Sunday, October 12, 2008

5 Things You Can Do to Begin Developing Your Personal Learning Network

Many educators in successful schools are involved in their school's professional learning community and perhaps they even collaborate with other schools in the district, city, state, country or beyond, but Innovative Educators also have personal learning networks (PLNs) enabling them to connect with other learners around the globe. If you're new to this world, personal learning networks are created by an individual learner, specific to the learner’s needs extending relevant learning connections to like-interested people around the globe. PLNs provide individuals with learning and access to leaders and experts around the world bringing together communities, resources and information impossible to access solely from within school walls.

This 3:45 second clip from Will Richardson provides great insight into the importance of developing your PLN.

Personal Learning Networks are a terrific way to extend your knowledge and learning outside your classroom. I recommend Innovative Educators new to PLNs begin as a PLN consumer (1.0 skills) and grow into PLN producers (2.0 skills). Here is some advice to get started.

5 Ways to Begin Building Your Personal Learning Network 1.0
1-Join a professional social network. I belong to Classroom 2.0 (for educators using Web 2.0 technology) and EduBlogger World (for education bloggers) and I launched a social network called Transforming Ed for The 21st Century. I have found great value in each of them. I am also a member of Linked In but haven't found much value in that as an educator.

2-Pick 5 Blogs you find interesting and start reading them. In addition to my own blog, I follow weblogg-ed: learning with the read/write web, A Principal's Reflections, Practical Theory, The Brazen Careerist, Cool Cat Teacher, Ted Talks. You may want to look at some of these as well as find other Education Blogs or explore the listing of International Edubloggers.

3-Set up an iGoogle account and subscribe to the blogs you selected in Google Reader. Caution: Limit your reader to five to start. Keeping up with more blogs will be difficult.

4-Become a part of the conversation and start commenting on the blogs you read. I invite you to begin here! (If you're following closely you may note this is actually PLN 2.0 tip thrown in for those who are ready for a head start, and because I'd really love to get to know my readers through comments here).

5-Join the microblogging phenomena by reading Tweets at Twitter. Start by selecting 5 well-known Edubloggers to follow and watch all the great stuff they have to share. You'll learn a lot in minutes that fit into 140 character sound bytes. I'd recommend starting with willrich45 / Will Richardson, coolcatteacher / Vicki Davis, stevehargadon / Steve Hargadon, acarvin / Andy Carvin, penelopetrunk / Penelope Trunk, and because you can, why not follow BarackObama / Barack Obama. Just get ready because once people start following you, you may feel compelled to start engaging in exciting activities worth posting…in 140 characters or less.

So get to it and start building your learning network. Join a social network, subscribe to blogs, comment and Tweet. If you do, I promise you will learn a lot. Once you do, I encourage you to come back here and share your experience by leaving a comment.

Additional Reading (suggestions from the Philly Teacher blog)
'Creating a PLN' Wikispace
What is a PLN, Anyway? from Teaching Village (Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto)
How to Build a Personal Learning Network from Free Technology for Teachers (Richard Byrne)
Oh, the Adventures You'll Have if Only... from Teacher Reboot Camp (Shelly Terrell)
How to Become a Twitter Teacher in 23 Steps or less by Kapil Bhatia
Why You Should Start Tweeting by Jason Renshaw
How’s Your PLN? from the Ramblings of a Professional Learning Community blog.
Your PLN - A website designed to introduce the idea of what a PLN is and what it can bring to your professional life as an educator.

Tool for further investigation
Questler is an informal learning network with a focus on individuals' experiences and conversations as the information content from which personal and collective connections are created based on shared interests within diverse contexts. Each quest in Questler is a mini-blog, where text, links and multi-media files can be put around several types of an informal learning experience be it a query, a discovery, an observation, research, a story or media. Questlers can create their learning network from individuals they already know; as well as find others who share their same interests. Together they can use Questler's toolset to start conversations about various topics and thus engage in knowledge sharing.


  1. Simple guidelines are what teachers who are just beginning to use these tools need. Your post is great. I'll share it with teachers. Thanks.

  2. Thanks for the organized steps. I'm writing a post now for my teachers to encourage them to develop a PLN and found your post very helpful--actually almost exactly what I said except I'm following John McCain on Twitter.

  3. These are helpful guidelines. Thanks for pointing out the need to evolve from consumer to producer. I have learned over time that the vitality of my PLN absolutely depends on my willingness to contribute content -- such as this comment ;) -- as well as consume it.

  4. This was a very helpful post. I am new to the whole PLN idea. Your post will help the teachers in my district have a better understanding of what a PLN is, and how they can get started. Thank you.

  5. Nice post. I know it's a list of 5 things to do, but I can't help but add a 6th thing - become an active social bookmarker. I especially like Diigo - it's a great space to connect with like minded educators and share and compile resources in one place.

  6. @Alyssa ... great point!

    And Lisa, this is such a helpful post! Belated thanks for pulling this together. It's going right to the top of my page of resources on this topic.

  7. @Alyssa R. Thank you for that addition. I agree and encourage others to share ways they are building their PLNs. Soon enough it will be time to write "5 More Ways to Develop Your PLN."

  8. I am sharing this article with a team of educators, teacher librarians, district Curriculum, Instruction, Assessment director, and our Instructional Computer Resource Teachers. We are all at different places in our understanding about PLNs and this article is a great guide. We are also reading an article from Karl Fisch about PLNs. We have a goal to become reflective practitioners about what we do with innovative lessons in our teaching and learning. It's an exciting time to be in education!

  9. I am so glad to see that other bloggers leave their comments open. This is a great post and deserves some attention! Kudos to you for letting us still tell you how we appreciate the post!

  10. valuable information and excellent design you got here! I would like to thank you for sharing your thoughts and time into the stuff you post!! Thumbs up! Big thanks for the useful info


  11. logical presentation of tips to get started on a PLN-
    Thanks for sharing. You're definitely at the Creation stage of learning. I'm in the process of re-defining my 21st century PLN.

  12. I have been meaning to read this and just never got a chance. Its an issue that Im very interested in, I just started reading and Im glad I did. Youre a wonderful blogger, 1 of the most effective that Ive seen. This weblog undoubtedly has some facts on topic that I just wasnt aware of. Thanks for bringing this stuff to light.

  13. Did a google search for Personal Learning network and found you blog. Great tips as to formally get involved in one when reading I realized I already am in several. The analytical in my mind had to define it. Another great tip is to follow hash tags like #edchat or #elemchat which expands your reach of the PLN to more educators. Biggest tip I've found helpful is the old fashion pleases and thank yous, also retweet articles you enjoy. Great blog on PLN

  14. Great links for educators. I like the way you have accumulated all the information relavent to education. It was a great help in deciding how to organize my PLN. Thanks.

  15. As an educator new to P.L.N's this blog has proved to be extremely insightful and useful. Thank you for taking the time.

  16. I found your blog very helpful until the the suggestion to follow Barak Obama on Twitter. Education should not be political.

  17. Really @Traci Kohlrieser? You don't think knowing what our country's president is saying directly from his account has a place in education? in light of the fact that one of the reasons we want an educated populous is so they can be informed voters, that thinking is quite dangerous

  18. I couldn't care less about what the president is saying directly from his account. I agree with Traci K.....keep your politics to yourself. Stick with the subject of education.

    1. @Wooleyb,
      Sharing that students can follow our nation's president, has nothing to do with "my politics."

      Perhaps you could care less about what the president says, but this is a blog for innovative educators and this is indeed relevant to educators who teach social studies and/or current events.

  19. Well, amazing that this original article is 5 years old and I just found it--through an Ed Tech class for educators/administrators. Also amazed that the PLN (in this tech. iteration) is at least 5 years old. Thank you for your clarity and for making the PLN idea seem doable--now I'm off to do it!

  20. Thanks so much for the terrific article. I am building an online course for our teachers about Personal/Professional Learning Networks and your suggestions are right on target with my plans. I think it is amazing that you wrote this 5 years ago! Come on Teachers! Lets get this thing going!!! And Lisa, I also see the value in having our students informed about real time current events. I would hope that we would all be willing to follow a number of leaders in the world to know what is going on!