Start Small? Or go Big?

•February 2, 2010 • 4 Comments

So, I had a busy weekend–what with friends coming to visit on Thursday and not leaving until this morning. Lovely having you here, guys, but I am WAY behind on my school work. I wasn’t planning on updating this until tomorrow afternoon, but I got a jump on my COMM and Shakespeare homework, did some cleaning, and then started poking around. I figured, I’ll at least start looking around so I can have some kind of idea for a post. Of course, I had plenty of ideas, but this whole blogging thing is new to me–should I focus in on one aspect of my PLN? Or should I give a broad overview of what’s happening all over the spectrum? I went back and forth about this while I added a lot of my classmate’s blogs to Google Reader. As I looked through their blogs I realized that everyone was at different points in developing their blogging “groove.” I’m not sure if any of my classmates are reading my blog but I have to say KUDOS! I am very impressed and also mildly intimidated. So, that was the end of just “poking” around…I had to get something substantial and concrete going before I got to sleep tonight.

Today (or more correctly tonight and into tomorrow–since it’s 11:48 pm and all), I want to talk mainly about RSS Feeds (specifically my experience with Google Reader), but because I found so much interesting stuff on my classmate’s blogs, I wanted to touch on some of those things first.

At first I felt kind of weird taking ideas from my classmates. I almost didn’t want to read their blogs for fear that I would feel the need to blog about something completely different and original. If I knew what THEY were blogging about then I would need to blog about something different, and well, I was scared that I wouldn’t have any original ideas. I talked myself out of that mindset, and gained confidence after reading Jessie’s newest blog entitled “Entering the Conversation,” that this is what it’s all about. The humming conversation in my constantly growing PLN is about asking questions, finding answers, asking more questions, and helping eachother become better communicators. Through this process we will become wiser, better read, more technologically inclined individuals. We will be thinkers. I love that I can learn from my classmates through these blogs. Of course, I have my doubts. How long will I be able to go one step further than my classmates and my professor? I guess only time will tell.

When I visited Britanny’s first blog entitled, “January 21, 2009 — My first blogging experience !!” just out of curiosity (since I had obviously already set up my blog) I watched her video on blogging that she found on Youtube:

This is what brought it all together. First let me say, I really like “The Common Craft Show” tutorials/videos. I find these videos to be inspiring. I almost want to make one myself, but in this case…I think I need to slow down and start small. I am now following The Common Craft Show with Google Reader and Twitter.
ANYWAYS, I hope I can explain my thought process in a coherent manner (as I let out all the air in my lungs). Our PLN’s are about a conversation. We have entered in an ongoing conversation of thoughts and ideas, and we contribute to this conversation by keeping blogs. Blogs are a way of receiving news according to “The Common Craft Show,” because really isn’t everything news to someone? Yes, I think it is.

News Media:
Now I want to take step back…or sideways, rather. I’m currently taking a Communications class all about News and the Media. We discuss reasons why the media is inherently unreliable and how it got that way (which is why I don’t feel so bad for being a lazy citizen when it comes to reading the newspaper). My instructor assigned a reading for tomorrow written by Robert McChesney which outlines the history of journalism and how partisan journalism was transformed into professional journalism and subsequently how the 21st century “marked the point where news became both professional and personal” (in the words of “The Common Craft Show“). A news system that is professional and personal ultimately turns into a news system that is commercialized by media owners (often times huge conglomerations) in order to turn the biggest profit possible. This is why most of the news is “filler” or “soft” news. We constantly see glamorized stories covering car chases and burglaries instead of the real issues behind these events–like hunger and poverty caused by the decline in economy.

The Conversation:
What I’m getting at is essentially what my classmate Jessie outlined in her most recent blog post, Entering the Conversation. A connection has been made. Last semester I took an Acting class that helped me relax when performing in front of people. I used the relaxation techniques and new found confidence I found in Acting to help me improve in a persuasive speech class during the same semester. In persuasive speech I learned about strategies of propaganda that I am currently applying to the previously mentioned News Media class. And now, my News Media class has turned me on to analyzing the news which makes me want to push through the clutter and find real stories that matter. Unbelievably, I’m finding that news by using my Personal Learning Network. It’s a conversation. I’m making connections to people and ideas. I actually think that my network started before I logged in to Social Networking, Blogging, Microblogging, RSS Feeds, Social Bookmarking, and Nings. These websites are just platforms for exploration. Granted, I’m still getting used to exploring the platforms, but once I get the hang of it I think I’ll have super human learning powers. Anyone? Anyone?

RSS Readers:

Jason Whitney’s post about google reader pushed me to do a little exploring. He posted this video in his blog about RSS Readers and how they operate:

I already knew most of what The Common Craft Show was outlining, but as I said before…I was inspired. I added all the classmates I could find to Google Reader, and as I already said, poked around their blogs. My classmates obviously gave me some new ideas, but I wasn’t quite satisfied. I want to be innovative. I want to contribute as much as I can. I started by going into help, and reading up on the easiest ways organize my feeds, read my feeds, and find new feeds. Personally, I don’t like to read my subscriptions on Google Reader. I like the professional feel of the blogs I’ve subscribed to, and I won’t let Google take that away from me. Lucky for Google I can easily click on the title of the blog I have yet to read and it quickly takes me where I want to go. This was all well and good, but it was frustrating that most of my classmates didn’t have easy to find RSS buttons. I even took Google’s advice and used my browsers “find” function. I typed in RSS and got nothing. I ended up having to copy and paste each persons web link until the “Add a Subscription” tab. A minor setback, but nothing big…EXCEPT for the fact that I took Jason’s advice and downloaded Stylish (a Mozilla add-on that stylizes your favorite pages).

Stylish:
The problem with Stylish is that there are too many options. I can’t decide! And I can’t see in that tiny example picture to tell what’s really going to happen to my pages. Maybe you can customize your Google Reader to be exactly what you want, but it wasn’t easy enough for me so I’m just going to let it be bland (which is very unlike me I might add). The setting I chose from Stylish hid my “Add a Subscription” box, and so for a good 25 minutes I couldn’t figure out how to add subscriptions. Lame! Eventually, I figured out how to make it stop. I got my button back and all was good with the world.

Memonic:
Here comes the fun part. And maybe I should have put this at the beginning of my long winded Blog Post, but hopefully the video will entice some readership. I was trying to find a way to browse/search for new blogs about education. I wanted to peruse through some blogs so I could LEARN and EXPLORE. This is not as easy as it sounds, and maybe I’m just not getting the software but I couldn’t find ANYTHING. So I started looking through some of the recommended sources, and I found a blog titled, “Free Technology for Teachers.” There are a LOT of things I didn’t read about, but I did read all about a program called Memonic. Here’s a video that I found on the blogs post entitled “Memonic – Capture and Organize Your Web Findings” :

Memonic is free, and surprisingly easy to use. All you have to do is add the “Save to Memonic” “bookmarklet” and you can save several different areas of any website that you want. Really, it’s the same as copying and pasting text from your browser to a Word document, but you don’t have to fumble around. Search as long as you want, save as much as you want from wherever you want, and when you’re done you can go to your collection of excerpts in order to edit them. For example, I used Memonic to collect the You Tube videos I placed in this Blog Post. I also collected small portions of my classmates blog posts in order to reference only what I needed all in the same place. The Memonic blog also suggests that:

“Memonic could be a good resource for helping students organize the findings of their web research. The ability to add commentary along with the URL could help students remember why they clipped something.”

How many time’s have you sat at your computer researching for a ten page paper with twenty tabs that contain journals and periodicals from all over the web? Memonic saves the website, and only the information you plan on using. If you need more information from that site later…ADD MORE LATER! If you have your own thoughts and ideas but you’re afraid you’ll forget, you can edit what you’ve saved and add your own text in a different color.

Honestly, I think this is going to change the way I write papers.
——————–

I’m realizing that I need to go about this blog a little differently. My goal is to update twice a week or more. Hopefully I’ll gain ideas more frequently, and start and explore various PLN threads via my classmate’s blogs. I hope I can be diligent and stay inspired. Later on.

Be Gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. In the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. -Max Ehrmann

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January 27: Drum Roll….It’s my very own Personal Learning Network.

•January 26, 2010 • 3 Comments

January 13th was the day I walked into my very first education specific class (technically, it should have been the second, but we’ll pretend as if that little scheduling mishap never happened). I was overwhelmed, frightened, anxious, excited, and…tired. The next 3 semesters are supposed to prepare me to be a secondary English teacher–thats scary! I sat there feeling like a kindergartner should feel as their teacher introduces the alphabet for the first time–LOST! Of course, a 5 year old doesn’t have the cognitive abilities to understand how the next 17 years of learning will all depend on their knowledge of the 26 symbols presented to them but…well, you get the point (I hope). This is what I’ve been waiting for! My entire education has led up to these last three semesters that will hopefully push me out the door and into the world of real people. If I can make it, I might actually be a real person.

Anyways, for the first 90 minutes of this 3 hour class my professor, Jason Whitney, introduced us to the concept of a PLN (personal learning network). In all of his “nerdiness” (his words, not mine) he found a way to ease my anxiety and promote interest. I went home and bit by bit I started putting together a PLN of my own. Jason went crazy about  Kate Klingensmith’s blog so I went there first to check it out. In her blog from May 5th, which she entitles “PLN: Your Personal Learning Network Made Easy,” she defines the PLN like this:  “n. – the entire collection of people with whom you engage and exchange information, usually online.” Sounds cool, but do I really have any information to exchange? I definitely have information to gain, but who do I exchange information with? Where do I find people who have the information I need/want? Oh no, I’m freaking out again. The whole thing is relatively overwhelming/confusing/unorganized/time consuming. It has an enlightening ending, but this is how I got there:

I used Jason Whitney’s first blog as I gradually signed up for each different networking site. His most useful resource was this chart that he conveniently stole from Kate Klingensmith’s blog:

Category Value Examples and Guides
Social Networking Keeping up with personal, more social contacts like friends, family, and former students Facebook, Myspace
Microblogging Populated with educators from around the world who share best practices and resources in short bursts Twitter, My guide to Twitter, Plurk, Utterli
Professional Profiles Find other professionals and experts in your field LinkedIn, Brightfuse
Wikis Community-monitored sites that can function as websites or for group organization and projects Wikispaces, pbwiki, wetpaint
Blogs Great sources of information such as classroom best practices as well as personal opinions; Blogs monitor the heartbeat of new trends in education and the commenting back and forth leads to many great ideas and relationships WordPress, (check out my ‘Blogroll’ to the right – they’re my favorites), Blogger, Typepad, Alltop – top blog headlines by subject, Technorati – a blog search engine
RSS Reader RSS means “Real Simple Syndication” – an RSS reader is a tool that allows you to keep up with many of your favorite blogs, all in once place
(see this video ‘RSS in Plain English’)
Netvibes, (My Netvibes), PageFlakes, Google Reader
Nings Communities of people interested in similar topics, with forums and messaging Classroom 2.0, Future of Education, Ning
Social Bookmarking Share bookmarks with others, see what others are bookmarking; you can join groups and get email updates on new bookmarks Diigo, Diigo Groups, Delicious
Webinars Live, on-line presentations or conferences, with real-time chat, hosted by experts on specific topics; Great way to learn about new things and to meet new people Classroom 2.0 Live!, EdTechTalk Live, Elluminate – host your own!, Dim Dim
Backchanneling of conferences When there are neat (and expensive) conferences that you can’t attend, follow conversations and links about the highlights Twitter search – use acronyms like ‘NECC’ or ‘SXSWi’

Social Networking:

Facebook:
I’m pretty sure that almost everyone in the world has Facebook (except for Dr. Staples, of course). Somehow, in the last year, my entire family has signed up for facebook. My hip aunt from colorado was the first to jump on the bandwagon, and that wasn’t really a surprise but, my Mom?! ahh! and Dad!!?! WHAT IS THIS WORLD COMING TO?! All of my Aunts have facebook, and last week my Grandma asked to be my friend–She doesn’t know how to put up a picture…but she found the friend request button…and that’s frightening. My cousin sent out PRIVATE invitations to a PRIVATE note after she lost her cell phone so she could share her new number and update her phonebook as her friends posted the numbers she had lost. Within ten hours my aunt was giving us lectures about sharing phone numbers on the internet. Ohhh my. The adults run around facebook like chickens with their heads cut off–but they’re there.

Anyways, most of my time on facebook (and time in general) was dedicated to the application Farmville. I wanted to have the most impressive farm, and even though the application was absolutely pointless, I COULDN’T STOP! Maybe it doesn’t matter, but after Jason gave us a lecture on professionalism, I wasn’t sure if I could go back to the application with my dignity entact. Sooo, my crops died, and to the satisfaction of my pending semester grades I deleted the application. Goodbye level 28.
Other than Farmville, facebook continues to be only a social utility for me. I can measure my typing speed and rack my brain in Word Challenge. Actually, my LLED classmates have set up several groups in order to communicate on projects and it’s been a great way to ask and answer questions without sending out mass e-mails. Hopefully this continues, because so far it’s the only education use I have for facebook.

Myspace:
I have to admit, I DO have a Myspace. Myspace was the “thing” before college (since my generation waited for college to get a facebook). I probably check in on it 6 times a year, and I only keep it so I can stay in touch with a friend who moved to Idaho and refuses to get a facebook.

You can stalk all my pictures for the last 4 years and find out how much of a loser I am by facebooking me here. And if you’re really interested in my interests/movie and book preferences from high school you can myspace me here.

Microblogging:

Twitter:
I caved to the mass infatuation with twitter about four months ago when my friend Ronald pleaded with me to “follow” him. I think he was embarrassed because no one was reading his tweets. I complied under the stipulation that he sign me up and create a name for me. I wanted it to be something witty so that maybe I could be a famous tweeter one day with tens of thousands of tweeting followers, but he couldn’t think of anything so I settled for CaitlinAlyce (my first and middle name). I didn’t think I would use it, but for awhile I followed a bunch of celebrities like Ashton Kutcher, Ellen DeGeneres, John Mayer, and Jason Mraz. I lost faith in John Mayer because of his vulgar and inappropriate tweets, but Ashton Kutcher puts up some very cool You Tube videos that I never would have seen, and since I don’t have cable in my apartment, Ellen provides links to some of the funny clips from her show. Yes, this is lame, but maybe if I found some more useful “tweeters” it wouldn’t be so shameful–I’ll have to look into it. I’ve lost interest in twitter lately, but now that my “linked in” account and twitter are connected…I might go back to microblogging. Today, I tweeted about writing this blog, and you can find it here. Hm…I may or may not be getting excited.

Professional Profiles:

Linked in:
This is where the real work actually began. At first, I signed up for Linked in, and I wasn’t sure what to do. I posted a picture and filled out some information in my profile, but I didn’t have anyone to add. I added my professor, Jason Whitney, figuring that I had to start somewhere. Confused and uncertain I closed the site and walked away from my computer. It wasn’t until today that I added 5 of my classmates, and realized that I could connect my twitter to my Linked in account. I could tweet about things that actually matter?? People might actually read my tweets? I have a lot to explore, but I feel like I’m on my way to understanding Linked in–you can find my Linked in account here.

Wikis:

Wikispaces:
Next, I signed up for Wikispaces. Hm. I recently read Jason Whitney’s latest blog about collaboration (“Personal Learning Network Day 14- Wikis, Blogs, and Collaborations“), and the videos he has posted about Wikispaces were extraordinarily enlightening. Unfortunately, I don’t have any collaborative projects to start or participate in, but this seems like it could be a useful resource for a wide range of collaborations. I almost want to make up a reason to use Wikispaces with like…my mom or something. Grandma’s 80th birthday is coming up…we might need to collaborate. Anyways, I requested to join Jason’s LLED Wiki, and just as I thought that was all there is to do, I found a link at the bottom that says “Best Educational Wikis of 2009” and when I clicked on it I was astounded. The first paragraph says:

“This month, we encourage you to check out three award-winning educational wikis on Wikispaces. These wikis have been used to interact with schools from around the world, share classroom activity, and turn online class notes into end-of-year exams. They’re great examples of how wikis can be used to create engaging learning experiences.”

I never even considered collaborating with other classrooms! Ahhhhh!! Needless to say, I’m excited and have a lot of reading to do.

RSS Reader
:

Google Reader:

I wasn’t ready to start blogging, so I moved right to the RSS Reader. Jason suggested Google Reader, so that’s where I went. I signed up for a google account and browsed around the Google Reader site. I added my guilty pleasure blog: Post Secret, and then I watched a quick tutorial about Google Reader. I’m a little confused about what kind of feeds I can follow. The tutorial showed facebook, twitter, e-mail, and a lot of other sites that can be used on google reader, but I’m not sure how to do that yet. I’m excited to add all of my classmates blogs, so I can follow and learn from their PLN’s. It seems like I have a lot to learn, but I like the way it’s set up, and the few blogs that I do follow are easy to find and follow.

Social Bookmarking:

Delicious:
Actually, I added Delicious after I signed up for my Linked in account, but I realized that I was using safari as an Internet browser. The add-on’s for Delicious work only through Mozilla Firefox. About a year ago, Firefox stopped letting me bookmark websites, and so I wrote it off and moved to Safari. To rectify this problem, I uninstalled and reinstalled Firefox and reinstated all of my bookmarks (webmail, elion, angel, maps of penn state, facebook, twitter, blah, blah, blah). Unfortunately I was jumping the gun. I should have waited until I reinstalled Delicious a day later, but they let me transfer all of my bookmarks from Firefox to Delicious which saved me a lot of time. I already found one website that I bookmarked — “55+ Most Wanted WordPress Tips, Tricks, and Hacks“—I’m excited to exchange websites with my classmates, and how crazy is it that the first popular bookmark was about WordPress?? I like blogging, and I’m liking this PLN—and I’m just getting started! I didn’t think I would get nerdy about this…but I am…I’m nerdy. I bookmarked and tagged all the sites I’m using for my PLN and found that TONS of people are using the same sites. I can view their favorite bookmarks, and they can view mine. The possibilities are endless.

Nings:

Well, I signed up for all the Ning’s that Jason suggested, and was pleasantly surprised by how they are all interconnected. I’m most impressed by the English Companion Ning. Sounds lame but…wow! I requested to be a part of the PSU Engl/Comm Ning, and I’m excited to explore further. Also, it seems like there’s a lot of great information to be had on The Future of Education ning. I think it’s going to actually help me for my political communications term project. I needed to pick a pivotal issue–so I chose Education. I can collect some of the articles I need from this ning! AHH!!!! Next was Classroom 2.0. They have a special beginner group that I’m extremely thankful for. Finally, there is Ning.com where they have all different kinds of nings ranging from Education to Art to Sports. I didn’t even know that nings existed until today, and now I feel so connected to education that it’s unreal. I have so many resources right at my fingertips! Tomorrow I’m going to create my very own Ning network, and I’m pretty sure I can add some of these nings to Google Reader. BAH!!! I wish I didn’t feel so nerdy.

Blogging:

WordPress:
So, here we are. I’ve always wanted a blog, but I’ve never really had anything to blog about. I keep the Xanga that I had in high school as a way of backing up my poetry online (it’s also an easy way to share with friends), but there’s so much pressure in a blog! Especially a blog name! I went with goofy–my best friend’s dad calls me Caitford, and I figured he’d be proud. I’m pretty sure I can change my blog name if the need ever arises, but until then…I am Caitfordly Yours. I’m excited to mess with some of the settings using my 55 WordPress Tips, Tricks, and Hacks! Either way, so far so good.

PERSONAL LEARNING NETWORK:
So, I think I’ve done everything I can do for now. I need to ask Jason about the Webinars which I think is related to backchanneling on twitter. I was wary about what this PLN was really going to do for me but not only is it convenient–it’s interesting. I have so much to do! So much to read! There is much progress to be made in the next few days, and I will update you on my progress then! Later on!