Ag Communication Web Services

Tech info, tips & tricks


A Fresh Look at Personal Learning Networks (PLNs)

For some time, Bob Bertsch has been encouraging the Extension Service community to be active in a PLN (Personal Learning Network). A PLN lets you network with professionals who hold the same role as you. You learn from each other. Maybe you’re a County Extension Service agent that follows the Tweets of an agent in another county. Perhaps you met someone at a conference a few years back and you keep in touch and share the latest research or tools in your field of study. Chances are you already have a PLN. Can you name at least two people or resources in your PLN?

What’s great about a PLN is that technology makes information quick, accessible and easy to share. No longer do you need to wait for an annual conference to see what others from around the country are doing. Online communities bring the world to you. Information is abundant and never really static.

My PLN starts with Twitter. Don’t let me lose you here, I know some of you are intimidated by Twitter and I was too. People on Twitter can be hyperactive and loud sharing their thoughts and opinions often. My aim is NOT to be the thought leader on tech (there are thousands of them already), but to learn from others. I started by following Bob. I looked at his list of who he follows on Twitter and chose to follow some of them that I thought looked like a good resource. A few times a day I check my Twitter feed to learn about Tech, Ag and NDSU Extension Service. It’s great to see what others are doing and getting helpful resources from them. I am more of a “lurker” in that I read Tweets, but don’t Tweet very often. I am still trying to figuring out who I am on Twitter.

And then there’s Facebook. Bob and I are admins on the Web Services Facebook page. Our PLN for Facebook includes Facecrooks – a group that monitors social media scams, and we pass along that information to our Facebook friends. We also follow various Extension Service Facebook pages to see what they’re up to. With nearly a billion monthly active users, you’re bound to find a goldmine of people in your job from across the country and the world that share your interests. Think National Association of X” or who does your job in a different county or state.

The last major component of my PLN is getting news feeds from various tech web sites, like Mashable and CNet. Instead of having to go out to these sites each day to see what they’ve posted, the information comes to ME. This is all set up using a news feed. In a previous blog post, Bob shared a video in how to get started with News Feeds.

So now I’ve filled my tank with all kinds of news, tips and tricks coming into my feeds daily. The next step is to “listen” to all the information coming from my PLN. This can be overwhelming as I have hundreds of articles and Tweets coming into my feed each day. I try to scan each one. I share what I think is good information via Re-Tweeting or Facebook post. I bookmark articles that may come in handy later. I’ve learned to curtail the list of the feeds I get, to really weed out whose information I find valuable. It really is not about how many people you follow or how many feeds you get, but the quality of information you get out of them.  

I know some Extension Service staff have aversions to using social media. Hopefully I didn’t lose you at the mention of Twitter a few paragraphs ago. My advice is to jump in. Start a Twitter account. You don’t have to Tweet anything, you can just listen and learn. Join Facebook as a professional and get the latest. Use feeds to monitor subject areas you’re interested in. Listen and share. The world is at our fingertips, literally. For help with PLNs or getting started with social media, please contact Bob or me.

-Sonja Fuchs
Web Technology Specialist / Agriculture Communication


Post a Comment:
Comments are closed for this entry.

Author: Julie

Copyright 2009, North Dakota State University