Mapping My Personal Learning Network (PLN)

The Final activity in the Ontario Extend, Collaborator Module was to map my PLN. The instructions had asked us to map a particular project. However, I extended beyond the instructions because I wanted to get a sense of who was already part of my PLN and where I want to develop my PLN.

The tool I used for this mind mapping exercise is Coggle It is a simple sign up process with either a Google or Microsoft account. The free subscription allows for three diagrams and eight colours. I am able to invite people to collaborate with me on my diagram. The paid plan includes extra configuration features, insertion of images and additional colours.

As I suspected many in my PLN are from my institution and speaks to the collaborative resources at Conestoga. I would like to extend my PLN to consider members with similar interests outside of my institution. I can see that many of my new connections have come from my interest in eCampus Ontario and the connections I have made through this mOOC. I hope to further develop those connections.

The top right of my map are my social media accounts and I can see the focus has been on Twitter. I know that this development in my PLN has been is due to my participation in the eCampus Ontario mOOC. I hope to expand beyond twitter as some of my branches are thin.

In the bottom right are my future aspirations and I have indicated those by my educational interests and future pursuits. I hope a year from now I can revisit this map and add to the bottom right corner. The good news is spring just started and there is lots of time to fill in those branches.

eCampus Ontario. (2019). EXTEND 101-EN.1 – Extend MOOC. Module 4: Collaborator

The “How” In Cultivating My Personal Learning Network

The next Ontario Extend activity (in the Collaborator module) is to determine how to cultivate my personal learning network (PLN). This is timely for me because I have spent the last year seeking opportunities for growth and to expand upon what I would refer to as my personal learning circle. I think in the past year I have been in the explore, search, and follow phases as depicted in the image below.

Howard Rheingold’s (2014) reading is focused on cultivating an online PLN and while these are important Alan Levine (personal communication, 2019) tells us we can think of cultivating a PLN in other ways that may extend outside of social media networks.

Last year, I was involved in co-leading a symposium for teachers who teach in similar programs and similar courses that I do. Through this symposium I realized that we were facing the same rapid changes in our industry, we had similar changes in our student population, similar challenges to delivery, student engagement, and emerging technologies. It seemed to me that we were all working on the same issues but within the silos of our own organizations and that staying connected and sharing resources could be beneficial.

In retrospect, I wish we would have added a formal social networking element to the event. For example, a Twitter hashtag, Facebook page or Instagram account. I realize now, this may have been a simple way to stay connected while exposing many participants to the plethora of learning networks available through twitter and other social media mediums. However, I know personal learning networks were formed and connections were made and I still reach out to the connections I made albeit, usually through email. I wonder is email the new snail mail?

At my institution I have searched out opportunities to expand my PLN through in-house PD opportunities, participating in initiatives through the Teaching and Learning Centre, sharing information about eCampus Ontario and my participation in this mOOC. I am mindful to inquire about PD opportunities that my fellow faculty members have attended and compare what I am learning to what they are sharing.

The social media educators and associations that I follow via Twitter and LinkedIn are faculty from my organization, Cult of Pedagogy, MicrosoftEduCa, OISEUofT, and TED-ED. Primarily, I have explored, searched, and followed these sites inconsistently. It was through my Twitter account that I found out about the eCampus Ontario courses and this mOOC.

Since starting this mOOC I have become active on Twitter which includes commenting and re-sharing tweets. This was intimidating at first because once the tweet has been sent, the thought no longer belongs to me. I wish that Twitter had an edit feature as the only way to make a correction is to delete the tweet and any comments that have been made along with it.

In the Collaborator Module, I am expanding my PLN by following: commenting and retweeting my fellow extenders and eCampus Ontario fellows. I took suggestions to follow Dr. George Couros, Dr. Veletsianos, and Educause. I have expanded my educational social media followings through LinkedIN, Instagram, and Facebook. Previously, I had compartmentalized those accounts into either personal or business.

Rheingold (2014) recommends following people who interest you and he refers to this as tuning your network. I noticed that one organization I was following was quite negative so I stopped following them. Davison, Hagel III, & Brown (2010) argue that is important to stretch out of your own thinking and seek out other interests and differing points of view to follow. I agree that it is important to seek out discourse but I think it must remain professional. In my opinion this is important to my online presence.

An interesting notion I have learned is regarding filter bubbles. Pariser (2011) suggests it is important to watch for filter bubbles meaning ways the internet filters your options based on what you have previously viewed. I noticed a few years ago, after vacationing in Quebec, that I was receiving advertisements and news from Quebec City in my social media accounts. So, it is interesting to think about how filter bubbles excludes information that may challenge my thinking or at least expose me to other perspectives. To learn more about filter bubbles from Eli Pariser watch the Ted Talk below.

Davison, L., Hagel III, J., & Brown, J. S. (2010). Deloitte Development LLC. eCampus Ontario. (2019). EXTEND 101-EN.1 – Extend MOOC. Module 4: Collaborator, FlipGrid Extend Activity, Alan Levine (personal communication)
eCampus Ontario. (2019). EXTEND 101-EN.1 – Extend MOOC. Module 4: Collaborator, Ways to Collaborate
Rheingold, Howard. Net Smart: How to Thrive Online. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 2012. Print.

My Collaborative Dining Table

The first activity of the Collaborator Module in the Ontario Extend mOOC is to reflect upon the process and people involved in a professional collaboration project. Inspired by the creative Prezi presentation by fellow extender Melanie Jones, I decided to make a PowToon of my reflection .

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

In this module we are thinking about communities of practice. Meaning groups of people who exchange information to solve problems and improve what they do (Bates, 2014). Through this mOOC and twitter I was exposed to Melanie’s Prezi which made me think about this activity in a different way. To extend beyond the parameters of the activity and learn something new. I learned about Prezi (a software I had heard about but never used) then I took what I learned and applied it to PowToon (an account I have had for awhile but had not used). In addition, to learning new software applications I was able to think about the roles, processes and challenges of the people involved in my collaborative project.

My key takeaway is that it is important to include as many people outside of my circle to gain fresh ideas, perspectives and to work together to breathe new life into my projects. Bates (2014) proposes that in this age of digitization that communities of practice will play an important role in knowledge sharing and informal learning. From my perspective the Ontario Extend mOOC is a blend of formal and informal learning. The informal learning I am doing with my fellow extenders through reading their posts, blogs and Twitter feeds is improving what I do as an educator. According to our reading a community of practice has three primary features. In my opinion, the Ontario Extend mOOC meets all three features.

  • Domain: We are a group of people focused on post-secondary education who have knowledge and experiences to share.
  • Community: We are coming together to learn.
  • Practice: An excellent example of practice in action is Melanie sharing her work, the tool she used and her resources. This enhanced my learning in this module and I believe, is a great example of knowledge exchange.

Bates, T. (2014, October 1). Online Learning and Distance Education Resources. Retrieved from
eCampus Ontario. (2019). EXTEND 101-EN.1 – Extend MOOC. Module 4: Collaborator, Ways to Collaborate
Jones, M. (2019, March 11). Retrieved from MelradJones: Exploring Technology in the Classroom:
Powtoon Link:
Prezi Link: