Personal Learning Networks

As was mentioned in a previous post, one of my classes this quarter is on Social Media. More specifically, it is about social media usage in K-12 schools. Since I do not work in a school system, I approach the topic more as someone who collaborates with schools and that is kinda how I approach my Personal Learning Network (PLN). The people in your PLN should extend beyond your current field or friends. But I am getting ahead of myself…

So what is a PLN? Let’s start first with the PLE- Personal Learning Environment



Everyone’s PLE is going to look a little different.


This is what mine looks like:


I have it broken down into five sections: Resources, Curation, Networks, Communication, and Locations. Your PLE is always in flux and could change depending on what resources are available to you, your current interests, or even your current career. For example, in my course, we are using Wikispaces, but the platform has just announced that they will shutter the site this summer. This reminds me a lot of the Digital Media Concepts and Production course I took as part of my graduate degree. I was introduced to a lot of great resources, but many of them don’t exist now because they merged with other products, the company was sold or went bankrupt, or there just is no more interest in it. Then there are some that we think are gone, but still exist…did you know MySpace is still up and running?

Now to focus on the network part of the PLE, we have the PLN:


There are three types of PLNs: Synchronous- meaning real-time, Asynchronous- meaning not in real-time, and Semi-synchronous which is a blend of the two. This blog is an example of asynchronous.  If you visited my social media links, those would be semi-synchronous because we could connect in real-time or play a virtual version of phone-tag. *hint* I am usually always online with either a tablet, a phone, or a computer somewhere close by. So there is a good chance you will catch me via one of the social networks.



Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook make up a big part of my PLN. I try to keep everything separate depending on the platform. For example, Facebook is for friends and family, though I have been branching out to include some private FB groups related to blogging. Next is LinkedIn which I keep strictly professional. I will connect with librarians, teachers, authors, illustrators, publishers, and many others related to my scope of professional interest like educators, STEM, training, etc. I find people through conferences, trainings I have attended, and even follow several authors. Twitter is a mish-mash of the two. My Twitter contains people I know in real life, but also many others that I have never met. Some I follow for entertainment…my current Twitter obsession is following David Harbour’s adventures with his Twitter ReTweet challenges.

I am waiting for those “dad dance” pics with the penguins…

Then there are others that I follow for professional reasons such as the current Kid Lit controversy about notable male children’s authors sexually harassing other authors.

While I don’t attend the conferences mentioned in the articles, it is important that as a librarian, I am aware of stuff like this. This is why it is important to have people in your network from outside of your silo.


I admit that I am not very active on the socializing part when it comes to using my Social Networks to their best advantages. I am working on that. In the meantime…


Sometimes just observing can be okay while you figure out what is okay and what is not for a particular platform or group.

The International Society for Technology in Education (ITSE) has developed standards when it comes to technology usage in education. As a student, I think I am rocking it as far as the standards are concerned. This blog has gone a long way towards helping that along with sharing information and trying towards being a global collaborator. I teach at the graduate and professional levels rather than K-12, so the teacher standards also look pretty good to me, but that is because I have a lot of resources available to me. I teach via virtual classrooms and learning management platforms on a regular basis, so technology and my teaching are pretty integrated. Many of my students are current or future media specialists, so we try to also include resources that they can use in the schools (which is why I am taking a school focused Social Media course).

One thing I have learned is that when you plan on using a particular social media tool, plan on a backup as well. Last time I taught my grad course, we planned on using VoiceThread which allows you to narrate slides via a cloud upload. It only worked for half the students. So I quickly came up with an alternate submission platform using the course’s discussion boards. Now when I teach the course again, I will have that backup already available as an option.

I used to be a member of the Association for Library Service to Children‘s Children and Technology Committee, so teaching best practices, or media mentorship, when it comes to technology use and children is something that is very important to me. Technology is not going away, so it is important that we teach our children how to be responsible technology users. If we shelter them from it, then they are going to make mistakes because they haven’t been taught what responsible usage looks like. If we want them to learn, we are going to need to show them that we are willing to learn as well. So the question is, where can we go to learn?

As a librarian, the archive of resources from Little eLit has been a valuable tool that I still use with my grad students. ITSE has great educator resources. The perfect blend for me of librarian and educator is following the Daring Librarian who is a middle school librarian. She posts great tips and resources for her PLN. Pinterest also has great resources like app reviews and how-to manuals. Twitter has Tweet Chats on various topics. Your library may also have resources like for learning how to navigate the various tools and platforms. I currently have learning about Instagram on my to-do-list.

The closing down of Wikispaces does bring one question to mind…we are posting all this great content. So how can we make sure that we are archiving or preserving it for the future if the place we posted it will no longer exist? Where do we go from here?



When did February happen?

I haven’t posted an update in almost a month, but I have been busy. I am currently halfway through the current quarter and trying to keep up with all my course work. In fact, I will have a post up later this week as part of an assignment for my Social Media course. It will be all about Personal Learning Networks.

I did have a post ready to go about how much I love the micro investing service Betterment, but then the Dow dropped 666 points and then over 1000 points. Not that I had a lot invested as it was, but I really was not liking the feeling of losing $20 in the a matter of a week. It is one thing for it to dip into my interest, but now it is dipping into the investment deposits. I am not liking this feeling, but with any type of investing, you need to be in it for the long haul as the market will have its ups and downs.

I do have good news! In fact lots of good news…the first one is that my dissertation proposal finally made it past my supervising professor and I am now waiting on committee feedback to see if I am really to defend the proposal. Once that happens, I will begin the field research stage of my doctoral dissertation process. Yay! One step closer to being Dr Jen.

The second piece of good news I have is that my husband has just launched a website called Life-ing 101 which will be a collection of life hacks, tips, and so much more about well… living. It is more than just adulting, it is about thriving. Stop by and check it out!

February is a short month, but I have plans…I hope to get some more recipes up and I am also working on a couple of review posts, my goal for the month is to read at least a book a week. Honestly, my to be read pile on my kindle of advance reader copies is getting kind of overwhelming. Make sure to check out the Recommendations tab for book and product suggestions.

Aldi Cheese Pizza Hack

So full disclosure that this is not an original idea, though my own topping idea. Why have I never thought of it before, I will never know though. It really is a bit like, duh!

Recently, I joined an Almost All Aldi group on Facebook for sharing recipes and tips. It is being run by a blogger I have been following called the Mashup Mom (seriously, if you live near an Aldi, follow her and join the Group!). A question was asked in the group a couple of weeks ago about the toppings that people put on their pre-made Aldi pizzas (I think the brand is called Mamma Cozi). These are huge pizzas and already come with a variety of toppings, but apparently people kick it up a notch by adding other stuff onto it. So I thought, why not?

Now this can also be done with any pre-made pizza, but in this scenario it is all Aldi. It was raining the day I picked up my groceries and my receipt did not survive, so I can’t remember how much the uncooked pizzas cost, but I can guarantee it was less that it costs to get delivery –which we do not have! Can you believe there is no pizza delivery in my area? I can get Domino’s and Papa John’s, but as an Italian blooded girl from Jersey, that is not real pizza. There are two places to pick up pizza, but it is expensive to get a large pie with toppings. It is cheaper and so much more convenient to have pizza on hand in the fridge or even the freezer.

As I mentioned, this is a huge pizza, so the first thing you need to do is cover your oven rack in aluminum foil because it is not going to fit on a baking sheet.

Next take your pizza out of the wrappings and place directly on the rack. Next, add your toppings. I started with a five cheese pizza and added Prosciutto pieces and extra cheese. (I was going to add pineapple because pineapple on pizza is awesome despite what some may think, but realized I didn’t actually have any in my pantry).

Then we cooked it according to the directions on the box, about 18 minutes.

Yum! Definitely trying this one again. This would also be fun to do with my son and his friends the next time they have a PS4 tournament. It is cheap enough to have multiple pies, though my oven certainly isn’t big enough to cook it all at once!

What are your go to pizza toppings? Comment below to share your favorite flavor combos.

**I also want to mention that if you ever see the big flat boxes of Mamma Cozi refrigerated pizza breadsticks with sauce, pick up a couple boxes! These taste just like Little Caesar’s Crazy Bread…Hey, not all things about the chain pizza companies are bad.

Sometimes You Have an Instant Pot Winner

So my pasta dinner in the Instant Pot might have been a fail, but my Beef Stew was an insta[pot] success!

This was so good, I forget to take a picture, this is my second helping (I skipped lunch).



  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 lb beef stew meat
  • sea salt (to taste)
  • pepper (to taste)
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 1 16oz can diced tomatoes, do not drain
  • 1 packet Lipton Onion Soup Mix
  • 1 Bay lead
  • 1/4 tsp thyme
  • 1/4 tsp rosemary
  • 1 cup diced carrot
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 4-5 small potatoes, cubed
  • 1/4 cup mashed potatoes


1. In the Instant Pot, set on Sauté onion and garlic with olive oil. Cook until onions start to turn translucent.

2. Add beef stew meat, season with salt and pepper first.

3. Add beef broth.

4. Add tomatoes

5. Add packet Lipton Onion Soup Mix.

6. Add bay leaf, thyme, and rosemary.

7. Add carrot, potatoes, and celery.

8. Stir and place the lid on the Instant Pot. Set on Meat/Stew on High for 20 minutes. Make sure vent is closed.

9. Let NPR for 15 min.

10. To thicken, stir in instant mashed potato flakes.

If you have ever had the Beef Stew at Cracker Barrel, this is very similar. The tomatoes break down and the onions disintegrate into the sauce. The potatoes breaking down will make the sauce thicker, but I help things along by adding the mashed potatoes. It tastes better than adding flour or cornstarch.

We ate this served over egg noodles. Because I used the last of my beef bouillon (which meant basically dumping in the remainder of my jar) and added the soup mix, this was a little salty, but it was so good. I have brought the leftovers to lunch at work all week. Perfect for the chilly office!