Personal Learning Networks 101

For most of the summer I have been working on a book with Bill Ferriter and Jason Ramsden entitled Essentials for Principals: Social Media.  The book will be published by Solution Tree Press.  As I was working on the professional development section the other day I delved into the topic of Personal Learning Networks (PLN’s).  Now I fully realize that the majority of educators immersed in social media understand the importance of a PLN and how to establish one.  Well, this post is not for you, but instead for a teacher or administrator that you work with that needs either a a little push to set one up or further explanation on it’s value.

The concept of a PLN has been around for a very long time.  PLN’s back in the day consisted of individuals with the same professional interests engaging in mostly face to face communication. Fast forward a good amount of years and enter the internet.  No one can argue that the evolution of the real-time web has dramatically altered how we communicate, gather information, and reflect.  The construction of a PLN enables educators to harness the power inherent in 21st Century technologies in order to create a professional growth tool that is accessible whenever, wherever.  In particular, my PLN provides me with a constant supply of resources, thought-provoking discussions, knowledge, leadership strategies, and ways to successfully integrate technology.

Most educators I talk to have no idea where to begin when attempting to create a PLN that meets their teaching and learning needs.  The vast majority don’t even possess a working knowledge of basic web 2.0 tools and how they can be utilized for teaching and learning.  The following list provides some good PLN starting points and resources to assist any educator looking to take their professional growth to new levels:

  • Twitter: Microblogging platform that allows educators from all corners of the globe to communicate in 140 characters or less.  Allows for the sharing of resources, discussion of best practices, and collaboration. For more information on Twitter check out this video.
  • LinkedIn: Professional networking site that allows educators to connect, exchange ideas, and find opportunities. Educators can join a variety of groups that cater to their individual learning interests and engage in discussions as well as submit, read, and comment on articles. For more information on LinkedIn check out this video.
  • Blogs: Incredible sources of information that allow educators to reflect, share opinions, and discuss various topics. This is a common medium to discover best practices, examples of innovation, and learn from professional experiences of both novice and veteran educators. Common blogging applications include Blogger, WordPress, and TypePad. For more information on blogs check out this video.
  • RSS Readers: RSS stands for “Real Simple Syndication”. An RSS reader is a tool that allows you to keep up with educational blogs, news, wikis, and podcasts all in one convenient location. By subscribing to various RSS feeds educators then have a customized flow of information that is continually updated and accessible through the use of mobile devices or the internet. Educators can even create their own RSS feeds! Popular RSS readers include Google Reader and RSSOwl. For more information on RSS check out this video.
  • Wikis: Collaborative websites that allow registered users the ability to create and edit any number of interlinked web pages. Wikis encourage information sharing and collaborative learning. Educators can view and join some exemplary wiki models at Educational Wikis and Wikis in Education. For more information on wikis check out this video.
  • Digital Discussion Forums: Consist of communities of educators interested in similar topics. One of the most popular sites is called Ning where educators can create or join specific communities. Ning sites offer a range of learning and growth options such as discussion forums, event postings, messaging, news articles, chat features, groups, and videos. Popular educational Ning sites include The Educator’s PLN, Classroom 2.0, English Companion Ning, and Ning in Education. Another fantastic digital discussion forum is ASCD Edge (you must be a member of ASCD to join).
  • Social Bookmarking: Method for storing, organizing, and sharing bookmarks online. Popular sites such as Delicious and Diigo allow you to add descriptions as well as categorize each site using tags. Educators can even join groups and receive email updates when new bookmarks are added. For more information on social bookmarking check out this video.
  • Facebook: Social networking site that not only allows people to keep up with family and friends, but also to connect and engage with professionals. The Facebook in Education page provides information on how educators can best use Facebook as a resource. Other groups worth following in order to strengthen a PLN include Edutopia and #EdChat. Each customizable page or group provides a variety of learning opportunities and growth options for educators.

For more information on PLN’s check out this fantastic video! Share this post and help a colleague develop their PLN today!


  1. FRED Bedard said:

    You are so cool! I don’t think I’ve truly read anything like this before. So good to find someone with genuine thoughts on this topic. Really.. thanks for starting this up. This site is something that’s needed on the web, someone with a little originality!
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