Blogging and Tweeting and RSS Feeds! Oh, my!

As I begin my COETAIL journey, my head is spinning with information overload!

Up until now, social media has been something I use to connect with my friends and family around the world. My facebook posts include the standard snapshots from my travels, a fun day out, a silly picture of a baby sloth (probably discovered when I should have been writing my report cards). I use Pinterest, but not to connect with others. More to search and store things of interest to me so I can find them when again when I want to. If anything, social media was my Personal Distraction Network. Surely I didn’t have a Personal Learning Network. Or did I?

Hey…you. Back to work!

After I signed up for COETAIL, I had a wander around the site.  As I stumbled through the pages, I found familiar names and faces.  My friend Sarah from Beijing, to my teammate Sanne in Holland. Friends of colleagues and friends of friends of colleagues, and colleagues of friends of friends, and… well, you get the picture. The more I dug, the more connections I found. I went on to read the first few chapters of Jeff Utecht’s book Reach where he defines Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) as:

The name given to the networks that you create that revolve around personal and professional development.

I realized that I did have a PLN. I just wasn’t actively involved in it.

“The fundamental principle of the Internet was built on community, not content. Steve Case, one of the engineers considered to be one of the founding fathers of the Internet, stated in an interview, ““We thought communities trumped content”” (Mayo & Newcomb, 2008). Before Web 2.0 was even a thought in our minds, the founding fathers of the Internet believed that it would be communities of prosumers that would power the Internet”

Source: Reach by Jeff Utech

The forefathers of the Internet set out to create a community. A place where knowledge is shared, created and shared again as others make their own connections and learnings. To create a world of prosumers linked together by various interests.

So, what is a prosumer?

Prosumer: A combination of the words producer and consumer used to describe consumers who become involved in the design and manufacture of customized products.
The Unlikely Word


Source:  The Unlikely Word

What a wonderful thing! The Internet is an endless place filled with everything you’ve ever wanted to know about, watch, listen to, shop for. You want it. Chances are, the Internet’s got it. And it’s growing constantly. It leaves me wondering how our role as educators is changing because of this wonderful, worldwide web. As a 21-Century educator, part of my role is to teach students to be responsible, prosumering, digital citizens. So what can I do? How can I teach them how to navigate their way through cyberland safely, effectively and purposfuly?

My I CAN statements:

  • I CAN Teach my students how to join and utilize safe online communities.
  • I CAN Teach my students to ask questions to determine whether or not a source is reliable.
  • I CAN teach my students how to maintain anonymity as they develop their online profile.
  • I CAN teach my students how to be safe, digital citizens.

The Internet a mass of content and connections. I am on my journey of making sense of it all, creating (and understanding) my own PLN and making the Internet work for me. As I begin to wrap my head around this idea, I realize that my next steps are to implement these new learnings in my classroom and create an environment where my fourth graders can safely learn about, create and be part of their own PLN.





Jennifer Byrnes

My name is Jen and this is my 10th year as an educator. I am a fourth-grade teacher at the American School of the Hague. I have lived and worked in the US, Uk, Italy, China and the Netherlands. I have taught grades K-4.

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4 Responses

  1. Hi Jen,
    I am in the same boat as far as not really connecting in my PLC’s but rather lurking and how I need to fix that. I also like how you are using the new term, “prosumer” it was new to me- to incorporate it into your digital citizenship lessons. Do you have a technology teacher at your school that assists you with digital citizenship lessons?

    • Hi Erin,

      Thank you so much for reading my post. The term prosumer was new to me too, but after reading the definition I realized that the skills needed to be a prosumer on-line are the same skills we want students to have as life-long learners in general. The ability to synthesize information to create something new, share ideas and learn from others, and to reflect on their learning. We adopted a 1:1 iPad program this year which has dramatically changed how we use technology. We have a technology integrator that teaches the students in the lab once a week and supports us with our tech needs. We are starting to collaborate on lessons, user agreements and how to integrate digital citizenship throughout the curriculum.

  2. Jason Graham says:

    Hi Jen
    I like your reflections here. Love the I CAN statements. Someone once told me that developing a PLN was like a garden, you plant the seed (start a Twitter account) but to get it to grow you need to give it nourishment- so being on Twitter isnt enough you have to give back, comment, share. It was a wake up call for me that the key is ‘develop’ and ‘collaboration’. It sounds simplistic I know.

    • Hi Jason,

      Thanks for your comments. I love the analogy of PLN being like a garden. It is so true! The more you nourish it, the more it will grow and the more connected you become. I’m still trying to find my groove, but it’s getting easier each week.

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