Language Sensei

A Language Teacher's Journey

March 19, 2015
by leesensei

New to Twitter? – Tips on the Journey from Lurking to Listing to Chat…

Twitter_bird_logoI have seen a lot of new faces in the #langchat discussions lately and its a reminder that educators are continuing to discover the benefits of what a Twitter Personal Learning Network can be. Learning to manage your PLN, can take some time – as you configure what works for you. I wanted to repost some tips that I gathered as I began my Twitter journey and hopefully they will be helpful to you too!

Who you are – I noticed that I followed people that shared a bit about who they were – and what they are interested in. I made sure my profile tells a bit of that. Also I quickly learned to get rid of the egg. If you don’t want to share your photo there are lots of publicly licensed images to draw from. People share a lot on twitter and your profile is an indication that you will too.

Who You Follow – As I began to build my personal learning network (PLN) I didn’t know a hashtag from a MT. But I knew something exciting was happening for educators on Twitter. So I began with a direct search (‘languages twitter teaching), then I learned about hashtags. I followed a few who seemed to have something to say. I also look to who they follow for more possibilities. Tailor your PLN to what you want easily this way. You may at times edit who you follow – and this is okay too as it shows you are becoming more purposeful in constructing your PLN.

Turn Off Retweets? – This is a personal choice decision. I was finding that my Twitter stream was crowded with tweets that were just simple ‘retweets’ (RTs) . I’m not talking about RTs that feature comments added by the people I follow. Just RTs with no context or comment. For me they clutter up my Twitter stream. So when I follow someone I choose to “Turn Off Retweets”. I get a lot of what is retweeted still – but with pertinent comments by my PLN – reasons, according to them, why I should look at what is being retweeted.

Go Public – Initially the temptation is to ‘lock’ your account – it allows you to determine who follows you. The control is initially key. But – and it’s a big but – it also locks you out from participating in general chats because only your followers will see what you tweet. Yes there will be spammers – those who follow you for reasons other than ‘learning’. All you need to do is click on the ‘wheel’ next to the follow button on their profile and ‘block’ them. The rewards of being public outweigh the annoyance of the occasional spam follower.

Listing – As you follow I recommend that you start to list. Make the lists based upon why you chose to follow in the first place – if you looked at the profile. Maybe you follow for more than one reason. As you follow more and more lists make it easy to cut through the noise and get a ‘hit’ of what you want. For me  – I visit my ‘edtech’, ‘langchat’, and ‘japanese teachers’ when I can and I love that my stream is sorted into these convenient categories.

Lurking – Most of us start as ‘lurkers’…watching the stream, finding out information. Initially maybe I wasn’t sure that I had much to say. I was excited to see what was out there – so I watched, found people to follow, expanded my PLN gradually and thoughtfully. Lurking is the first step as you take time to learn more about what Twitter can offer. I know many who right now only lurk – but I’ll be eventually they will be confident enough to begin to share!

Chat – The scheduled ‘chat’, for me #langchat, is the most powerful pro-d I know of – each week something new to learn and discuss. We often work in isolation and the chat gives us a community to share and learn from. I use Tweetdeck or Tweetchat during these to allow me  to follow the stream exclusively. Introduce yourself and your reason for being on the chat. Some chats are huge and the stream flows – but keep with it and gradually you’ll find your voice in the discussion. Many chats will publish a digest – like #langchat does – that allows you to see the ‘big’ takeaways from the time. If you find yourself noticing certain tweets more than others that just may be someone to follow!

It is said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step…I encourage you to dip your toe into Twitter and begin constructing a PLN – your teaching will be the better for it!


August 20, 2013
by leesensei

“Let Me Check My List” – A Tip To Manage Your PLN

Business woman standing outside in front of office building, using mobile phone One of the greatest boosts in my teaching career has been the development of my Twitter PLN/ALN (as per a previous post – mine isn’t just “Personal” it’s an “Active” Learning Network). It has been amazing for me to see who I have followed, what their interests are, and more importantly who their contacts have led me to.  But even judicious building of an ALN/PLN can lead to a large, and unwieldy stream of tweets. Especially as many of those I find key to my learning often participate in their own chats.

So my key to maintaining my control of my learning network is the list.  If the Twitter stream is the filing cabinet of my PLN then the List is the “label” on the drawer (the person I follow is the “file”). The list, then, is my way to organize HOW I use Twitter. In my case it is a simple list of categories such as “Edtech” or “Langchat”. Instead of viewing my Twitter stream as a ‘whole’ – which can be overwhelming – I tend to use the lists for the ‘hit’ that I feel that I need. If I am looking for Edtech ideas then that list is where I go. MFL/Language issues are my “Langchat” group. And, as many of us are not just one dimensional, its nice to be able to put them on as many lists as I like.

In an ideal world you would have created your lists categories before building your network. That way when you are following 400 people listyou won’t have to take time to ‘re-list’ them. Mine certainly didn’t work that way and I did have to go back and add a certain number after the fact. Now as I add people, I try to remember to list them at the same time. As for the categories themselves – I answered the question “why am I following this person?” and they quickly became evident. You can access your lists either via the gear icon on the drop down menu (top right – navigation bar) or from your profile page.

Lists are the quick way to find professional development ideas, encouragement, connections and even a laugh on a topic that you have created for you – with content (people) that you have put there for you – and if that isn’t Personal – I don’t know what is.


May 28, 2013
by leesensei

It’s an “ALN” not a “PLN”….or it should be…

MC900438747There’s a lot made about the Personal Learning Network (PLN) these days. I know it isn’t a new idea. For years teachers who wish it, have taken personal time and initiative to connect, learn and expand their professional skills. In some schools this is easier than others to do. Many of us work in schools that do not give a lot of personal learning time – and instead favour group Pro-D. Others have the freedom to spend much more time on personally designed pursuits.

Enter Twitter and suddenly, regardless of your school’s focus, the ability to connect and learn on your desktop. Twitter has proven to be revolutionary for many of us -and we enthusiastically search out people, and links to others, that add to our professional lives.

However a PLN doesn’t end with following people on Twitter. I would argue it’s not how you construct it but if, and how, you use it. To me the most important part of the PLN isn’t the Network or the Personal at all. It’s the Learning that is key. And it cannot stop there. To really have a PLN that counts, I believe, you have to be an ‘Active’ Learner. This isn’t about tweets or retweets at all. What do I mean by “Active Learning”?.

Trying Something New You Got From Your PLN: It may be taking something that is shared with you, using it, testing it, maybe even adapting it and then, and this is the most important part, offering up your view/experience with it to the Twitterverse. Would you consider that someone had mastered a skill if they never had to demonstrate that they could use it?

Attending a Hashtag Chat: I admit that some of these chats are so big that the ability to put in ideas, and even see what’s going on is difficult. But there are so many out there that finding one that fits for you is possible – and many lists of them exist if you search for them. For me #langchat,  (Foreign Language teachers) on Thursday is the one. It’s an easy first step to lurk at these chats but to be actively participating, even if it’s just tweeting your presence, is activity- and maybe the first step to joining in.

Check In On a Regular Basis : Active also means that you make a concerted effort to check in on your PLN on a regular basis. I find it ironic that so many educators moan about no time to learn but, when it is as easy as following a list on a subject, seem overwhelmed at ‘how much time’ they may need to invest. Yes it takes time, any learning does if it is to be meaningful.

Many teachers are the first to say that they want to expand their skills and try new things. Creating a PLN using Twitter is a good first step…then making it an ALN is the next…isn’t it?


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