Ag Communication Web Services

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How I Started my Personal Learning Network (PLN)

I’ve had PLNs in previous jobs that focused on e-commerce, technology and more. In my new role here in Agriculture Communication at NDSU, there are so many areas I needed to get versed in: Extension Service, NDSU, agriculture, Working Differently, etc.

Bob Bertsch pointed me to all kinds of resources relevant to this position and it was really helpful. The information that NDSU provides alone is overwhelming and when you open up your learning to include sources outside of NDSU, it’s almost infinite!

My advice is to jump right in. Look at who your colleagues are listening to. Include your co-workers or other experts in your field in your PLN. In no time you’ll have feeds, alerts, Tweets and more that will add tremendous value to your personal learning.

In a previous post I mentioned that it can be overwhelming with all this information coming in. It’s convenient that it comes TO me, versus me having to seek out the information every day. You don’t have to read EVERY thing but it’s good to dedicate at least a little time daily to listening (and preferably) participating in your PLN.

How I got started
I subscribe to blogs via RSS feeds from Google Reader to everything from a Tech Specialist at Wyoming State, to Mashable, a social media blog. Oh, and I even subscribe to a few funny blogs that send me goofy comics that I enjoy reading when I need a little break. If a blog I subscribe to doesn't give me the information I thought I would be getting, I simply unsubscribe and that's one less thing to read. For every blog I unsubscribe to, I could easily replace it with one that is relevant. I no longer am seeking out blogs to add to my feeds. But if I come across someone or some site that's really interesting or relevant, I'll try them out.

I’m not going to go into how many blogs I subscribe to, how many people I follow on Twitter, etc. because it truly is about the quality of your PLN, not how many people you follow, subscribe to, etc.

Google Alerts are also great in that they come into my inbox vs. me having to bookmark and visit sites on subjects I’m interested in. They are very simple to use. Some of the alerts I created are for “PLN”, “content creation” and “NDSU Extension”. So that means any mention of these comes right into my Gmail.

So if I’m following the same subject matter with various tools, there can be an overlap in information. Some content curators share the same message via Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc. This can be redundant and a time waster for me to take in the same message 2+ times. Solution: I usually only “sign up” for one person/group/subject per ONE media tool. This has been a time saver.

Twitter is probably the best PLN tool I use. Tweets are quick (limited to 140 characters) and very relevant. I probably read a couple hundred Tweets a day. I’ve also participated in a Twitter chat and that was interesting. It was a real-time conversation among people who are in the same job field. There's a Twitter chat schedule or sometimes you can find the best chat just by hearing it Tweeted from the presenter.

YouTube- I’ve always been a huge fan of the written word but YouTube makes it so easy to learn via video. I subscribe to the NDSU Extension Service channel so every time a video is posted, I’m notified. It’s great to see all the great work going on in these videos. They're a nice break from reading all the information that comes in. I like videos that are short (less than 5 minutes) and find them especially helpful with How-to's.

In all the tools I use in my PLN, I have my favorites that I look forward to listening too. I like some better than others. Who you follow this month might look a lot different than who you follow next month. As you take in all the information you find more resources and get rid of ones that aren't relevant. A PLN shouldn't remain the same for too long. 

Now that I've shared what my PLN looks like, please share yours. I bet some of the resources you use would be helpful to me as well.

If you need any help with your PLN, contact Bob Bertsch or me.

Sonja Fuchs
Web Technology Specialist

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