Building Your Personal
Learning Network, Part 2
learn more, watch the Common Craft
video “RSS in Plain English” (www.
and see Google Reader for Beginners
In the March 2009 issue of
SchoolArts, I discussed the
popularity of personal learning
networks (PLN) and presented
two tips to get you started on building your own PLN—join the Twitter
community and set up a social bookmarking account. In this edition of
ArtEd Online, I offer three additional
tips and several resources for more
information and assistance.
Tip 4: Create a Personal Learning
Portal or Start-up Page
If you regularly visit the same
websites or blogs to check for new
content, there are two alternatives
that can save you time. One is to
use an RSS feed reader or aggrega-tor as described in tip three. The
other approach is to create a personal
learning portal (PLP), or start-up
page, that brings together links and
RSS feeds to various sites, blogs, and
Web-based tools you visit and use
on a regular basis, and makes them
available through your Web browser.
Three popular Web-based tools that
allow you to create a PLP are iGoogle
( www.google.com/ig), Netvibes
( www.netvibes.com), and Pageflakes
( www.pageflakes.com). Each of these
tools is easy to use and offers templates to get you up and running in
Tip 3: Subscribe to Blogs That
Blogs have become a primary source
of news, information, and opinion. In
2007, Technorati.com reported tracking more than 70 million blogs, with
about 120,000 new blogs being created worldwide each day. Blogs cover
virtually every topic imaginable
including art, design, and art education. Although the majority of blogs
are written and maintained by individuals, there are also group blogs in
which multiple authors contribute.
A good way to start building your
PLN is to regularly read blogs by
other art educators to find out what
they’re doing in their classrooms and
what resources they find helpful.
Some of the art teacher blogs I follow
are the Carrot Revolution (
carrotrevo-lution.blogspot.com), the Teaching
Palette ( theteachingpalette.com), and
the Digital Arts Technology Academy
com). You can find other blogs to read
on Google Blog Search (blogsearch.
google.com) and Technorati.com.
Another good place to look is Alltop,
which lists the top fifty art blogs (art.
alltop.com) and more than 150 of the
top education blogs ( education.alltop.
com). Lastly, check out the blogrolls
listed in the sidebar of your favorite
bloggers to see what they read.
Once you find several blogs that
you’d like to follow, you can subscribe to them using their RSS feeds.
RSS stands for “read simple syndica-tion” and is a convenient way for
you to keep up with the news and
information that’s important to you.
Using an RSS feed reader like Google
Reader ( www.google.com/reader) or
Bloglines ( www.bloglines.com) will
aggregate the latest content from your
favorite blogs and deliver it directly
to you in an easy to read format. To
Tip 5: Contribute Your Own
Thoughts and Content on Your
What you gain from your personal
learning network will be in direct
proportion to what you put into it;
the more you contribute, the more
you’ll get back. This is true of any
group or organization you might
join, and it applies equally as well
to a PLN. By sharing links through
a social bookmarking site, posting
messages and replies on Twitter, and
commenting on blog entries by other
art educators, you’ll find that your
personal learning network will grow
and become a valuable resource that
you’ll frequently turn to for answers
Craig Roland is an associate professor of
art education in the School of Art and
Art History at the University of Florida
in Gainesville, Florida. He is the author
of The Art Teacher’s Guide to the Internet
(Davis Publications, 2005). rolandc@ufl.