Finding ways to visually explain personal learning in networks

As part of a recent assignment (note: I started this posts months before I finally published it) for the Exploring Personal Learning Networks MOOC, I’ve been thinking about how to better explain how technology enabled networks have expanded our personal learning networks.

Thus, I wanted to compile some of the resources that are helping me learn to visually communicate what this network expansion might look like for an individual person, or perhaps more specifically a community educator. Here are three that I found particularly useful:

1)The Connected Educator and Social Media –  While this Prezi might not have shown the exact connections between people or nodes in a network, it connected the ideas of how an educator could connect with others in different online social spaces (or circles) in Facebook or Twitter,  or how they could use Pinterest to gather and share resources in those spaces.

I marveled at this Prezi, because the author connected a sense of space and purpose without necessarily making each connection a person to person connection.  IMHO, this was a great use of Prezi, and would more difficult hard to convey with a linearly sequenced PowerPoint.

2)Dave Gray’s Connected Company Flickr slideset has some great visualizations which I frequently review. I find “Customers are connecting.  Are you?” could be a helpful and powerful illustration of how we used to predominately learn in physical spaces. Now technology enables us to connect quite continuously across geographical and time boundaries.

While I find people already know this is happening in our networked world, when they see a visual explanation like this, it begs people to ask: “How might I make better use of these continuous connections.”

Customers are connecting. Are you?

Image: Dave Gray, CC BY-ND 2.0,

3) Nancy Duarte’s The Importance of Visual Storytelling video (or slides 15 and 16) offers a simple way to draw the expansion of a network from a core circle of people.  Since I’m often speaking to education professionals about how we can use social media to expand our networks in new ways, this seemed like a good way to express this expansion from a core group or circle.

4)Making Sense of Emergent Patterns in Networks  – This blog post was a little more of an analytical resource than I was originally seeking to find on my quest for networked visualizations.  Yet, I found stumbling across this series of network visualizations led me to think more about how people are grouped together in clusters or by community and what that might mean. I thought figure 8, was particularly interesting since it showed the position of a liaison between clusters. Aa-ha, I thought, a new way to think about drawing groups and connections – not every one has to be placed in a connected circle!

So what do I plan to learn from compiling this networked visuals list?

1)I think I will spend more time investing in trying to draw with my digital pen, as Duarte’s and Gray’s posts are giving me some good ideas.

2)I’d like to spend more time thinking of connected or networked analogies that may help me convey how network connections can make things happen. For example, how could I illustrate if someone shared something in one place, how that might make an impact somewhere else in the network?

3)I need to figure out a few key tools besides PowerPoint that will help me communicate network expansion better.  Prezi seems to be a good fit because of it’s map-like navigation.  I have also been using Sketchbook pro,  Snote, Bamboo notes in conjunction with a digital pen,  but I still find myself limited in one way or another with these tools. I think partially this is because I need more practice both in what to draw and how to use the technology to draw and share, and partially because I’m still learning which tools transfer across my computer, tablet(s), and smartphone so I can pick up where I left off or share from any device.


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