Personal Learning Networks

My Personal Learning Networks (PLNs)

neuron network with social media icons

Hyacinth Steele Personal Learning Networking created by H.Steele, 2016


Web 2.0 has redefined what it means to learn online. Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) provide ways of creating and connecting to social networks and communities of practice to share information, learn new skills and knowledge and co-create beyond formal, organised courses offered by institutions. Learning is an open, online conversation situated within communities of practice created by and for learners.

Siemens (2004) proposed some significant trends in learning:

  • Many learners will move into a variety of different, possibly unrelated fields over the course of their lifetime.
  • Informal learning is a significant aspect of our learning experience. Formal education no longer comprises the majority of our learning. Learning now occurs in a variety of ways – through communities of practice, personal networks, and through completion of work-related tasks.
  • Learning is a continual process, lasting for a lifetime. Learning and work related activities are no longer separate. In many situations, they are the same.
  • Technology is altering (rewiring) our brains. The tools we use define and shape our thinking.
  • The organization and the individual are both learning organisms. Increased attention to knowledge management highlights the need for a theory that attempts to explain the link between individual and organizational learning.
  • Many of the processes previously handled by learning theories (especially in cognitive information processing) can now be off-loaded to, or supported by, technology.
  • Know-how and know-what is being supplemented with know-where (the understanding of where to find knowledge needed).

(Siemens, 2004,

Web 2.0 has connected me with educationalists, artists, graphic designers and fellow professionals in networks where I follow, share, like, ask questions and upload my work for peer review outside of formal study via vocational or higher education institutions. Informal learning is a significant part of my learning for personal and professional purposes.

Stages of Personal Learning Network Adoption

Jeff Utecht’s post on Stages of PLN adoption attempts to capture the emerging trends associated with the uptake of PLNs. The stages are:

  1. Stage 1 Immersion
  2. Stage 2 Evaluation
  3. Stage 3  Know it all
  4. Stage 4 Perspective
  5. Stage 5 Balance

According to Utecht’s stages, which he notes are not necessarily sequential for some adopters, I am stuck in Stage 3 Know it all. I spend every spare waking (and sometimes I think sleeping) hour I can immersing myself in two of my interests which also support my professional and volunteering activities- mixed media art and photography. Add into this mix my studies in the Master of Education (online) and my work as a learning designer for a University designing online courses, and there is only my sleeping hours when I am disconnected from the online world. I am on the cusp of Stage 4 Perspective and no where near Stage 5 Balance. I currently connect online in some way even when travelling via my iPhone. The thought of a week offline does not even register in my plans at this point. My husband is also stuck in Stage 3 so we blog and tweet and Facebook each other and our children as we sit beside each other.

Gaps in my PLNs

With reference to my PLN map, gaps exist in areas such as professional writing and publishing and connecting with communities of learning designers outside of my local networks (Queensland). I would also like to start my own blog documenting and sharing my experiences and lessons learnt as a designer.



Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Utecht, J. (2008). Stages of PLN adoption [Web log post]. Retrieved from



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