Once I started reading up on what a Personal Learning Network (PLN) was, I realized that I kind of already knew what it was, but didn’t know what it was called. The shortened definition, I would say, is a(n) (online) network of people who you interact with that you share with, interact with, and gain knowledge from. I put online in parentheses because realistically, I think you could have a “real-life” PLN with your peers. Anyway, for this post we’ll assume that I’m referring to an online PLN.
When I first started putting together my PLN, I searched “best Twitter accounts to follow nutrition”. Let’s just say that I wasn’t prepared for the number of search results that came back. It’s so tough to filter out what’s recent from a handle hasn’t been used for 3 years. And then what’s actually relevant to what you’re actually looking for, and what isn’t. Nutrition is a pretty broad topic. The part that I really wanted to focus on was how to explain to kids how important nutrition is, not only when you’re a kid, but even more so when you’re an adult. But I found that it is a pretty narrow topic to try to cover. And honestly, when you think about it, regardless of how we may try to separate it, all topics in nutrition are interlinked.
So instead of narrowing my focus, I made it broader. I followed all things nutrition on Twitter. Anything from the United States Department of Agriculture (@USDA) to Food Babe (@thefoodbabe). There’s just so many different topics and aspects of nutrition, even if you don’t agree with all of them, you still need to be informed on them.
In order to make my PLN the best that it could be, I read an article called How to cultivate a personal learning network: Tips from Howard Rheingold by Chuck Frey. I had a general understanding of the first part, (Explore, Search, Follow, Tune) but hadn’t actually thought much about the second part (Feed, Engage, Inquire, Respond). I understood that you needed to find people who you wanted to follow, but never really realized how much benefit it is to actually interact with those you have in your PLN. I’m not sure why I never thought about it either, because it definitely makes sense.
Going forward, I think I will have a relatively easy time growing and improving my PLN. I have already started weeding out some of those I’ve followed that post a lot of “noise” and following more that provide more of a “signal” (terminology credit Howard Rheingold). Also, I am hoping a lot of the people I’m following will be good about retweeting and sharing quality resources.
One of the biggest challenges I think I will have is reading information that I don’t agree with. For example, there are similarities between the Atkins diet and being Paleo. The Atkins diet is just that – a way to lose weight. Paleo is not necessarily about weight loss, but more of a lifestyle. I agree with the Paleo lifestyle because I think it’s more about going back to the healthy beginnings of food, whereas Atkins cuts out a lot of carbohydrates (which Paleo may or may not be) but it’s not necessarily replacing the carbs with healthy food. Like I said, I don’t necessarily agree with the Atkins diet, but I think that it is still important to be at least knowledgeable on the things you don’t agree with.
I think PLNs are a great resource for gaining new information and ideas. I think that I have a pretty good foundation to develop a quality PLN.