Saturday, June 13, 2009

Shifting Landscapes of Professional Learning, Part 3

This is the 3rd post in a series in preparation for a "paper jam" session at the CeLC conference. I probably should have warned you that these posts aren't necessarily in a logical order! :-)

As part of my role as community and event coordinator, I manage community accounts as well as my own account. This can get a little confusing, and I've certainly struggled with "identity" challenges in the past.

One big advantage of social networking and microblogging for professional learning is the ability to quickly spread the word about events. I manage and co-manage several twitter accounts. This panel of account windows in twhirl shows, from left to right
  1. my personal account,
  2. SCoPE community account,
  3. ETUG community account, and the
  4. celc2009 conference account

A couple months ago #4 would have been the Canada Moodle Moot account, and in the future will be replaced with another event. There are other tools that allow multiple accounts, but twhirl works well for me for posting, searching, browsing. At a glance I can see what people in my networks are talking about. There is obviously some overlap between my personal feed and and the community and conference feeds.

I've noticed that sending out event announcements an hour before they start, and then perhaps a couple more closer to the start time, is very effective in bringing in participants. In many ways it seems twitter has replaced a personal calendar for professional development opportunities. Rather than carefully plot out which events you would like to attend, just wait to see where each day takes you!

Facebook is another effective venue for posting events. In fact, the event tool is really the only useful aspect of forming Facebook groups that I can see. By sending out an invitation to an event, you have a convenient method of sending out updates or reminders about the event. Also, invitees can see who else is attending an event (a feature available in other platforms as well -- such as Yahoo Upcoming and Event Brite). Here is an example (part of a message) posted by Gladys Gahona to potential participants in an online Wikieducator workshop.

However, over time, Facebook has lost its appeal to many educators, and therefore its effectiveness as a tool for promoting professional development opportunities. One reason is the number of notifications that arrive in users' email inboxes, causing many to turn off email notifications. A less intrusive method of microblogging events in Facebook is to post them as links.

Another advantage of microblogging, from a community steward point of view, is to keep a pulse on current interests of community members and hot topics for future scheduled activities. It's also a great way to connect individuals who share common interests, and to be alerted to conversations that are happening elsewhere, such as on blogs or other venues.

There is still a lot to write about this professional learning topic! I'm already thinking about my next post in this series... separating personal from professional, incidental learning, just-in-time learning, access to experts, the end of formal training?... and of course the big question about our shifting landscape of professional learning: What are the implications?

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