Fingers flying, eyes straining, pin-drop silence and then exasperated sighs were just a few of the things we experienced during this past class on March 22nd as we tried to keep up with the #edchat on Tweetdeck. It was intense and I found my eyes getting dry as I forgot to blink! I loved it though. I had participated before through Twitter, but never through Tweetdeck. I liked Tweetdeck better this week as it helped me to have a second column open with mentions in it. If somebody replied directly to me and mentioned me with an @bellafiore then I could see it while still participating in the chat. I think participating in a live chat greatly illustrated to some of the doubters in class how dynamic and powerful Twitter can be when used in this way.
In addition to the Tweet-fest we also learned how to use Google Reader to sort blogs and other feeds that we might be following. We learned about RSS (real simple syndication)as a way to follow blogs and other sites. I had used Google Reader last year, but the interface was annoying. You couldn't set up folders without doing a lot of extras after you had begun to follow a feed. This time the interface appeared to borrow from bloglines. I think Google must have re-designed their interface. This meant that it was a few easy clicks to set up folders and organize your reading. Loved it! I don't read everything that I follow regularly, but I do go back to various blogs when looking for certain info.
We learned about a lot of other tools for socially connecting with people and building your PLN in other ways. My favorite was Goodreads, which allows you to develop an online bookshelf. I love to read, but often don't read much during the school year as I don't have the time or mental patience. In the summer however, I devour books 2-3 in a week. Goodreads features groups that you can join, who may have common interests and discussions. I joined one on Art, but it appeared the discussions were a bit too, general. I will continue to explore this one. It could be like being in an online book discussion. You can also connect and be friends with people through this site. I don't know if I need to do this. I feel like I'm already connected in so many places, but it is fun to see what people are reading and what they might recommend. I also saw that you can link your Goodreads account to Facebook. One of my favorite early Facebook features was the favorite books thing that let you create a book shelf and rate books you'd read. I wonder if Goodreads copied Facebook or vice versa? Either way I love to read and this is another great way to connect.
Another site that I have used that is similar to Goodreads is Scribd. The difference with Scribd is that many of the documents available are self-published articles and booklets. There is an interesting collection there for educational purposes and you can also friend people and recommend articles etc. Many of the presenters at this year's NAEA conference published their presentations on Scribd, which allows for graphics rich documents. I learned of several of these documents through tweets that I was following throughout the conference at #naea11 on Twitter.
We discussed a number of other PLN builders that I didn't have the time to try this week. Some of them I was already familiar with such as TED Talks and PBS for Teachers. The PBS for Teachers is one I'd just set up an account with a few weeks ago. I love the resources and the videos that are available. I teach using the Art21 website that is powered through PBS and it is an awesome resource so I look forward to exploring even more with the full Educator access. I didn't have time to explore any of the other tools so more will come later on those. I am excited to use Goodreads and further develop my book shelf. Now if only I had that iPhone so I could access my list while I'm at the book store shopping!