What is a PLN?

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These were my thoughts exactly ‘what is a PLN and what does it have to do with connected learning?’ when I first encounter the term.
The acronym PLN may stand for many terms – personal learning network, professional learning network or as Terrell (2010) likes to call it a ‘passionate learning network’. Whichever terminology you choose to use the concept is the same. A PLN at it’s most basic is a group of people (network) that you choose to engage with in order to share ideas and learn from each other (Digitalang, 2012). However, it is also more than that, it is a support group who will challenge your thinking and provide you with new ideas and act as a sounding board for your own ideas. Through PLNs more can be achieved than could be by the individual (DPG plc, 2015). As the network is usually global thanks to the advent of digital technology there may be people in your group from various backgrounds and professions that you may never meet.

To be part of a PLN you need to have qualities of being willing to learn, share, have an open mind to different opinions and ideas and contribute (Digitalang, 2012).

LaGarde & Whitehead (2012) outline 4 basic stages in using a PLN:

  1. Consume – observe and collect new ideas
  2. Connect – comment, ask questions
  3. Create – recreate ideas and apply to your own practise
  4. Contribute – share your ideas, practise and resources

But where can you find people for your PLN? – online is best. Way (2012) lists several places, which include:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Nings
  • Google+
  • Diigo

Other useful ways to connect with others are by reading blogs, listening to podcasts, attending webinars and being active on forums.

I find the idea/concept of PLNs both interesting and challenging at this stage in my connected networking path. Interesting because the potential for personal growth is huge but also the ability to use global networking in the classroom is amazing. As Tolisano (2014) demonstrates the benefits your PLN can range from crowdsourcing for authentic data (slide 66) to bringing in experts from outside the school (slide 56).
Challenging, because at the moment on the participation scale of connected learning according to Jenkins I am a lurker. I am unsure of the worthiness of my ideas and reluctant to contribute, which is quite characteristic of a lurker. As I begin to establish a PLN and reach out through the use of technology such as following twitter accounts and blogging I am becoming a more confident connected learner.

As an update my PLN has helped deliver to me ideas for professional enhancement, such as :

  • Using Bloom’s taxonomy for reflective thinking
  • Preparing for future class requirements
  • Infographics summarising research on digital natives
  • Evernote
  • Pearltrees
  • Pocket
  • Curation

Where are you in your PLN path? How do you use your PLN? Have you taken PLN ideas or benefits of your PLN into your workplace?



Digitalang (2012, February 21). How to build your PLN (Personal Learning Network) [online video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A667plNCzwA&feature=youtu.be

DPG plc (2015, November 23). What is a Personal Learning Network and why build one? [online video]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/IRHah3KPDYE

LaGarde, J. & Whitehead, T. (2012). Power up your professional learning. Knowledge Quest, 41(2), 8-13. Retrieved from https://knowledgequest.aasl.org/

Rheingold, H., & Weeks, A. (2012). Participation power. In Net smart: How to thrive online (pp. 111-145). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Terrell, S. (2010). Shelly Terrell: Global Netweaver, Curator, Passionate Learning Network (PLN) Builder [online video]. Retrieved from: http://vimeo.com/15880455

Tolisano, S. (2014). The globally connected educator – Beyond plugging in, towards global pedagogy [online slideshow]. Retrieved from https://www.slideshare.net/langwitches/the-globally-connected-educator-beyond-plugging-in-towards-global-pedagogy

Way, J. (2012). Developing a personal learning network for fast and free professional learning. Access, 26(1), 16-19. Retrieved from https://asla-org-au.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/access

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