How to Create Your Personal Learning Network on Twitter in 5 Steps


One of the themes mentioned throughout the National eXtension Conference last week was the increasing importance of Personal Learning Networks. Many of us who have been using social media for years have tapped into the informal learning that can easily take place in online social spaces – specifically on Twitter. PLN’s help Extension professionals learn from each other, as well as learn from other experts in our fields of work and study.

1. Create a Twitter account if you don’t already have one. Ed Tech Heather Gottke wrote a great blog post on how to get started on Twitter here.

2. Begin following people by adding people you already know; colleagues and clients. Then add people who you know are experts in their field. For example, I follow Mashable and Beth Kanter to get social media info; TechCrunch for general tech updates; Paul Hill for 4-H STEM programming; Mike Gutter for financial education; Let’s Move for nutrition education, and the Pew Research Center and NASA just because I’m a geek. You’ll also want to add CFAES, Keith Smith, and Dean McPheron, to stay up-to-date on our college’s goings-on. Feel free to see who else I follow and add them to people you follow.

3. Organize the people you follow into lists and use a social media managing tool. I use Hootsuite. But some people like Tweetdeck better. Both are free to use the “regular” version. You’ll have to pay to go Pro and get extra perks like analytics, but I use the free version and feel like I have access to everything I need. You’ll need to create your list categories in Twitter.

  • Once you have “followed” a Twitter account. Click on the settings icon beside the “Follow/Following” button. This will pull up a drop-down menu, as shown below:

twitter list example

  •  Click on “Add or remove from lists”. A separate box will appear asking you to “Create A List” or choose which list to add this person to:

twitter list example 2

  • Next, you’ll pull your lists into Hootsuite or Tweetdeck (whichever you choose to use). In Hootsuite, you can do this by adding a stream to your dashboard for each one of your lists. Click on “+Add Stream” and then click on the “Lists” tab (highlighted in yellow below):

twitter list capture hootsuite

  • Once you’ve added a stream for each of your lists, your dashboard will look like this (if you are as list-happy as I am anyway!):

hootsuite dashboard

4. Find more experts to follow by searching and following hashtags. For example, I have found people to follow by searching for #socialmedia, #edtech, #food, #money, #parenting, #4H, just to name a few.

5. Build upon and share what you’re learning by networking with those you follow. Retweet what they’re Tweeting and put their ideas into practice. Reach out to them and start a conversation. Let them know how you’re using their expertise, concepts, ideas, etc. I’ve networked with colleagues all across the country via Twitter and have met some amazing and inspiring people. They’re Educators, Program Specialists, Faculty, and Techies. Once your Personal Learning Network grows, you begin to realize how we can all work together across the nation to make Extension much stronger and our programs more impactful. Cooperating, collaborating, and sharing ideas and resources also reduces our time spent on reinventing something that someone in a different state already does well. Meeting via Twitter can put all of these things in motion.

For more info, Beth Kanter has an excellent blog post on using social media for professional learning here.

Other ideas? How have you built your own Personal Learning Network and who have you included in it?


Key Take-aways from the NMSU Learning Games Lab

Our Ed Tech group recently traveled to the New Mexico State University Learning Games Lab in February. For those not familiar with NMSU’s Game Lab, they are 1654092_10100780964318436_94694068_naffiliated with NMSU’s Media Productions department and specialize in designing and evaluating educational tools with technology. You can see some of their work here which includes the “Eat-and-Move-O-Matic” National 4-H mobile app and “Don’t Wash Your Chicken!” video. While in Las Cruces, we toured their Game Lab and video production facilities, collaborated on how we can best work together on tech projects, and even created a decision tree to use when helping colleagues decide if they really “need” an app or they just “want” an app.

We’ve each listed below our top 5 take-aways from our short time visiting with the Game Lab director, Barbara Chamberlain (those in FCS have heard this name many times!), Jeanne Gleason, and the rest of the Game Lab’s staff.


  1. Processing Requests for App Development: Through this opportunity I was able to see the detailed process of app development from idea, to product. Coming to the table with a complete idea in hand is a nice starting point, but in turn we all must be willing to collaborate and build off of that idea to make it even better suited for Extension audiences.
  2. “The brain can only absorb what the butt will tolerate”: I found this to be a beautifully said direct quote from our collaboration sessions. The time we have as professionals to share information has grown smaller and smaller, while the need for sharing the message digitally has grown larger and larger. Making what we have to say compact, and creative is a task that the NMSU gaming lab has taken seriously, and done beautifully! There is a lot to be said for building animation, games, and apps that keep the attention of our audiences. In the past it was as long as 20 minutes, but today our viewers may only give us 2-3 minutes before we lose them.
  3. Atmosphere: The gaming lab is a good example of a creative, unique, and positive work environment. The spaces were open, the layouts blended from one person to the next, and the people were friendly, open, and constantly working together. While something we often do not think about, how we work together is as important as working together itself.
  4. Revisiting Objectives & Expectations: There is a constant need in any technology-based project to revisit the objectives, and the expectations of the client, or group. The reality is that we need to ask this question more often, and ensure that we are meeting both to the best ability we can. The NMSU gaming lab showed us how they communicate as teams, and work to give their best abilities to the group.


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1. If you say “we need an app”, chances are, you really don’t. We spent hours one day mapping out and discussing the various steps to deciding and developing a mobile app. It’s quite a process. That’s not to say it’s worth throwing your hands up and giving up on the chances of ever creating something worth going mobile, because there are needs out there that can be filled by an app. Just know that there are many questions that have to be answered before need can even be assessed, layers of background information that has to be prepped, and months (if not years) of development plus testing that goes into every app. We’ll be sharing Dr. Chamberlain’s decision tree here on the blog soon, as well as information on how to work with an Ed Tech to go through the app development process. 

2. App development at the Learning Games Lab is different… in a very good way. They know Extension because they’re an integral part of the NMSU Extension system, so there’s little to no learning curve involved in trying to explain what we do and what it is we may want to accomplish by creating a digital product or tool. They also understand how imperative research and evaluation can be. So they do research to find missing pieces and information to make the app have the most impact. They also operate as a non-profit.

3. Fact sheets should be posted in an HTML format online instead of as a PDF. This was one of those light-bulb moments for me… as simple as this concept is, I hadn’t thought of posting them in an HTML format (similar to recent ChowLine and Family Fundamentals articles) before. But it makes perfect sense.

4. Even though we see them as leading the way in Extension technology, they say the same about us. They truly admire all of the strides OSUE has taken in regard to integrating and creating tech tools into our work here in Ohio. We spent quite a bit of time talking to them about our Ed Tech project, sharing examples of what we’ve done with social media around the state, and discussing projects that are in the works. We’ve agreed to help train them on social media strategy as part of our collaborative efforts together.

5. You won’t find a nicer group of people to work with. Seriously. Dr. Chamberlain and her staff were such wonderful hosts! So not only did we accomplish and learn a lot during the two short days we were in Las Cruces, but we had a lot of fun while doing it!



1. The NMSU Media Production Department structure was quite impressive. The back offices had key personnel responsible for navigating issues to effectively produce quality products by the most efficient methods available in areas of video production, social media, game development, and others.

2. The physical work environment even lends credence to promoting creative thinking using modern color schemes and treadmill desks as a physical activity outlet. When the treadmill desk is not enough to overcome stalled creativity, the team makes a trip to White Sands National Monument for sand sledding.

3. The group has a distinctive ability to problem solve. Sharing, they described how a room with a one-way viewing mirror was used for evaluating pilot games. They discovered that the mirror was not effective. The NMSU team mentioned that once the pilot game players became comfortable with the staff mingling, observing, and the team could get closer, more immediate feedback without the mirror. They even created a video recording booth so participants could record responses to their gaming experience. The group also shared that one project had an unexpected twist. A client wanted an educational learning game to address a weakness that needed to be resolved. In the process of assessing the project direction, NMSU found an underlying knowledge deficiency that directly related to the problem and focused on creating a platform to address all of the needs.

4. The NMSU Media Production Department leadership has an obvious appreciation and commitment to their staff. They maintain top-of-the-line equipment across focus areas for staff use in creating the innovative educational products clients request. If organizations with educational media requests want help, NMSU is very accommodating and will help clients with grant-writing needs and other task specific details if needed.

5. NMSU was very welcoming to our Ohio State University Extension Educational Technology team. They are very open to meeting groups that are interested in working with the NMSU team to produce educational media products. They invite potential collaborators and clients in for a tour of their facility–offering a warm welcome and real interaction with their inspiring group as well as a taste of the local Las Cruces culture.


1.  Attention Span:
When I started in Extension, I worked hard to create a solid 25-30 minute presentation for a youth audience so that I might get my topic across.


Times have changed and so must we as educators and be more creative in getting our topic across.  Today –  you may have at the most a 10 minute window to reach your audience. The NMSU’s Game Lab excels in researching who their target audience is and creating the best possible media source to reach their audience.

2.  Products of the NMSU’s Media Production Team:  The team shares knowledge through the  following types of products: Educational Videos, Educational Games, Web Sites and Mobile Apps.  I was particularly interested in learning more about their process for developing mobile apps and educational videos.

3.  Desktop Video Production:  Educators can create their own simple videos by starting out small.
Simple Video Studio:  lighting, sound, mics, there are simple methods that can be used for additional sound proofing, tripod, set furniture – go for solid colors that blend. Video Editing: The Ed Techs are putting together a basic Video Editing class and will share resources available to edit your video clips into a final product.

4.  Fun:  NMSU has a large team of people working together and we noticed that it’s in such a relaxed atmosphere.  Team members work well together and get along.  They incorporate “what’s new” into their work environment through the use of ergonomic equipment, exercise equipment and comfortable furniture.

5.  Grants and Partners:  The NMSU Media Production Department specializes in working with partners in grant writing and media projects.


More information and resources will be shared here on the blog and in-person as we work with individuals and teams as we begin to utilize this new, exciting partnership with NMSU! Contact one of the Ed Techs if you have an idea for an app, or just want to talk about what an app or gaming experience is. We’re here to help and to keep moving OSUE forward!


Webinars as a Teaching Tool = A Top Priority for 2014

Last Fall when we asked everyone in the organization to tell us what they needed to know about social media via an online survey, an additional need was heard loud and clear. Many are ready (and waiting) for training on how to best use webinars as a teaching tool. We’ve used webinars as a self-ed and professional development tool, but now this informal learning format is also offering our clients a convenient way to educate themselves as well – and we all need to be providing them information with this method. Many businesses and even government agencies (the First Lady’s Let’s Move initiative for example, are already using Google Hangouts to inform and educate the public.)

One of the focuses for our Ed Tech group for 2014 will be developing training opportunities on how to best teach via webinars. But first some decisions need to be made, including which webinar tools we should focus on for training. Initial thoughts from our group include:

  • Carmen Connect (we realize many are not comfortable using CC as a teaching tool yet)
  • Google Hangouts On Air
  • Adobe Connect via eXtension

We need to hear from you! If you’ve used or participated in educational webinars (think = for our audiences: farmers, parents, youth, etc.) what tools seemed to work best? Which didn’t? Which tools would you prefer to learn how to use? What suggestions do you have for how we can best use these tools? An online discussion here will help drive our decisions and planning as we move forward with this year’s trainings.

~The Ed Tech Team

Ed Tech in Action with the Live Healthy, Live Well Team

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to attend a Live Healthy, Live Well program team meeting. This FCS group has done a wonderful job of including technology and social
media into their program – and it’s now an OSUE Signature Program. Live Healthy, Live Well is a nutrition challenge during which participants receive e-mail newsletters, and follow the program’s blog and Facebook page. Both the blog and Facebook page are updated regularly, even outside of the program’s challenge dates, which helps to drive more potential participants to the program’s information.

During this meeting I shared and discussed the following resources with the team:

Time was also spent discussing their current format for the Live Healthy, Live Well e-mail newsletters, which they felt were in need of an upgrade. I shared a couple examples with the team (see the OSU Buckeyes image below – screen captured from their Facebook page).

Of course, Live Healthy, Live Well digital newsletters won’t be sharing the same information as the OSU football Facebook page. So we chatted about how we could transform the e-newsletters become a bit more visual and not as information-dense while still getting needed info to participants. The key here can be links, links, and more links – all complimented by a very visual template. This also will drive more traffic to their blog and Facebook page, which is a goal they’ve decided needs to be part of their overall social media strategy. E-newsletters are beginning to look more and more like a page in a magazine as the appeal of seeing information in visual form and in short snippets crosses over from Facebook (see other examples below).

As a result of the meeting, the Live Healthy, Live Well team is considering experimenting with paid promotions on their Facebook page to reach more potential program participants. I’ll also be working closely with them to communicate how they can best show and report their impact via the technological components of the program (in RiV in particular) – which is an issue we’ve been struggling with in Extension for years. This will be a major focus of our next Ed Tech meeting this Wednesday and we hope to have this information posted and ready for the organization in December – just in time for all the RiV procrastinators out there! (I can say this because I’m one of them.)

In the meantime, please consider inviting an Ed Tech (or more than one…) to an upcoming project or program team meeting to help your group think through some of the issues, concerns, ideas, and aspirations of technology use in Extension. We are here to help. I feel that in just the past few short months, we’ve already gained a lot of ground.



Mobile Learning Tools to Use Now

While “mobile learning” has been a buzz word in Education for at least a couple years, it’s just now making an entrance in Extension programming. Extension project teams have dabbled in Moodle-created online courses or volunteer trainings, but are these resources truly “mobile?” Meaning, if someone were to access them from their iPad or mobile phone, would they be user-friendly? Or, if we create an app for a smartphone, is that the only form of “mobile learning?” The genius of mobile learning is that it exists in many forms (not just in Moodle course or app form) and can be accessed from anywhere at anytime. I personally believe that the recent explosion of MOOCs (massive open online courses) and the popularity of apps for educational purposes presents one of the greatest opportunities to utilize technology in Extension that we have had in a long time – to put mobile technology for educational purposes effectively. We have the content and mobile technology offers us the audience. As more people begin learning via MOOCs on Coursera and iTunesU, we can be a part of that learning environment.

Of course, this is Extension. And we are slow to change and even slow to pick up on hot tech trends. It’s much easier for us to get our “feet wet” a bit before we dive head-first into technology that may or may not be useful to us. This approach can (and should) be done, but early tech adopters are already itching to begin going more mobile with their programs. Here are some tools for those folks to check out:

  • Texting Software – What’s more mobile than texting? Not much. The University of Maryland recently implemented a nutrition texting campaign and delivered all of the program’s information via texts to a low-income audience. And they saw great results. The software itself can be pricey unfortunately, so that is a barrier to its use in Extension. But the concept should continue to be explored! SNAP-Ed professionals in Ohio have also used texting as a means to remind clients of upcoming programs, and have seen a positive impact on participant retention.
  • Video – Videos are very effective teaching tools and are now being accessed by mobile devices more often than computers. Camtasia is the recommended software at OSUE to use to create narrated videos. Other (free) options are Windows Movie Maker and iMovie. Link the videos back to your social media pages or blog site. If you create a video, please ask a colleague and/or an Ed Tech to review it for you before posting. You can also post your video to the OSU Extension YouTube channel. Check out the submission form here or contact Mitch Moser for more details.
  • iBooks Author – Utilizing Apple’s iBooks Author as an eBook creator was mentioned during a concurrent session at OSUE’s Annual Conference a couple years back, many of you may have attended that session. So this tool has been floating around for a while, but hasn’t been utilized very much. If you’re interested in learning how to create an eBook with iBooks Author, there are many YouTube videos similar to this one that walk you through the process step-by-step. (The only catch is that you will need an Apple device.) Myself and at least one other Ed Tech will be attending OSU’s Digital Union iBook Bootcamp in December and will then be available to help teach and coach others to use the software. More info will come out after the bootcamp!
  • Adobe InDesign – InDesign is similar to Microsoft Publisher and may be more user-friendly for creating eBooks and other ePublications than iBooks for those who are used to working with a PC.
  • iTunesU – If you haven’t yet checked out Apple’s app for free, online education and learning, you should! Anyone who downloads the app has access to thousands of free classes and programs from Universities and experts all over the world. Ohio State has added many new courses recently, so my suggestion for project teams who are looking to expand into that space has been to take a look at the current courses to see how they could effectively use iTunesU as a way to deliver educational information from their program. MOOCs are already here to stay, and iTunesU gives us the opportunity in Extension to get our foot in the door.

Have you used other mobile learning tools that aren’t listed? Do you consider Social Media to be a mobile learning tool as well?