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My Personal Learning Network

Taking a class on the use of technology and teaching was my grand scheme to learn some magic way to organize myself with everything. How in the world do people have time to learn all these new apps and try out new software and still work for a living? And then, suddenly one of your favorite apps goes belly up! RIP Google Reader, Feedly just isn’t the same, especially since I just found out it didn’t survive the crash of my computer and I have to start all over! I was sure this course would move me up into the status of “Ah….now I understand how this all works.” Instead, I’m left dangling in the blogospheres….still.

What I really thought I needed was a personal learning network—a command and control desk!   Turns out I need a private coach, someone who answers my questions more in depth that Mr. Google can. My first question to my private coach would be, “Why does someone need to remember where something is on the internet? And how long in computer years (6 human years = 100 in computer years) does one have to remember where it is? Why would I want to bookmark something? I’m just not getting it! If I want to find something again, I should be able to google it and find it again—-or search my history—my computer remembers my pathways and keeps links purpled for months. Why, it even tells me how many times I’ve been to “how to make kale chips” in the last year!

Why do we collect bookmarks?  To think like a Borg, perhaps? (Yes, a shameless reference to Star Trek) To all build into a collective mind? Sharing is good, but should we share everything with each other? Where’s the diversity in that? Already red Americans wake up their computers in the morning and get Sarah Palin’s thoughts for the day. While blue Americans open their computers to Zen quotes. For the most part, blue and red Americans don’t share the same groups, so I’m quite certain they wouldn’t share the same bookmarks. So….blue is sharing with blue and reds with reds. We are reinforcing our own beliefs. It’s pretty crazy.

I’ve been on a Pinterest craze lately trying to understand why my daughter-in-law is addicted, as are many of my friends. I even asked my hair dresser (is that what they are still called?) Anyway, she never goes back to look at her pins on pinterest. She simply collects them. It’s true of most people I talk to. They just want to have their pins and know that they are safe somewhere. Is that true of people who collect articles on Diigo as well? Is Diigo simply a virtual underground cavern, where the dragon stores his/her jewels?  Is it an American capitalist notion that we have to collect junk?

As a blogger, I may be researching a topic and need to collect my artifacts in a cave somewhere, but usually I need to quote them and give out a bibliography. Why not then, save and share them in Zotero? Or any other bibliography saver? It brings us to ask the question again: why save?

To save articles for a Personal Learning Network is to have a snap shot of that virtual cave with all of your stored jewels you found on the internet. For me, it doesn’t work very well. Maybe because I find so many jewels worth saving! I can’t just throw them in a pile. I don’t see a good way of organizing the piles well. Tagging each item is nice, but what if I forget what tag I used? In a bibliography, I would at least remember the author or a key word in the title.

So the next question to ask is what is the purpose of a Personal Learning Network? To me this is a collection of my personal mentors. Through out my career, I have followed those people who I want to become. My biggest mentor must have been Nancy Atwell. I used her books as a how to manual and followed her every lead. I had people in my community using her as a mentor as well and so we became a learning community. They were all part of my learning network. We all learned together, we wrote together, we published together.

So, as I started this class, I was in need of order to my chaos. I added Diigo and Twitter to my computer rituals hoping they would help.

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Click on the graphic to see a larger image.

This added at least another hour to my morning ritual of checking all of my incoming information.  I had my twitter account up all day and would add tweets and read articles and forward the good ones and save the others into my Diigo piles. The extra activity made me even more distractable and ADHD. There was always something good coming in the next tweet. I found more and more time got wasted.  Just a quick example, a tweet came in today announcing there will be a documentary made about my son’s favorite hot sauce.  I could not let that go.  I had to share it on facebook so that he, and maybe other hot sauce fans will be delighted—a complete waste of time.   What I had hoped for during this class was a smoother, stream-lined system of finding my jewels–the real important stuff without having to wade through the hot sauce!

                     To check out my Twitter account, click here!
                    To check out my Diigo account, click here! 
                   My feedly still isn’t up and running after the crash.  😦

What this foray has taught me is that I need to go back to my old ways to simplify. I need to follow my mentors. I need to read my mentor’s blogs on Feedly, keeping the most important ones at the top. I need to continue to collect real people around me who I can learn from as well. If my mentors are distant and a disaster strikes, they can’t help much, can they? When I have people at the core of my personal learning network, instead of apps and articles and snippets of movements, I feel like my symbiotic life with the computer is more useful and less out of control.


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Having a Personal Learning Network is all about becoming the person you want to become and not letting the technology mold you into something you aren’t or don’t want to become. The cacophony of so much information coming in is like standing in the middle of a sled dog team right before dinner. Every single dog wants attention now and you don’t know who to go to next because they are all equally important. For me—I probably won’t continue Twitter and Diigo, it’s just too much cacophony.  I want to be present in the moment.  I want to reflect on an article after I read it, not file it somewhere I will never see it again.  I want to pass on information that has a purpose, that makes people think.  I don’t want to become part of the noise, but I would like to harmonize.




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