My Personal Learning Evironment

In this module of EdTech 543 (Social Network Learning) I was asked to reflect on my personal learning environment (PLE) and create a visual representation of it. There are variable definitions of what a PLE is but I like this one by Connie Malamed:

A self-directed and evolving environment of tools, services and resources organized by a person seeking a way to accomplish lifetime learning, to create, and to connect with others of similar interests.

In short, a PLE includes your personal learning network (PLN) and the tools you use to interact with it. Everyone’s PLE is unique. We all use different tools to interact with our unique PLN.


My PLE diagram tries to convey that I use devices, services, and various tools to interact with people and information. People includes colleagues, friends, communities of practice I belong to, communities of inquiry, and other smart people around the world. Information can be in print, online, or stored in my computer.

I mostly follow the 4 Cs model created by Chris Sessums in which the 4 Cs are collect, communicate, create, and collaborate. As such, there are 3 zones to the devices, services and tools layer of my PLE diagram. At the bottom, are tools I use to create and communicate.  On the right, are tools and ways I like to learn, including using online, print, and verbal media. Finally, on the left, are the tools I use to collect, communicate, and collaborate. All these tools are also used by others to interact with me. I also included the “low tech” old-fashioned way of learning and communicating: the lecture and meetings.

While reflecting on my PLE, I realized I have a core group of tools that I use. There are many tools available but I think most of us regularly use just a few. Over the years I have tested many tools and rejected most of them for various reasons. It was also helpful to reflect upon what role various tools play in my PLE and how the tools have evolved over time. Tools often have many uses but I find I use some tools at only a fraction of their capacity.

I reviewed several of my classmates’ PLE diagrams. Most focus on technology (as does mine). Many of us use the same tools, which makes sense as these tools have been around a while (e.g. Microsoft products, Google products). I did find some people included tools I wouldn’t have thought of as being useful for a PLE. For example, one diagram included PayPal, amazon, and eBay. Others include tools I just don’t use like Instagram, Pinterest, Skype, RSS aggregators, Flip Board, and some educational social networking sites. But that’s what make a PLE personal. What I always miss in assignments like this is not finding out how people use these different tools. I find it’s easy to learn to use a tool but harder to discover new ways to use them. Finally, I like how at least one of my classmates included face to face interaction in her PLE diagram. Too often we focus on technology but interacting with colleagues in the office or at conventions is still a very useful way to learn and create. I also found it fascinating of how different people followed different models to organize their PLEs. All were very creating and informative.


Real Time and Live Virtual Professional Development

In this module of EDTECH 543 (Social Network Learning) we used Twitter chats and live webinars for professional development. I have used Twitter for professional development for some time but had never participated in chats. One of the reasons I never did was the difficulty keeping up with random tweets and the tweets related to the chats in my Twitter feed. TweetDeck made this task much easier.

Twitter chats are live discussions about a topic usually formulated as questions by the moderator. Unfortunately, you are at the mercy of the topic chosen by the moderator. Thus, it’s not useful for solving problems or knowledge deficits that aren’t the topic of the chat. They also occur at scheduled times and thus aren’t helpful answering questions when you have them. What is useful about them is that usually nationally, and sometimes internationally, recognized experts on a topic share their experiences and knowledge. Usually, useful resources also get shared.

Webinars are basically lectures broadcast on the web. Some of them have discussion areas where participants can discuss concepts or ask questions. I found webinars much less useful. I couldn’t find any on medical education during the time of this assignment. Most of the ones I found were geared toward K-12 educators (which I am not) or were at times when I couldn’t participate. They were also on topics I didn’t care about nor need to know more about.  The ones I did participate in weren’t as participatory as the discussions in Twitter chats. They also use technology that often isn’t widely available or user friendly. My institution doesn’t use some of the tools these were broadcast on. Some of them were only available to paid members of professional organizations. I signed up for one on Adobe Connect and I never could get it to work through the Connect app on my iPad.  A couple I signed up for would never allow me to log in despite multiple attempts. Thus, I only participated in 2 webinars. Webinars suffer the same problems I noted above for Twitter chats (not in time and not problem specific).

I doubt I will use webinars much for PD in the future. I will continue to participate in Twitter chats when the topics are of interest. Below is a Word document discussing the chats and webinars I participated in and what I gleaned from them.



Twitter for Just-In-Time Professional Development

In this module of EDTECH 543 (Social Network Learning) I had to follow several hashtags in Twitter that would be useful to me professionally. I use TweetDeck to organize my hashtags. Prior to this course, I had never used a tool like TweetDeck. I will from now on. It really helps organize my Twitter feed.



Screen shot of TweetDeck with columns for each hashtag

Prior to this week I never followed any hashtags; only people on Twitter. This seems like a more efficient way to find information that I care about but I am worried that I will miss information because most Tweets don’t have hashtags applied to them. I know I often forget to put a hashtag on my Tweets and choosing an appropriate hashtag can be challenging.

What new hashtags did I follow? #edchat #onlinelearning #edtech #oer #elearning #connectedlearning and #BlendedLearning. In just the 1st hour I learned several new things: 1) EdChat (“discuss and learn about current teaching trends, how to integrate technology, transform their teaching, and connect with inspiring educators worldwide”) occurs every Tuesday and users can choose the topic of discussion, 2) OfficeLens is a tool I didn’t know about that can “scan documents, cards, and whiteboards with your phone, making them more readable, and in some cases editable”, and 3) most important, I realized I need to pay attention to hashtags in Tweets and follow ones that relate to my interests. I previously only focused on the thought leaders I wanted to follow.

I have been using Twitter (along with several blogs) for a few years for professional development. It has been an invaluable resource. I found so many useful resources and interesting bogs/papers that I don’t think I would have found otherwise.  I use it in more of a push mode in which I get information pushed to me randomly instead of a pull mode where I search for specific information and pull it in. I periodically review my Twitter feed during the day (usually while waiting for the elevator, standing in line, or waiting for a meeting to start) and if I see an interesting link or resource I open it and review it. If I know I want it for later I favorite it or retweet it (that way it’s saved in my Tweet list).  When I need specific information on a topic I tend to Google it. So I have no experience searching Twitter for specific information. The challenge of using Twitter for professional development is two-fold I think: following the right people and hoping things get Tweeted that you need.

Now it’s your turn. How do you use Twitter for PD? What are some of its limitations and how have you overcome them?


EdTech 543: My baseline views and uses of social media for teaching and PD

This week I start a new and near-final chapter in my MET program. EDTECH 543 (Social Network Learning) should nicely complement my recently completed course on openness (EDTECH 597). This is blog post is a reflection on my current use of social media for professional development and teaching.



From Wikipedia and Brian Solis and JESS3 (


What are your initial reactions about joining these social networks for use in this course? I assumed we would use social media in this class. I have accounts for all the tools mentioned this week. I use Twitter and Diigo daily. I don’t use Facebook other than to occasionally (once a week or less) check on what my friends have been up to.

What is your experience in using social media for your own professional development? I have been using Twitter and Diigo daily for professional development for several years. They have been very valuable tools to find and share resources. They are also very valuable for finding thought leaders in education and educational technology. I am a physician and didn’t know the names of education leaders outside of medicine. Twitter (and blogs) has allowed me to expand my personal learning network outside of medicine. I use Google+ some for PD. In the areas that I follow it’s not as risk of a resource as Twitter. I don’t use Facebook for PD (or much of anything). I’m just not a fan of its organization. I think you have to have a couple of resources that you can keep up with regularly and understand how to use and try not to engage with too many social media. A lot of time can be wasted.

What is your experience in using social media as an instructional strategy in your learning environment? It’s limited as I teach in the medical field which is way behind in using online and social media for education. This year I started a Diigo group for a weekly noon conference where I post I important article or resource related to the topic of the conference. We have about 120 residents and 30 faculty who have been invited to join the group and only 24 have in the last month. No one, other than me, has posted anything. I have used Google+ in the past to run a course because our in-house designed LMS has no discussion board feature and I needed a discussion board for a class. I am going to study Twitter this spring in one of my classes to see if tweets of hard to understand topics improve knowledge. I use YouTube and SlideShare regularly to teach. I use WordPress blogs as class sites 2 two things that I teach.

What are your expectations for this course? I feel comfortable using social media for my own learning but want to get exposed to more ways to use it in teaching. I also want to get exposed to some of the theory and research data about its use (though I’m not sure we are scheduled to cover this or not).  I’m a theory geek and like a deeper understanding of things. I also hope we have freedom to use social media we want to and not be forced to use certain platforms at all times. I am worried about so much use of Facebook as I just don’t like Facebook.

I look forward to expanding my knowledge and facility of using social media tools. I also look forward to seeing how teachers outside of my profession use social media.