The Power of the PLN

These 2 images of Alec Couros’ never cease to amaze me. Quite often just the networked teacher image is shown in isolation, but I feel that the power of these images works best as a pair. For when you compare the opportunities of the second image to those of the first, who in their right mind would opt for being a just a typical teacher.

Typical Teacher Network

creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by courosa:

The networked teacher

creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by courosa:

Recently I had the pleasure of being the tutor for the EDUC3625: Numeracy and ICT across the Curriculum topic at Flinders University. In one of our later workshops, we spent a session looking at the benefits of being a networked teacher, and how to go about starting your own PLN.

Over the last few years I have participated in this workshop virtually, being one of the online mentors who engages with the students as they take their first steps into the world of Twitter. This year, in my new role as tutor, I wanted to call upon my own PLN to engage in a Twitter Chat with the students about the benefits they see as being connected educators. I wanted this to be not just “text book” style information about why Twitter is a great resource for educators, but a practical example with real life advocates on the benefits of having a PLN.

A little before the workshop I, along with other workshop tutors, put the call out to my PLN and the response was fantastic. I was thrilled to have such educators that I look up to, for example Brett Salakas (@MRsalakas) from AussieEd, Simon McKenzie (@connectedtr) and Andrew Woodman from the Futuristex Project (@futuristex). My biggest professional thrill came when Kathy Schrock (@KSchrock) also joined in the conversation after I tweeted to her.

Please have a read through the Storify of our Twitter conversation from this week. I think you will agree that this was a great opportunity for these students to connect with some amazing educators and was a great way to take their first steps in building their PLN.

What Do I Do?

I have been asked to present to the first year pre-service teachers who are visiting our school at the moment. When I asked our AP what they would like me to present on about ICT, I was told to tell them about what I do.

This posed the question, what is it that I do?

How have I learnt (and continue to learn) what I know about ICT?

I have put my thoughts on this into a prezi about Educational Technologies and it has been an interesting experience pulling together all of the different facets that make up this area I am so passionate about.


Twitter for Beginners!

I would love to share with you all about the benefits I have found from using Twitter, the connections I have made and the people I am able to learn from and share my learning with.


For me, Twitter is all about

  • knowing what is going on, nationally and internationally, in areas that interest me
  • having resources shared with me that are tried and tested by other teachers
  • connecting with other people who inspire me and challenge my thinking
  • sometimes meeting the people I tweet with in “real life”



I found this to be a great video for a quick overview as to why Twitter is great for educators

If you want to read more about how Twitter is good for educators, I suggest reading George Couros’ blog post and the comments on this post Does Twitter Improve Education?

So What is Twitter?

Officially, Twitter describes itself as:

At the heart of Twitter are small bursts of information called Tweets. Each Tweet is 140 characters long, but don’t let the small size fool you—you can discover a lot in a little space. You can see photos, videos and conversations directly in Tweets to get the whole story at a glance, and all in one place.

It is a microblogging site, which allows you to share your ideas and resources, in the form of Tweets, with your followers or people following the same #hashtag as you.

This video was a great way of describing different aspects of Tweets and Twitter

Anatomy of a Tweet

This is a great post that breaks down exactly what can be found in a tweet.

A dictionary for abbreviations and terms you might see on Twitter


Getting Started

Getting started on Twitter is as easy as going to the Twitter website and signing up for an accout

Sue Waters @SueWaters The Twitteraholic’s Ultimate Guide to tweets, hashtags, and all things Twitter

Edudemic’s 25 Ways to Get the Most Out of Twitter

TeachThought’s 20 Most Useful #hashtags in Education

George Couros @gcouros What Should A Networked Leader Share About?

Heidi Cohen’s Twitter Etiquette


Some people/hashtags to follow

The way I started was to follow people who interested me and yes there were some celebrities in this mix too – I’m not all about work completely. Use the search function in Twitter to look up the person you are interested in reading about and see if they are on Twitter. Sometimes when you find someone whose Tweets you enjoy reading, it pays to look at who they follow to see if there is anyone there you might be interested in following too.

#edchat – this #hashtag ticks over incredibly fast but it is definitely worth a look as the main education # in the world

#ozedchat – the Australian version of #edchat


@EduTweetOz is a reasonably new account which has “Australian educators from all sectors share their ideas, experiences, questions & passion.”

Sue Waters maintains a list of Australian educators on Twitter – this is a good list to start looking at for Australians sharing great ideas

@JAKnipe – blatant plug for my own Twitter account! 🙂


I hope this brief rundown has been of help and that you take those first steps and be brave enough to put yourself out there and try something new.

Where’s My Backchannel?

It is amazing how quickly you grow accustomed to something and then how much you miss it when it is no longer available.


Photo Credit: Michael Coghlan via Compfight

I will be the first to admit that I have not been a serious user of Twitter for very long – since July 2012 which also happened to be the date of the CEGSA 2012 conference. It was there that I was convinced by George Couros (@gcouros) that there was more to Twitter than the following of celebrities that I had been doing up until then. I was following a very standard twitter adoption path similar to the one outlined by Daniel Edwards (@syded06here (by the way I am now somewhere between step 8 or 9)

Anyhow, it was while I was recently attending a non IT related conference ( yes I do go to PD that is related to other aspects of teaching too)  that  I realised how spoilt I have been in  regards to the use social media as a major part of my professional learning.

When I first arrived at the conference I noticed that I was one of the few pulling out my iPad to take notes on. That was ok. I am used to this, though it is nice now in staff meetings since our staff have been given iPads to use, that I am not the only one taking digital notes.

The next major difference I discovered was the wifi. After being at many conferences/PD days where good quality wifi access is the norm, it was quite a shock to discover that at this venue the wifi was locked down and you were expected to pay quite a lot of money to access it!  That was overcome too though as I just hooked the iPad up to the iPhone and voilà – internet access!
(We won’t talk about how doing this caused my phone’s battery to flatten very quickly!)

However all of these are very minor problems which, as I have said, were overcome quite easily. The biggest issue I faced at this conference was the fact that the backchannel I have become so accustomed to was missing. Compare this to when I was working for CEGSA in Perth for ACEC2012, I wasn’t even in the room for most of the keynotes or sessions but I had a great idea of what was going on because of all the people in the room who were sharing their ideas/thoughts and resources along with what the keynote/presenter was putting out there. Even when I have been in the room while a session was happening, Twitter has been an invaluable provider of extra information, understanding and resources as you are able to not only have the benefit of your own interpretation of what you are learning but also that of the rest of the backchannel!

To cut a long story short, there were two of us in the room who were tweeting – a very elite backchannel, and we did enjoy a bit of sharing and networking. But there was none of the sharing of ideas, thoughts and resources from a wide range people that I have grown accustomed to. There was also nothing to challenge what was being said or provide a different point of view to that of the one person standing before us. Even the digital resources that we were told we could access once we got home were provided to us on a piece of paper. There was no interactivity, I wanted web 2.0 and I was in a read only world. By mid morning our presenter, who had been telling us of the importance of including IT all morning, actually provided a hashtag for us to use but by then my phone had gone flat making Twitter inaccessible and I was back to taking notes by myself on the iPad, all the while wondering “Where’s my backchannel?”

Stepping into my digital footprint

This was the slide that did it…

slide from George Couros’ opening keynote: CEGSA2012

This slide was about a third of the way through the opening keynote presentation of CEGSA2012. I had spent the previous few months hearing my friend and conference organiser Tina Photakis talk about how fantastic George Couros, our opening keynote was going to be and had wondered how Twitter and other  web 2.0 “toys” could possibly change my professional life very much.

I love dabbling in technology – I already had a twitter account and followed some interesting famous people. I had a facebook account and had mucked around with a class blog at one stage too. In short I felt comfortable in this online world and it was a fun place to be. I was looking forward to hearing what this George Couros had to say but didn’t know if it would change what I was doing all that much.

From the start of the keynote my perceptions were challenged about why I was using this technology and what I was getting from the online world and giving back to it. This slide in particular made me challenge my thinking about my online presence and how it could be not only a source of entertainment but also tool for professional growth and development.

This slide inspired me to take charge of my digital footprint. Up until now it had been scattered – a dabble here, a play there – crazy dance-steps all over the digital floor with  nothing really being used to greater potential. My first move was to gather together all that I had been toying with and decide which were the main tools I wanted to focus on. I decided, for now, upon the 5 big ones: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and a WordPress blog. I have since added Pinterest too as the visual nature of it appeals to my photographic senses!

I then had to learn some new tools. From my work with the CEGSA blog I was familiar enough with the basics of WordPress and the others were fine too except for Twitter. People seemed to be able to do so much more with it and watching George negotiate his way through columns in TweetDeck made me see that there was a lot more too it than just reading other people’s 140 characters! So along came a TweetDeck account and now 12 (and occasionally more) columns later I have a much greater regard for this as a wonderful tool and how I can use it to learn and share with others.

So here I am, after a few months of getting myself organised and deciding how I wanted to approach my footprint, I have now arrived at the start of my digital journey. My digital presence goes by the name of JAKnipe – JAK of all trades ( I still like dabbling in lots of things and always will). The information that is readily found about me is information I have put there and there are no eggs or cartoon avatars in sight!