are, of course, other social networks that might be useful for your PLN. Any organization that speaks directly to your field is a good place to look. The National Association of independent Schools (NAIS), for example, has a limited number of communities, basically discussion forums for various groups. See http://connect.nais.org/communities/viewallcommunities
Many teacher groups exist under the umbrella of Ning (basically a social network platform). Try searching on "ning math teachers." Some groups use a wiki. Keep your eyes and ears open and you will find groups that are relevant and useful. Below are a few that may be of interest.
For the last step, brainstorm any and all terms that you believe relate to your PLN; this may include concepts, organization, people's names, etc. Type them up in a list, then navigate over to Wordle.net. (Chrome users: because Wordle uses Java, use a different browser for this web application.) Paste them in, add your weightings (if you want), and create a word cloud.
Go to http://www.wordle.net/ and click on Create OR, if you want to vary the sizes of your components based on their importance, click on Advanced in the far right.
Paste, or type, in your list and press Go.
If you have chosen Advanced, enter your terms followed by a ':' and enter a relative weighting.
Press Go to generate the cloud. Once it comes up, you can play around with the layout, colors and fonts to get it just right.
To save the cloud, take a screenshot or use the Print option at the bottom and print to a PDF.
Once you have completed these tasks, check out this challenge at Edublogs to create a PLN. http://teacherchallenge.edublogs.org/creating-a-pln/. You already have a great start on your own, but this is a slightly different take on PLNs, including an active blogging component.