I’ve got a fever, and the only prescription is more PLN.

I’ve got a fever, and the only prescription, is adding more educational and enlightening sources to my PLN!

I also have a fever for more cowbell, but, unfortunately, I don’t have a  prescription to receive this medicine. But I do have a doctor’s note (as in, Dr. Ellington) that allows me to modify my PLN to include only sources that broaden the spectrum of my education and will make me a more effective future teacher (video from YouTube).

When I was assigned the task to expand my PLN by following 100 new Twitter accounts that related to my interests, I was a little overwhelmed, and I may have reacted in a bit of a rash manner. I went on a crazed Twitter spree, following any account that had a passing connection to a “science-y” or “educational” field. After doing this, I realized that I was following more accounts than I could possibly keep up with, and that many of the accounts I followed were only trying to sell me a product and were not conducive to expanding my knowledge of the world (stupid people, always looking our for their own interests instead of catering to my every need). I was confused, lost, and in need of some chocolate, but, unfortunately, I gave up chocolate for Lent, and won’t be able to eat any for 40 more days.

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Noooooooo…… the temptation is too great. They always told me the devil would be attractive (Photo CC by Dave Gunn).

However, enlightenment about how to manage my PLN came in the form of Chuck Frey’s blog post, “How to Cultivate a Personal Learning Network: Tips from Howard Rhinegold.” The best words of wisdom from this post came to me in his fourth tip, which is to always keep fine-tuning your PLN, and dropping any sources that don’t spark your interest. This kind of PLN modification can’t be accomplished within a few days (unless a source is just blatantly horrible); this step requires monitoring your PLN for a few weeks, finding out what kind of links each member of your PLN is posting, and removing the sources that are repetitive, unnecessary, or don’t pique your interest.

Chuck Frey’s blog post places an emphasis on interaction with teachers and co-learners within your PLN, a step in improving my PLN that I’m a little nervous about taking. I’ve always been an observer, a wall flower, someone who enjoys taking a back seat and letting others ask the important questions. However, I’m now being asked to take an active role in developing my knowledge, and to seek the answers to my own important questions. I’m planning to accomplish this goal by taking small steps– responding to an intriguing post by one of my classmates one week, and sharing a source that I find to be important and thought-provoking the next week. Heck, maybe I’ll eventually start a conversation with a lauded member of my PLN, such as Neil DeGrasse Tyson! (But yeah… maybe not.) My hope is through modifying my PLN and becoming an active member in it, I won’t only expand my own knowledge and understanding of the world, but also help raise the level of comprehension and excitement about learning in my Dig Lit co-learners. I mean, most of us are planning on being teachers, and if we form a community of well-read, knowledgeable, and curious educators, we can hopefully improve the state of our nation’s education system from the inside!

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We’ll be like James Bond, but instead of trying to take down evil world organizations from the inside, we’ll be attempting to build an effective and wonderful educational system from the inside (photo CC by Tom Simpson).

Expanding, feeding, and interacting with my PLN will most likely prove to be a challenge, but, when I feel like giving up, I’ll think of the reward I’ll receive for doing a good job of this– becoming an awesome teacher that students want to engage with and learn from. And isn’t that the most basic reason most of us want to become teachers?

Besides, until I get a prescription for more cowbell, I guess I’m stuck with modifying and my PLN.

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