Thoughts on teaching, technology, learning and life in an era of change.
October 19th, 2010

I am building a new web site. It is taking a while but I wish to make publishing and updates as easy as possible. I also wish to make it as mobile friendly as I can. I have been tinkering for a while. It will be all PHP if I can help it. It has taken shape and form and this blog [ :p ] will form part of that new site in due course. This is a mind map of how I conceptualise this site. Not all the nodes are shown.

One of the pages in the new site is now called called “connections”. In the mind map above it is called PLN. Let me elaborate. You may have thoughts you would like to share.

Connections. What is meant by connections? In this instance it refers to other people. Some of whom I know and others that I do not know.

Connections is also a reference to the articles and news items that I read on reasonably regular basis. Perhaps every second day or so I consult my feed reader and scan through the articles written by teachers, journalists and others. I have subscribed to their web sites, whether it be a blog, online newspaper or technology news site.

These articles are a source of news and information. The articles keep me up to date with my interests in teaching, technology and history. I also learn what my friends have been up to of late. The articles keep me connected. I am not working in isolation.

At one stage, during the development of my new web site that particular page was entitled Personal Learning Network. The menu item was “PLN“. You can see that one the mind map illustrated above. However I felt a little uneasy with that title. A Personal Learning Network is not an entity per se. Too ephemeral and malleable to be defined. These things are so tenuous. I am not one for religious adherence to theories, concepts, cliches and the like.

Whenever I see an exclamation mark in a tweet or blog post my lizard brain kicks in and I exercise caution these days. Exclamation marks at the conclusion of a tweet or blog post title initiates my flight or fight response thus discharging my not so sympathetic nervous system in this case.

As Graham Wegner wrote, the terminology Personal Learning Network has been bandied about a lot. Acronyms also annoy me however I cannot escape them. They are everywhere. I tend to agree with the thoughts shared by Alan Levine.

Initially this new page I am in the process of creating was called Blogroll. Puke. That was shortlived. I have never liked the term ‘blog’. The term blog sounds quite awful to me, personally. It rhymes with bog. It sounds like a bog with a bad lisp. It sounds like something you might do after suffering from a gastrointestinal infection for a couple of days.

Blogroll is also a weird term. I know a roll can be a list of people but the term “roll” also features in a number of derogatory or critical phrases in various languages, particularly when linked with the word “egg”. So, blogroll has not particularly appealed to me but I have used it in the past. It sounds like toilet roll as well. Blogroll, bogroll, toilet roll. Cheap sounding terminology to yours truly. So, blogroll had to go as well. Perhaps I am just an elitist wanker.

I now avoid using the word blog when I write about or speak of tools such as WordPress or Posterous. I always emphasise the fact that one can make rich and functional web sites with those browser based tools. Blog is not always a popular term in some circles and as a result I refer to the construction of a web site with the addition of a dynamic news component. This sounds more appealing and, dare I say it, professional. Blog simply sounds downmarket to me. That is my perception. My problem. I am presently happy to have that problem and does not cause me to lose sleep.

I am not happy with the term “connections” either but it is the best of a bad bunch. I am not easily pleased, am I? Actually I am.  This new page called “connections” is designed to act as a launch pad to the lists of the various blogs ( ^_^ ), news sites and web sites that I have subscribed to during the past six or so years. I will embed the links to the various subscribed sites courtesy of Google Reader and its linkroll feature. Categorising the various subscriptions was a semantic nightmare for me as well.

So, for the time being the new page that lists the sites that I subscribe to will be entitled “Connections”. Have you any better suggestions?

In the meantime I have cobbled together a thoughtful array of links to a number of relevant articles, images and even a voicethread:

Educators write, draw and speak about PLN, PLEs and PLENKS…

  • Alan Levine: LNS and OERS and TLAS make me want to…
  • Stephen Downes: Personal Learning Networks: The Beginning
  • Sue Waters: Build Up Your Personal Learning Networks
  • Lucy Gray: Developing Personal Learning Networks
  • Jenny Wood: How to get a grip on your Personal Learning Network (PLN)
  • Alec Couros: The Connected Teacher
  • Alec Couros: What Does The Network Mean To You? [VoiceThread]
  • Jeff Utecht: Connecting People or Connecting Content
  • Jeff Utecht: RSS is about content, Twitter is about people
  • Dave Cormier: Disaggregate power not people
  • George Siemens: Complex knowledge and personal learning environments
  • Judy O’Connell: Personal Learning Networks are a must!
  • Wes Fryer: Build Your PLN
  • Graham Wegner: PLN = Perplexing Linguistic Notion
  • PLEXN: Personal Learning Environment (PLE) Project
  • Alan Levine: Those PLENKing diagrams
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    4 Responses to “Connections”

    1. Judy O'Connell Says:

      What a lot of planning and work for your website! Wonderful work John – and thanks for getting me to think again. I agree with you..the terminology of PLN is beginning to change and your use of the term Connections is appealing to me. I would feel comfortable with Learning Network too. The reality is that people and things in my PLN are – well – not always personal! I may not even know them, they/it may be a connection, so that for me is a shift too. I’ll be really interested to see where all your thinking takes you (and us).

    2. Alan Levine Says:

      Looking forward to seeing what you build. I just found and added a neat tool that assembles all the stuff you star or share in Google Reader, delicious, instapaper and set it up in my– my– “b” thing http;//

      By the way, “blog” also rhymes with “cog” and “dog” :-)

    3. John Larkin Says:

      Thanks Judy and Alan,

      I have been wanting to do this rebuild for a while. I am keen to make creating the galleries a little more easy. I had started off with a tool call JetPhoto Studio to create the galleries using Flash. I remember you wrote about this tool as well Alan. I was going to simply copy and paste the amended code once into a default post and simply adjust the directory title with each upload.

      But then the iPad came along. No flash. Had to start from scratch. I installed SlideShow Pro Director on the server to create HTML5 galleries. They are a little clunky. I am now using a WordPress theme that makes nice galleries as well as a plug-in that creates tables called WP Table-Reloaded. It is very useful.

      I am using Google’s Reader tool to share the sites that I have subscribed to over the years. They look indistinguishable from the rest of the site.

      Once I have the basic framework up and running I will gradually add each “node” or section and post an item to share that with others. I do not intend to finish it all and then launch it.

      I hope to incorporate people such as your goodselves in my site from time to time.

      Thank you for your thoughts,

      Cheers, John

    4. John Larkin Says:

      Hi Alan,

      Oh dear! Just saw the dog, cog, blog, thing. Sorry about that. ^_^

      I guess a comeback is that people often visit the “John”. Maybe that is why I had called my blog “Watershed”,