This guest post was written by Jo Hart who is passionate about helping others to use technology with students. This is post #8 in the “30 Days to a Whole New PLN” challenge!
Now your PLN is well under way maybe its time to take a look at other ways to strengthen and deepen the PLN by adding extra dimensions. Here we look at some of the potential benefits of actively participating in and/or presenting/facilitating webinars
I can see you reading the title & thinking how are webinars part of a PLN? Aren’t they just a formal professional development activity? The answer to that is both “Yes” and “No”. Some webinars are large formal presentations, where interaction is limited and even the potential for backchannelling through textchat is restricted. However there are also webinar series such as the Edublogs Serendipity/FineFocus series where one of the main objectives is participant interaction and sharing. These are the webinars that have a major role in my PLN.
Once upon a time (in late 2008) @suewaters and myself were talking about “e-stuff”. Slowly the idea was born from Sue Waters’ passion for sharing “e-stuff” my similar but latent passion and my Elluminate (virtual class) experience. The idea was weekly sessions through Elluminate for educators from anywhere to share and learn about ‘e-stuff”.
When we started the webinars they were just a group of people getting together to talk about anything relating to “e-stuff” and education in its broadest sense. Sue would Tweet before we started and then again once we had decided a topic. There were very few webinars happening at the time and those that did occur were more likely to be presentations moved to an online environment rather than the interactive unconference style we adopted. The Edublogs Serendipity/FineFocus webinars (if you want the quick summary instead of the full page go straight to the Slideshare below) have continued and evolved. We still have webinars every week except for one or two weeks over Christmas. They are on the same day Thursday and at the same time (23:00 GMT/UTC) and in the same Elluminate (now Blackboard Collaborate) Edublogs community partnership room every week.
How can webinars be part of a PLN?
Below is my personal list (with some examples from my own experience) of ways that being involved in a webinar series as participant and also as a presenter can strengthen your PLN:
1. Broadening of e-horizons through being in sessions with people from all over the world
At the beginning my e-horizons were bounded by physical area in which I live (ie Western Australia) with some tenuous links to the eastern states of Australia. The webinars have always had a global focus and attracted participants from around the world, initially because of Sue’s huge worldwide PLN. As a result my own PLN is worldwide and my e-horizons are now global!
2. “Meeting” new educators who become part of your PLN
My Twitter network consisted of Sue and about three others. Now even though I have never actively sought to grow my Twitter network it has reached 1500 followers – there are probably an equal number that I have blocked as I actively manage followers to remove sp*mm*rs and marketers and self styled experts/gurus. Much of that growth has happened because of my involvement in the webinars. The nucleus of my PLN is those people that I “met” through the webinars in the early days and I still regularly add to my Twitter network when we share Twitter IDs in the webinars.
3. Sharing experiences with other participants and sharing webinar experiences more widely
I now blog at least weekly about the most recent webinar. This has been great discipline for me. I am not a “natural” written reflector so have found blogging really hard to do consistently despite being very aware of its importance to my PLN. The webinars have given me a focus and I now also post more often about other topics.
4. Sharing links, ideas, content with other participants – they learn your strengths and areas of interest and thus will add you to their PLN because of common interests.
5. Networking through audio and the textchat backchannel with other participants
I have developed closer professional and social online relationships with PLN members who participate/have participated regularly in the webinars so I have more in depth knowledge about who in my PLN is particularly knowledgeable about different topics.
6 Broadening your experience through presenting
My experience in facilitating the webinars has enabled me to present/facilitate confidently with large audiences in virtual global conferences. This has also happened for other participants who have presented in one or more of the following: full sessions; short “show and tell” sessions or on an impromptu basis in Serendipity sessions. They have gain experience in a virtual context and this has given them confidence with the platform to go on to present in global conferences or other webinar series.
7. Raising your online profile through presenting – this means more people are likely to add you to their PLN.
Facilitating the webinars has itself increased my PLN because it has raised my profile with other educators as someone who can present/facilitate in a virtual room and or help others with this. Thus they add me to their PLNs.
8. Accessing the links shared by others
This has led me to many fantastic educators (via their blogs or other sites) who are now part of my PLN.
9. Hearing about other educators who could become part of your PLN
Again “word-of-mouth” personal suggestions from others in webinars have enabled me to find and include in my PLN many people whose e-interests are similar to my own.
As in all of my posts anywhere this is very much my own personal view of how a PLN can be extended and strengthened by becoming involved with webinars on at least a semi regular basis.
Choose one or more challenge activities and complete it/them. Give yourself a deadline. Leave a comment below (or preferably write a blog post and link to it from the comment) about what you have done and whether you think it will work / is working for you in strengthening and/or deepening your PLN.
1. If you have a passion for something educator and e-stuff related, a tool/application or student activity you would like to share then put your hand up to present/facilitate a FineFocus session about your topic of choice. This is not about jumping in the deep end! We suggest you come to a session first then chat with me about what you would like to do – I can then help you achieve this via Elluminate (Blackboard Collaborate). Post about the experience of presenting from a virtual room – has this had an impact on your PLN. Leave a comment or comments about this below and the link to your post or posts.
2. Participate in at least two webinars from a series (this is the link for the Edublogs room) it doesn’t have to be the Edublogs Serendipity/FineFocus series, any series that gives opportunities to take an active part in the session has the potential to enhance your PLN. Post about your experiences of participating in the webinars – especially whether you have gained anything with respect to your PLN. Leave a comment or comments about this below and the link to your post or posts.
3. Check out some of the webinar overviews on my blog choose two with topics that interest you. It would be good if one is a Serendipity and the other a FineFocus as they are very different in style. Follow the recording links and view the webinars (try not to get too frustrated because you can’t join in). Post your thoughts about the webinars (including the links to the overview blog posts for them) – did you see/hear activities happening in those sessions that would increase/strengthen participant PLNs about your experiences on your blog. Leave a comment or comments about this below and the link to your post or posts.
About the Author
Jo Hart is a lecturer in Literacy and Numeracy (with some IT) in the public Vocational Education and Training sector (TAFE) in Western Australia. She has extensive experience working online with regional and remote students.
She is also the driving force behind the free weekly Edublogs Serendipity and Fine Focus online webinars.