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Welcome to our professional learning series on building a PLN.

This series guides you step by step through the process of setting up your own PLN.

The aim of this first step is to:

  1. Explain what is a PLN.
  2. Help you understand why educators create their own PLN.

michaelThe following information on PLN was co-written by Michael Graffin, a relief/substitute teacher and blogger from Western Australia.

You can check out Michael’s original “What the heck is a PLN” post here.

What is a PLN?

The word “PLN” stands for “Personal Learning Network”, and it has its origins in connectivism theory (Siemens, G. & Downes, S., 2005).

Why you should begin your own PLN —Ashley Azzopardi (@ashleyazzopardi)
Why you should begin your own PLN —Ashley Azzopardi (@ashleyazzopardi)

Let’s take this a little further…

The Personal:
Having a PLN is about making connections and building personal relationships with teachers, school administrators, university professors, and experts around the world. No matter where you are in the world, there’s always someone online available to answer questions, share their expertise, and simply chat about what’s happening in their lives and classrooms.

The Learning:
Having a PLN is about sharing ideas and resources, collaboration, and learning. We may share our learning, ideas and expertise in different ways; using different media and tools, but the essence is the same: the PLN is simply the best professional development you will ever participate in – and it’s available 24/7.

The Network:
The defining feature of the PLN is that it is a global learning network, enabling people to tap into and share diverse, global perspectives on teaching strategies, educational issues, and technologies. If takes time and effort to build these connections, but it’s well worth the effort.

What is a PLN Video

Watch this video to learn more about what is a PLN.

Why create a PLN

“From little things, big things grow”

I’m a fairly new teacher, and a relative newcomer to the online education community. When I become an active social-media Twitter user, one of the first questions I asked myself was “What is a PLN?”

Within six months later, I realised that developing a Personal Learning Network is an empowering, transformational process, which fundamentally transforms your professional learning and teaching approach. And my experience is hardly unique

Real People, Real Teachers – Why we have a PLN

Being a connected educator

A connected educator is a connected learner who collaborates online and uses a range of social media tools to build their own personal learning network to interact with other educators.

Watch the following video to learn more about being a connected educator.

Building your own PLN

Best of a PLN is it’s personal!

You make all the choices:

  1. What tools you use!
  2. Who you connect with!
  3. How you want to learn!
  4. When you want to learn!

The idea of this series is to guide you through the process of building your own PLN.

Remember as you work through the series we each have our own preference of what online tools works best for us and we’ve included the most popular tools for building a PLN to help get you started.


Your Task

Personal Learning Networks are all about sharing, collaborating, and learning from each-other. So here’s your chance to ask a question, comment, and get involved!

We’d like you to add your voice and ideas to our ongoing conversation about PLNs by undertaking one or more of these challenges:

  1. Watch What is a PLN video.  Leave a comment on this post to explain what a Personal learning network means to you.
  2. Check out Real People, Real Teachers: Why we have a PLN voicethread.  Leave a comment on this post to share what you learned from the Voicethread.
  3. Watch the connected educator video and leave a comment on this post to explain why it is important to be a connected educator and how a PLN can help you.
  4. Write a blog post to explain what you have learnt about Personal Learning Networks.  Leave a comment with a link to the post so we can have a look at how you went.

Also feel free to leave a comment to ask any questions or share your tips.


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  1. Basically a PLN is what you want to make of it and everyone has a different PLN based on needs or wants. Therefore, PLN are individualized networks that allows a person to choose what to follow, what to post, when to follow, and when to post. It also gives choice on who or what to follow.

  2. It’s pretty easy to grasp what a PLN is once you’ve been walked through it once or twice. It is a network influenced by multiple levels of people that helps to influence your own learning in one or more areas or fields such as mathematics teaching which I’m interested in. It is personal because it pertains to one’s own interests and is used when and how they wish to use it.

  3. The voicethread helped to further expand on the uses of PLNs by offering perspectives from educators around the world regarding their positive experiences with PLNs. Chances are, as a teacher, I am not the first person to try something, have a particular problem, or have a particular idea for a lesson. It is so much easier to be able to respond to student needs when horizons are sufficiently broadened so that a multitude of tools, approaches, and options are known. The best solution may not yet be known, and only through a PLN might it be gained. Do not limit oneself. Additionally, by broadening one’s horizons, the chances of finding like-minded thinkers increases, allowing for one to connect and better build enthusiasm for efforts and helping to strengthen and further tune one’s personal philosophy and approaches. Also, multiple perspectives can also be useful, to help better fine-tune methodology. Again, broadening one’s horizons to the degree a PLN allows may have many positive results.

  4. A PLN is a way to create groups of people or organizations to share ideas, tips, success, and failures. There are many tools that can be used to form PLNs, and individuals can personalize exactly who she wants to collaborate with and how she wants to do this. PLNs are great for networking, as you can meet other professionals in your field, and they are great for working through issues or for presenting new research. PLNs allow people who traditionally would not connect (due to various reasons) the opportunity to work together to develop best practices and become even better educators.

  5. Personal Learning Network (PLN) the group of people and organizations that you connect with in order to learn from their ideas, and potentially from each other. Various tools allow an individual to personalize how he/she wishes to do this. Ideally, people are all contributing to enhance the experience, but it is not necessary to contribute to benefit. The network piece is critical because the people you connect with are also, typically connected to others within the field, further expanding with whom you, hypothetically, are connected, and thus the available resources, encounters, potential for collaboration, etc.

  6. As an educator, I think being connected is important for me to gain perspective and learn from others around the world to provide opportunities for my students to open their minds to the world that exists around them too.

  7. To me, building a PLN means setting myself up for a number of situations that could be addressed through networking connections.

  8. Being a connected educator is hugely important for several reasons. We are always told to stay current, and having a PLN is one of the best ways to do so. Feeling stagnant or being busy is not uncommon for educators, so having our needs met via online sources checks both convenience and effectiveness boxes. PLNs can be so effective because of the varied perspectives and diverse individuals we are exposed to via the internet. These connected educators are passionate about their work and eager to share their ideas with others, and what better professional development is there?

  9. A personal learning network is a way for fresh and new ideas to make their ways into your brain and be in constant supply. I recently made a Twitter account solely dedicated to educational accounts, and these sorts of topics are the only ones that will show up on my feed! We can be in complete control of the ideas shared with us. You are what you do and consume, and having so many great thinkers and educators at your disposal with the swipe of a finger is fantastic. One almost can’t help but to think in different ways and improve at one’s craft.

  10. i found the concept of a PLN very provocative. I will begin today.

  11. Having a PLN is about sharing ideas and resources, collaboration, and learning.

    • Jordan Rollerson
  12. PLNs mean you are not alone! At any time, any place, you can find answers and solutions immediately. You can find support, which is fundamental to the success of all educators!

  13. I love the blogging world. I have met and connected with some amazing educators across the world through my blog. I believe my blog and other blogs are the reason I’m still in education and still am trying to grow and learn.

    • Fantastic to hear that, Tammy!

      • Kathleen Morris
  14. Becoming a connected educator is a way for teachers to understand the real life experiences of their students.

  15. a PLN is a professional learning network. This refers to the ways that we are professionally connected to learning that has to do with our interest. We can use this in the classroom by creating PLNs for students to engage with. We can use twitter to have students ask questions at home or we can use a blog to communicate with parents about student learning. We can also use Google classroom to communicate assignments and class updates.

    • Michael Yates
  16. Although Facebook was not mentioned in the video, I am part of a few education groups on Facebook that I have found extremely helpful over the past few years. I find this PLN to be really amazing as to how the amount of knowledge can be shared quickly with so many people because of social media.

    • Caroline Breeden
    • Great point, Caroline. I’ve definitely seen Facebook groups become more popular!

      • Kathleen Morris
  17. To me PLNs are such a great way to connect with other educators from different grade levels, subjects, philosophies, and backgrounds. I don’t have any experience with using Twitter to connect, however my teaching partner and I are part of a few Facebook groups and we are always using it to better our classrooms. I have gotten so many ideas and questions answered through these groups. I would definitely like to explore more ways to connect and look forward learning how!

    • Kayla Wilkinson
  18. While I am not new to the idea of a network of learning resources, I am new to the idea of a PLN. To me, a PLN is a world-wide community of educators that you can access for ideas, questions, and support. What stayed with me from the video was that if you are becoming stagnant, surround yourself with passionate teachers. A PLN would be the best way of doing so.

    • Nancy Roussel
    • I agree with you Nancy! I sometimes find myself getting stagnant, or having a hard time seeing something another away, and I’ve found some groups via Facebook who have really given me support, along with creative feedback that I had not thought of!

      • Caroline Breeden
  19. To me a PLN is an opportunity to connect with educators of different knowledge bases and experience levels to share ideas, ask questions, and just chat about our experiences. I am excited to begin building one for myself knowing that there is a whole wealth of information and experts for me to tap into.

    • Mary Beth Mulholland
  20. Having a PLN is a way to communicate and collaborate with educators outside of our own circle of friends and coworkers. It means we can talk to people of all different backgrounds to help us see things in a new perspective. We will gain from the experiences and wisdom of others in ways that we never would be able to without this connection.

  21. The connected educator video made me feel the desire to try to find avenues through technology to collaborate with my colleagues and bring knowledge from this class not just into my classroom but into my school community. I look forward to building a PLN and having new information to contribute to my department.

    • Sarah Groenwald
  22. To me a PLN is an opportunity to get off of an island and use technology to find other people in my field to bounce ideas off of.

  23. Teaching middle school science, I am always looking for new ways to address difficult concepts in a meaningful and approachable manner. I enjoy bouncing ideas off of other people and developing lessons. Using a PLN would enhance this and broaden my perspective on techniques and methods to use in my own classroom. It seems a logical transition in the 21st century.

  24. I watched the connected educators video and it helped me change my idea of not having twitter. I was not aware that you could follow groups of PLN’s on twitter and get access to other educators who could assist me. I do follow a few groups on facebook but it’s nice to know that there are other places that I can go to and also be welcomed and assisted.

    • Dianna Barnett
  25. I like the idea of a PLN, especially for new teachers. It is a place where there is an abundance of answers to questions they might not have come up with yet as well as answers to questions they now have. It is a great place for others to share information too. As the only business teacher in our district, through a PLN, I can can get ideas to improve the learning environment in my classroom.

    • Mike Henderson
  26. To me, a PLN is a community of educators that you build around yourself so that you have a wider range of resources and people to learn from and share ideas with. Working in a middle school that uses a team structure, it makes a lot of sense to me to utilize technology to increase the amount of passionate educators in my learning network so that I can learn more and enhance my teaching.

  27. The Connected Educator video gave me the motivation to want to use my Twitter account more often. I think that being a connected educator will give me the opportunity to connect to people and places that I may never meet or see. It may give me the chance to learn from someone that I will never meet. Also, it may give me more confidence that the things I am doing in my classroom are going well and ideas for when things are not going so well.

    • Karissa Fetter
    • Hope to see you on Twitter, Karissa!

      • Kathleen Morris