Exploring PLNs: Collaboration tools

The open, online learning experience

Some or all of this open seminar will be a new type of learning experience for you. That is by design. Forms of open, online learning are evolving in real time and it is new for everyone. This is driven in part by the energy surrounding massive, open, online courses (MOOCs) but also by innovative open courses such as ds106, activities like professional-interest Twitter chats (see #lrnchat for example) and interest in self-directed web-based learning (see Howard Rheingold and his work on Peeragogy). And of course by the emerging interest surrounding personal learning networks.

So our intention is to create something that will be a new experience for most of you. But the underlying philosophy is pretty straightforward. This is a participatory learning event – not a passive one in which you listen to a lineup of speakers. We will “discuss” topics and questions across several different social media platforms. By using this mix we intend to foster new connections and relationships for participants. We will all learn from each other.

This video by MOOC pioneer Dave Cormier captures the essence of the experience we are after in this open seminar. Although Dave is speaking specifically about a MOOC, all of what he says about his five steps to success applies here.

Collaboration tools

Listed below is a short description of each of the collaborations tools that we will use in this open seminar.

A more detailed Google document Exploring PLNs: How to Use Collaboration Tools provides step-by-step instructions and tips for both experienced and novice open online learners.

This blog. This blog is base camp for the seminar. It is where we will post details about weekly activities, archives of videos or documents, event times and dates and general seminar information. You may subscribe to receive post updates via email (“Follow” button on the sidebar of this page) or via RSS.

Your blog. If you already have a blog, great. You can use your current blog or start a new one specifically for this seminar. If you do not have a blog we encourage you to start one as part of this seminar.

Your blog will be your base camp. During the seminar we will ask participants to think and write about different topics or questions. Your blog is also a good place to post thoughts about articles you read or reactions to videos or other content you come across related to the topic of PLNs. We will also be encouraging participants to read and comment on other participant blogs.

The key is that your blog becomes your own personal archive of activity during the seminar. You may be participating in other social media platforms as well – but make your blog your base camp. (Jeff Merrell used this strategy when participating in two MOOCs, You can see his archive at MOOCing.)

If you have never created a blog, we recommend you start with either a free WordPress or Blogger blog. There are very easy to set up and come with pre-defined templates.

Google Plus Community. Our Google Plus Community will give us a discussion forum in which we can bring together many community members in a single place. It provides room for longer discussions (in threaded discussion form). It also provides us a place where you can post a link to any of your blog posts, to alert us that you have created something new you would like to share. We will ask participants to do this routinely. The payoff will be that every participant will be able to scan through many blog posts and learn about what others are writing or thinking. It is a great way to begin finding new people to connect with.

You will need a Google account to access Google Plus and our community. If you have a Gmail or Youtube account, you can access Google Plus using the same account. We also set up our Google Plus community so that any interested participants must request access to join even if they already have a Google account. But we’ll approve all requests. You’ll receive a Google Plus notification when your request has been approved.

Twitter.  Twitter is a key tool in the tool box used by those of us who work on developing our own personal learning networks. We use it to follow and communicate with members of our PLN, to follow thought-leaders and experts in areas of interest, and to find and share links to articles and resources relevant to our interests. During this seminar we will use Twitter to do all of the things we do when developing our PLN.

If you are new to Twitter, check out Twitter’s own FAQs about getting started. You will also want to know about hashtags. Hashtags are a way to categorize Tweets by topic and make it easy for large groups of people to follow topics of interest. In this seminar we will use the hashtag #xplrpln as the standard for tagging tweets related to the event.

Hastags are important, as well, for Twitter chats. Each week of the seminar we will conduct one open Twitter chat (using the #xplrpln hashtag). Chats occur at a specific time and date, and in our case for one hour. If you have never participated in a Twitter chat we will conduct a practice chat session during orientation week. They are fast-moving, fun, and packed with opportunities to connect and learn from other people.

Already have a Twitter account? Then follow us @NU_MSLOC or @jeffmerrell or @KGS_Scott and start using the hashtag to share your interest in this topic.

Google Hangouts on Air. We will use the Hangouts on Air capability of Google Hangouts to broadcast live video sessions related to this seminar. Sessions will also be recorded and available on our Google+ Community and YouTube for later viewing. To watch our scheduled Hangouts you will follow a link that we provide each week within our Google+ Community.

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