How to get a grip on your Personal Learning Network (PLN)

I have been thinking a lot lately about the people who have influenced me in my learning and those who play a part in my learning now.  A lot of my learning takes place from a natural drive to find out new things.

untitled-11It has been through the advent of web 2.0 that I have been able to have access to the people in my field on a regular basis and my own growth has been exponential as a result. I regularly read blogs (though I have learned to limit the number), listen to some podcasts, Twitter, Second life and through online communities have come to know people as friends and collaborators whom I have never met face to face. I have many people I can call on to answer my questions, reflect back my thinking and to expose me to their explorations and ideas. Now I can walk the floors virtually and carry on conversations or just listen in on them to nudge my thoughts and point me to articles, new applications and exemplary student work.  Apart from that, I now have networks of friends and relatives who I had lost contact with!

web-2-0-starfishAt the Converge conference last week, Sue Waters talked about us having a Personal Learning Network  (PLN). A PLN is all about using web tools such as blogs, wiki, Twitter, Facebook to create connects with others which extend our learning, increases our reflection while enabling us to learn together as part of a global community. PLNs increase our opportunities to ask questions and receive help compared to our normal daily face-to-face interactions.

I know that teachers have limited time, but I also know that we want our students to be lifelong learners. I feel we have to model this and continue to learn ourselves.

So here are my questions

  • Who have been your mentors?
  • Who is part of your personal learning network (face to face or virtual)
  • How can you use the people in this group to expand your knowledge, share your ideas or create community?


Choose one new thing to learn this week.
Where are you going to go to learn it (real world or virtual?)
Who can help you?


  1. Start slowly and find mentor(s) to help you.
  2. Use the same username across tools
  3. Share as much as you take
  4. Ask as much as you answer
  5. Try new TOOLS before you decide they’re not worth the time
  6. Comment on other people’s blogs
  7. Life long learning is the key!

Here is a link to Sue Waters blog

Those of you who did the 23 Things program are off to a good start!

Social Learning is a very personal journey before it is social in any form



Filed under E-learning tips, Teaching and learning tips

9 responses to “How to get a grip on your Personal Learning Network (PLN)

  1. My list of mentors is really long and my personal learning network is very big; I’ve been lucky to have been supported and guided by so many.

    I use my PLN to challenge my ideas and thoughts — by doing this they increase my learning. Although sometimes they will take that learning off into weird territories e.g. now decided I want to know what flavor of chocolate is the top selling chocolate (surely it can’t be dark).

    My learning tends to be spontaneous based on what interesting facts I come across in my online journey. What I would like to learn more about is your 23 Things program.

    So what I would like to know is how is your 23 Things program going? What are you finding is working well? What isn’t? What would you improve? Off course I’m hoping I will learn this off you 🙂

    Catch you again on Twitter (promise I will be quieter on twitter this week).

  2. This is an excerpt from a discussion I posted on the ning for a PLP experience that a team from my school is participating in with Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Will Richardson. It summs up my initial experiences building my PLN. I obviously started with Sheryl and Will and some of the people in the PLP but it grew rapidly from there.

    “A side-conversation about Twitter developed towards the end of our Elluminate session on Thursday evening. During this chat I pointed out that between Twitter and Google Reader I find myself in a nearly constant state of epiphany. One of the most important changes for me during this PLP process has been my exploration of, and increasing membership in, online communities. It is not that I had anything against these activities; I just did not feel driven to participate. I have always done a lot of professional reading, workshopping and networking, just in a more traditional sense.

    While I am by no means an expert and still consider myself a novice I do feel inspired to share a few of my observations about my experiences:

    • I initially started using Twitter, Google Reader, Facebook, Blogger, etc. to learn more about the tools and their educational potential. While I have certainly learned how to use the tools and have incorporated them into my professional and personal lives the reality is that I am thinking and learning far more about education itself than I am about the tools.

    • At first the multiple tweets and reader ledes felt overwhelming and a little schizophrenic, until I realized that I do not have to read it all. I skim, see what pops out at me and pursue that thread. And I no longer worry about getting lost in the Internet maze – I just enjoy the ride.

    • The exposure to ideas, concepts and trends is amazing – thus the constant state of epiphany. I follow a link on Twitter which leads me to a blog posting, which takes me to a video, etc. And it’s not just the ideas but other people’s responses to ideas. Not only do I find support for my own crusades but I also read ideas that challenge me to look at things in other ways.

    • Time, or the lack thereof, is often cited as the excuse for not spending time online. What I have found is that using these tools is actually saving me time. While we all know that the Internet can be a tremendous time-sink, using a tool like Google Reader to manage RSS feeds and a quick scan of the day’s Twitter activity actually focuses my reading. (Of course I now have a growing pile of print journals on my windowsill, waiting to be read. Do I still need them? Is my professional reading too narrow now? Ugh, this is a topic to be evaluated later.)

    • The impact of connectivity is huge. This seems like an overstatement of the obvious but it is so true. I am loving the frequent interactions between my local and distant family and friends on Facebook. I am awed by the access to, and interaction with, a wide variety of practitioners and experts in fields that I am interested in. And I am not simply limited to those I know or have heard of but the ability to see who each of them are friending or following gives me access to even more people and ideas.

    • Online communities are very similar to live communities in that it is all about the relationships. Sure there are lots of random thoughts on Twitter and some of the comments on my sons’ Facebook walls are way TMI for a mother (luckily I do not shock easily) but there is also a lot of really good stuff being shared and built. That combination of idle chat and deep discussion is what helps us get to know each other as people, which makes us more comfortable expressing ourselves and risking active participation in the community. I am often in awe of the intelligence, insight and creativity of some of the people I follow. But when I read a Tweet about their grandchildren coming to visit, their trials with their dead washing machine or their deer mishaps (sorry Will) I am reminded that they are “regular people” too and I feel like maybe I do have something to add to the conversation.

    • The larger my online community becomes the smaller the Internet feels. It is no longer someone else’s network that I can spy on – it is mine too.

    I know I may be preaching to the choir here but to all those who are still hesitant to leap into the fray I would say – close your eyes and jump! You may be surprised by how much you stand to gain and how much you can offer.”

  3. jennywood

    @rbeaver, Thanks so much for sharing your experience with these tools. It can be a humbling experience to discover that your preconceived ideas of something are in fact not as you thought. it certainly does take a while to see the worthiness of Twitter.
    Your encouragement is helpful thankyou!

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