Google+ Building (or Re-Building) your PLN

G+ in EducationTwitter just became 5 years old and many of us can remember the first time: we heard of twitter… the first time we experienced powerful collaboration on twitter… some of us can even remember our first tweet (not me, though I can imagine it was something like: “I just don’t understand this…” So, for many it feels like a shock when after 5 years, thousands of tweets, hours of growing and grooming our personal learning network we look at Google+ and say, “I just don’t understand this…” or “Struggling to understand how this is going to fit in…” or “It just doesn’t do what Facebook or twitter does… or doesn’t do it as WELL…”

Here are some other things that we are struggling with:

  • “I have “spoken” with a person for years on twitter… but I only know them by his or her handle… – We are shocked that someone we really know so well: children, ailments, dreams, hopes, personal challenges… and we don’t even know his or her name.
  • “I can’t figure out Circles” – A new paradigm is frustrating or our attempt to force something new into our preconceived notion of HOW things SHOULD work.
  • “I have been on Google+ for an “x” now, and I can’t figure out how to find other’s with similar interests (or it is too hard to find them…) – Yes, an actual person search within Google+ will be very welcome when it is enabled – ironic, huh?!

If you are feeling this way, know that you are not alone. Many of us are feeling this way too. That said, I am really enjoying the rich conversations and more personal relationships that I am building with Google+ that in some ways I have been feeling I have lost on Twitter and Facebook. The biggest thing to remember is that we felt this exact same way when we first tweeted or facebooked. Back then, worked through a whole lot of growing pains to develop the robust PLN’s we now enjoy. But, the first thing we all need to do is feel a bit less lonely when we are on Google+. So, here are a few tips and suggestions to help get you started (or re-started) growing your PLN in Google+

First, build out your personal profile with information about what you teach, your goals, a twitter handle, blog link, and possibly the types of connections you are looking for… Many… MANY… are using this as an initial barometer for whether or not to add someone into a circle. Additionally, as I wrote earlier, we have a LOT of relationships from twitter where we unfortunately don’t know a person’s real name or at least his or her last name to make a connection that VanishingPoint is actually Scott Weidig.

Second, there has been an “Educators on Plus” google doc floating around. HERE is a link to that doc. Almost all have even listed areas of focus or teaching. Also, go HERE to add yourself to this growing list.

Third, and the best way I have come across personally, is to post more publicly or to “extended circles” which will catch a larger audience. For example, if YOU post to extended circles it goes not only to the individuals in your own personal circles, but also to all of the individuals in their circles as well even though they are not in your circles. In addition, “public” posts are searchable on Google itself (even if we currently can’t search within Plus itself). Many will read or comment on your posts and throw an add to you.

Fourth, to respond to other educator’s posts. That way, much like twitter, you will be pulled into conversations with educators you may not be following. Click into their profiles link to review for an add.

Fifth, Google+ has two “features” that are not easily understandable: “incoming” and “nearby”. Incoming are the streams of people who have added you into a circle, but are not in one of your circles. This is a way to see who is “following” you and the quality of information they are posting before you add them to a circle. Nearby are all of the public posts from people who have geotagged their posts and are physically “nearby” you at that time. I can imagine that this stream will be flooded at conferences in the future, but this is also a way to reach out beyond your budding network for possibly some fresh insight. (I ended up making contact with a great person who was able to provide some information on web hosting while I was on vacation a few weeks ago, simply by posting publicly and looking at “nearby”.

Sixth, if you have not thought about blogging, think about it. If you are, be sure that is on your profile, and link your posts on Plus. Sharing your journey with others creates a bond and common interest which can help you grow your PLN.

Finally, we encourage you to link up with the members of on Google+. Here is a list of the EdReach folks on Google+ and a direct link to each of our profiles:

+Judy Epcke – Co-founder of EdReach and weekly contributor to the EdReach and Mobile Reach shows. Judy is a technology facilitator showing teachers how technology can transform their teaching and their students’ learning. She focuses on topics such as: the use of Web 2.0 tools, Google Apps for Education, iPads and iPod Touches, Personal Learning Networks, and technology integration.

+Dan Rezac – Co-founder of EdReach, as well as the Content Editor/ Brand Officer. Daniel often speaks about 21st Century Learning Environments, YouTube in the classroom, and the Flipped Classroom, and has made it his focus to give teachers a platform for which they can discuss the critical issues of education.

+Scott Meech – Co-founder of EdReach, Scott enjoys studying the impact technology is making and can make on education. He believes that education is on the brink of major change and that technology will finally fulfill its promise. Scott also formed which focuses on educational application reviews for iDevices.

+Jay Blackman – Co-Founder and Technical Coordinator of EdReach and by day the Director of Information and Educational Technology – Focused on creating support systems for teachers, developing learning communities, and learning spaces. Jay is a Google Certified Teacher and a frequent presenter on Google tools, location-based learning, mobile learning, and professional development.

+Meg Wilson –  Founder of She presents about using iPods, iPhones, and iPads in the classroom. She blogs and podcasts regularly at about mobile learning, special education, and all things Apple-related in the world of education.

+Jeremy Brown – Elementary special education teacher & family trainer – EdCeptional crew member & blogger at – autism, assistive technology, iOS, SMART Board

+John Sowash – Director of Online Learning for his school and blogs regularly about distance learning and related trends in education. John specializes in collaborative projects for STEM classrooms, online learning, the Flipped Classroom, and Google Apps for Education.

+Chris Atkinson – Elementary school assistant principal – Google Certified Teacher, STAR Discovery Educator, blogger, podcaster, and presenter on Google Apps in Education, Web 2.0 Tools For The Classroom, Social Networking for Educators, Educational Leadership for the 21st Century.

+Scott Weidig (me) – High school technology coordinator – Scott focuses on the integration of technology in the classroom to student achievement and learning in the 21st century. He blogs regularly at about mobile learning, media literacy, and educational change.

On a last note, I know many educators who are working hard to attempt to “re-create” the educational PLN’s they already have on Twitter and Facebook. In essence, “port” them over to Google+. While there are a num,her of new tools being developed to accomplish this, I would encourage everyone to think hard before doing this. One one hand, I think it is a great an potentially powerful idea, on the other, Google+ has a different variety of tools to offer, different ways to think of relationships, I encourage everyone to take advantage of this opportunity to perhaps re-focus or broaden and maybe even deepen your PLN as opposed to simply re-creating it. We can learn so much from those we yet do not know… Just my perspective.

If you are on Google+ also and want, leave your information in the comments so the edReachers can connect with you.

What do you think?

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  1. Anonymous

    Great article, Scott!  I think the Google doc you mentioned and, more importantly, the “edReachers” you listed would be a GREAT starting point for any educator trying to build-up their PLN on Google+.   Readers – please, feel free to add me to a circle.