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Join Me for Social Media for Academic Professional Development

Ever wished you could choose what would be covered each year during those continuing education seminars? In this webinar, you will learn how to harness social media to build your own Personal Learning Network and expand your personal professional development choices into any and all areas of interest. DIY ProfDev is here!

Thu. Jan. 26, 2012, 2 pm (PT) 3 pm (MT)

Register – It’s free!

 

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Posted by on January 25, 2012 in miscellaneous, Teaching Online

 

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Dear Professor, Are You ‘Google-able’?

I have three college-aged children (and thank you to those of you who immediately thought she doesn’t look old enough to have three college-aged children). None of them use or own phone books. In fact, none of them have a traditional Ma Bell kind of telephone. They have a cell phone and a laptop…period.If my kids can’t locate you or your business on the web, you don’t exist to them.Period. (If you are a pizza store and lack a website, you are missing a tremendous amount of business from my two boys, by the way). Recent Pew Research results suggest that 93% of all Americans under the age of 30 are cell phone users. Pretty sure most of them have laptops, too.

My kids are not atypical. In fact, they are the norm – and becoming even more normal as the connected generation expands. According to the CTIA end-of-year survey for 2009, a staggering 285,646,191 million Americans have a cell phone connection. This is up 15 million from the same time 2008. And the Pew American Life research reports that young teens are the largest growing demographic of cell phone ownership. But it’s not just about cell phones – it’s about smart phones, wifi-enabled laptops, and even wifi-enabled gaming devices. Students are online all the time. Like it or not.

What does all this have to do with higher education faculty? Well, aside from the Ed Tech departments, very few faculty (adjunct and tenured) make the effort to cull together a web presence searchable by their students.

So what, you say, peering over your use for word-processing-only desktop computer next to your rotary phone? Don’t professors have enough to do between research, writing, teaching, and all those administrative committees? Perhaps, but ultimately, faculty have the responsibility to be available to their students. I believe they also have a responsibility to be transparent – professionally speaking. Future students should be able to check them out, look into current course offerings, current/past writings, current/past research, and how available the instructor made him or herself to student questions and concerns.

In the past, students could use print faculty directories to find office phone numbers and locations – but let’s be realistic. Students don’t use these booklets, faculty in their cubicles do. Students “Google”. Having a faculty directory on the school’s website is a step in the right direction – but often these data bases are not searchable by Internet search engines, and, even if they are, the results are often not much more than a name and phone number with an occasional email address. This is not the kind of background surfing future students want.

This is also not what you as a professor should want because when you lack a web presence, the next stop for most students is sites like RateMyProfessor.com. RateMyProfessor is crowd-sourced ratings and comments about professors from virtually every institution of higher education in the country. It is not normed, and all your students from a particular section are not surveyed. Essentially, it boils down to those students with enough motivation (the gamut from Loved the class! to He sucked!) to go to the website, locate the professor’s name, and add the rating and comment. Average performances do not seem to create this kind of motivation – so often professors can have A ratings alongside F’s. Not very helpful to students looking to know what a particular professor is all about, and certainly not helpful to a professor’s reputation with a myriad of mixed messages.

Higher education faculty need to consciously create a professional web presence. Below are some tips to help make your Google quotient rise:

  1. Create a landing page – and keep it updated! A landing page is a single web page that includes a short bio, contact information (email and office phone and address no home addresses), and a professional looking head shot. You will want the rights to the head shot so you can use it with all your professional web activities. For adjuncts, I suggest creating your landing page on a personal site like GoogleSites or on the space provided by your home ISP – that way you won’t have to backtrack and change your landing page URL on all the websites to which it is linked. Here is my UW-Stout landing page.
  2. Link, link, link. Use the URL landing page link as your link on all professional websites which ask for your own homepage address.
  3. Visual Identity. Use the same headshot. As your image becomes identifiable with your web identity, it will help students instantly know that out of all the search results, you are the Lisa Chamberlin  that works on Open Education issues and not Lisa Chamberlin  that is a Nashville recording artist (Yep, that’s who I compete with for the top 10 Google search results for my name – ouch!).
  4. Multiple Accounts/Similar handles. I teach for a variety of institutions and do contract work for others. As I choose email addresses, Twitter names, etc., I try to always use something similar to chamberlinonline@whatever.edu or a derivative of it. Overtime, students and colleagues begin to expect the “chamberlinonline” portion and makes it easier for them to find me.
  5. Network. Whether you choose to use a resume/contact linking site like LinkedIn.com or build a network of digital colleagues via another tool like Twitter, do build your digital personal learning network and follow the “web presence” standards above when registering for these sites.
  6. Add an RSS Feed (Thanks, Stian, for #’s 6 and 7). Allow interested students, colleagues, and the like to stay up-to-date with your current publications.
  7. Provide links to your research from your landing page. Even better, provide Open Access to your published research when you do provide the links.
  8. Poll your current students. This is one of the most powerful and eye-opening steps of building a web presence. Ask your current students if they Googled you. Ask what they were wanting to find out. Ask what they did find out. Strive to make their search goals and your web presence goals align as closely as is comfortable.

To the students of the connected generation, professors who deny access to technology within their courses or deny being accessed by technology within their profession, are a dying breed. They are seeing these professors as less and less relevant and out of touch with modern society. Like it or not, technology is the next evolution in education – professors must evolve or become extinct.

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2010 in miscellaneous, Teaching Online

 

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No Learner is an Island – #AfricaIET09

I have been participating in George Siemen’s Introduction to Emerging Technologies – Africa open course. Recently we were asked to create a model to describe our PLE (Personal Learning Environment). I began first with trying to define just what the PLE is – are we talking about the true meaning of the word “environment” (like what spaces/sites we use) or are we meaning a more generalized term (i.e. the place and all it encompasses)? The terms PLE/PLN/PLC and CoP are batted around online quite often, yet I am not sure anyone has clearly(or cleanly) defined them. Even those who may have coined the terms will find they’ve been adopted and adapted by the blogosphere to fit the post of the moment.

So for now, I am going to go with the definitions listed below until I find better definitions to replace these working ones. (Comments welcome to correct my misconceptions).

  • CoP (Community of Practice): A group of learners interested in the same topic who share their learning with each other to deepen the learning for the group – no electricity required.
  • PLE (Personal Learning Environment): The structure of the PLN – the digital framework where learning takes place – tools & sites. A component of the PLN.
  • PLC (Personal Learning Community): The human factor . A component of the PLN.
  • PLN (Personal Learning Network): The people plus the digital framework that connects them.

With the above definitions in mind, I set about creating my model. I thought about building a diagram or flowchart as many of our examples showed, but frankly, I am just too right brained for that to really work for me. Instead, I worked from the metaphor of the environment. The idea of the personal learning environment is to make use of the technology around us to connect us to others to extend all of our learning – to keep us from being isolated as learners. That led me to the thought that no learner should be an island. And that led me to my model:

 

My Personal Learning Environment

No Learner is an Island

 

If you made a model to describe your PLE, what would it look like?

 
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Posted by on November 15, 2009 in Year One

 

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#openphd

I am getting lots of comments, suggestions of resources, some offers help, etc.,  coming in from just the first two posts on the Open PhD blog. There appears to be a lot of interest in this idea and whether we can make it work.  I say “we”  meaning the collective blogosphere, Twittersphere, and edusphere since, collectively, you all know more than I do, and you will be my teaching assistants in this process, along with a myriad of websites, and other resources.

You are in my PLN! (Should we make T-shirts?)  😉

Some of you are beginning to tweet your suggestions and questions to me as well – and you have great questions!  I want to be sure everyone gets to see them.  However, I use Twitter for a variety of reasons – most of them academic – but for various different aspects of my academic career. To help make it a little easier to track which tweets apply to this project, I’ve registered a Twitter hashtag  #openphd.

If you are replying to me or tweeting original content about my pursuit of a “D-I-Y PhD” (a nod to @paul_bone for that term), please include the #openphd hashtag. Other interested readers will then be able to search the topic out more easily.  (If you are unfamiliar with using hashtags in Twitter, you can find out about it here).

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2009 in The Plan

 

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#lrnchat on Twitter

My newest discovery, which will rapidly expand my PLN and inform my teaching, came last Thursday night on Twitter.  I keep finding more and more value in what I first dismissed as “so much background noise” a few years ago (please keep your chuckles to a minimum).

On Twitter, I follow a few prominent eLearning educators, and on Thursday night I kept seeing a bunch of their tweets with the #lrnchat hashtag at the end of their messages.  These messages were posting fast and furious; the educators were in full tweetchat mode.  By clicking on the hashtag, my Twitter account performed a search of everyone using  #lrnchat and voila! I discovered a whole lot of tweeple were holding a live chat.  It was a huge group of globally-located, diversely-credentialed twitterers tweeting on the topic of learning and learners.

Amazing!

And so cool!

I was immediately hooked.

The chats are much easier to follow if you use a service called TweetChat.  Be sure to get your timezone figured out ahead of time and be sure to introduce yourself both at the beginning and at the end of the session.  There is a blog site here that explains the ins and outs, FAQs, tips, etc., of #lrnchat which I highly recommend you read before starting . I only found the site after the chat ended and the information would’ve been helpful to know (*insert wry grin*).  Site administrators also post a transcript of the chat afterwords, so don’t feel like you have to keep up with reading every tweet while trying to compose your own – this is very tough to do as ideas and questions are posting rapidly.  Hope to see you there next Thursday!

#lrnchat is an online chat that happens every Thursday night 8:30-10pm EST / 5:30-7pm PST over the social messaging service Twitter. Participants are people interested in the topic of learning from one another and who want to discuss how to help other people learn.

The official Twitter account is @lrnchat.

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2009 in The Plan

 

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PLN, PLC, CoP – An Edtech Rose by Any other Name…

On a recent stroll through the edtech blogosphere, I stumbled upon a new acronym.  Well, it was new to me.  And, as 20 year veteran teacher, that doesn’t happen very often anymore. The acronym?  PLN.  First I saw it in a Twitter post, then in one blog post, then another.  Based on the context clues, I pretty quickly figured out the letters stood for Personal Learning Network.

Hmmm.

I’ve written and taught extensively about the use of Communities of Practice (CoP) and also heard of them referred to as Learning Communities or Personal Learning Communities (PLC).  In effect, both of these are the same thing – this is how my writing partner and I describe them, with a nod to Wenger, in our book:

…a group of individuals with a shared interest and a willingness to participate in a dialogue about that interest for purposes of learning…When a community of practice has been formed and individuals are truly engaged, a synergy of learning begins to happen. While individual learners concentrate their responsibility of contributing to the discussion, the group also begins to reciprocate by providing the learner with multiple viewpoints, challenging questions, and taking left turns in the discussion that the individual learner might never have considered on his or her own.

In this way, the individual learner has served the learning community, and the community, in turn, has brought out the best in the individual learner. The give and take becomes something larger than any one discussion prompt, and the intangible benefits of a vibrant learning community pay off big dividends long after the discussion thread ends (pp 139-140).

It wasn’t until I did a bit of the old search engine two step to discover how these two terms CoP and PLC differentiated themselves from PLN and why educators felt the need to add one more acronym to the pile.  In Beth Still’s Nebraska Change Agent blog, she clearly anticipated my confusion.  In a recent post called “What the Heck is a PLN?”  Still clarifies the difference.

“Anyone who is actively engaged in learning online is part of a PLN. If you are reading this then I am part of your PLN. The people I follow on Twitter make up the vast majority of my PLN. These are the people that I learn from and interact with on a daily basis. A PLN is an incredibly powerful tool to have at your disposal. The flow of information is available 24 hours a day seven days a week.  It has been said that the more time you invest in building and contributing to your PLN the more you will get back from it in return. This is so true! A PLN does not form on its own; you have guide it and direct its growth.”

So there it is – the big difference.  The word online. A community of practice does not require it’s location to be online – your CoP can be your neighborhood scrapbooking group, or the guys who meet once a week at the local coffee shop.  Or it can be a group of teachers who discuss best practices at lunch one day and continue the discussion via email for the remainder of the day.  However, a PLN, as I understand it, may not even have a  personal interaction (in the sense of a two-way conversation) attached to it.  For instance, I can read an idea from Twitter, grab more information about it from a blog, and confirm what I am thinking from a  wiki…all of these sources (and the people who create them) are then part of my PLN.  This is exactly what happened for this post.

And I want to thank Beth Still, Jason Schrage, and the ISTE Connections blog for becoming part of my PLN because of it.

UPDATE: A further update on the term PLN (and its origin) can be found here at David Warlick’s $.02 Worth blog.

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2009 in Teaching Online

 

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