What is a Personal Learning Network?
A PLN (personal learning network, also sometimes referred to as a professional learning network) is a network of people and resources both online and offline with whom we interact to enrich our learning. As educators, the people we interact with in our PLNs are, generally, fellow educators and the purpose of our PLNs is to make us better teachers. The Internet, and social media in particular, has opened our PLNs to include many more people and resources and has created opportunities to “learn anytime, anywhere, with potentially anyone in the world who shares our passion or interest” (Richardson, 2011). Teachers can learn from this network, share their own thoughts or ideas, collaborate with others, and turn to their PLN for advice and support. Lisa Dabbs, a PLN expert, compares a PLN to a modern day teacher’s lounge where ideas can be shared, talked about, and transformed.
Who is in your PLN?
Your PLN might include teachers in your building, other teachers and specialists in your school district, and other educators you may have been introduced to in real life or online through social media connections. According to EdWeek, you can conceptualize the people in your PLN at three levels. At the heart of your PLN are those you consider friends and personal mentors with whom you interact often. Next, your PLN will include groups that share our interests but are not necessarily close friends. And finally, your PLN will include experts and professionals with whom you may not have much, if any, personal interaction but who you may still look up to and learn from.
Why use PLNs?
Unlike traditional learning environments, PLNs allow educators to completely personalize their training to their own learning goals by adapting their networks to provide exactly the information that’s needed at the time. Each teacher’s network is unique to them and can evolve and grow as their learning goals change. With thousands of teachers available to become part of a PLN, PLNs can expose us to different perspectives, experiences, and tools that could help spark new ideas or help us to solve problems. In their PLNs, teachers do not merely receive information from others, but they also are sharing and building relationships with other educators. These relationships create a system of support that helps to sustain change and growth.
How to develop your PLN?
Seek: Begin to develop and continue to grow your PLN by seeking out educators and resources. Some of the ways to do this include:
- Following other educators on Twitter. (Though PLNs are not limited to Twitter, it is by far the most commonly used social media platform for educators to use as part of their PLN.)
- Following education chats using educational hashtags.
- Following educational blogs.
- Following educators and educational boards on Pinterest.
- Subscribing to educational newsletters.
- Becoming part of a circle of connected educators on Google+.
Your PLN will continue to grow and evolve as you participate in it, find more educators or resources to follow, and as your learning goals evolve.
Sense: As you begin to use your PLN, you may just want to observe and use your PLN more as a one-way flow of information and ideas coming to you. At this level, you will be exposed to new ideas, strategies, and tools that you can put into practice in order to meet your goals.
Share: Once you are comfortable, you may want to share your resources, ideas, and experiences with your network and collaborate with other educators in your network.
- Richardson, Will, and Rob Mancabelli. Personal learning networks: Using the power of connections to transform education. Solution Tree Press, 2011.
- Why Build Personal Learning Networks
- Harold Jarche: The Seek, Sense, Share Framework
- What Are Personal Learning Networks?
- Edublogs Teacher Challenges: Building Your PLN