Grow Your Own Learning Network

Session Description

Educators around the world have discovered the value of developing an online learning network of peers who share similar learning interests. Learn how they are developing these PLNs, explore the free online tools they are using, and start “growing your own” PLN in this session.


  • Develop understanding of what a global online PLN is and how it differs from and enhances a local network of professional peers.
  • Explore some tools used to "grow" and connect/learn/communicate with a PLN.
  • Begin or expand a PLN based on your individual professional interests for use in professional learning for the 2011-2012 school year and beyond.


What is a PLN? A basic definition for a Personal/Professional Learning Network (PLN) is "a network of peers from which we learn." Traditionally, this may be the members of our department on our campuses, other teachers on our campuses, and/or former colleagues at other schools with whom we maintain contact and share learning experiences. Web 2.0 allows us to expand this network beyond our immediate environment to include educators (and non educators) from across our regions, our states, our country, and around the world. Connect "across the hall" or "around the globe."

My PLN consists of educators all over the world from a wide variety of countries.

What tools are typically used to develop online, global PLNs?
  • Twitter
  • Blogs & RSS aggregators (like Google Reader)
  • Facebook
  • Plurk (like Twitter)
  • Ning (Classroom 2.0)
  • Google+ (new/emerging -- still in experimental stages)

-- Important to keep in mind that tools continue to emerge and change. Up until now, Twitter and blogs (following using an RSS aggregator like Google Reader) seem to have been around the longest and seem to be the most stable. Facebook also has been a fairly stable tool for quite a while, but is facing some potential competition with Google+. It is necessary to remain flexible and to know that the tools we use will eventually change -- some will disappear, others will evolve, some may become absorbed by others (see how Google and Facebook tend to purchase competitors or smaller niche tools and then absorb them into their own networks), and new tools will continue to emerge (example: Google+). Flexibility, adaptation, and expectation of "change" are essential traits/skills needed for the development and maintenance of a PLN.

All of the tools listed above are examples of online Social Networking -- the means by which we connect with and communicate with others online. We "self organize" online using Web 2.0 social networking websites and tools.

Each PLN is unique and personal to each individual. My PLN will not be the same as your PLN. We each control our own PLN by choosing who we connect with, when we connect, and how we connect.

Why create a PLN?


Who should you include in your PLN?

subject areas
professional interests
grades or levels
industries and other fields (business, marketing, science, politics, etc.)

Where do you start?

Blogs (use Google Reader to follow blog feeds)

Next steps:

How do you find PLN members?

Search Classroom 2.0 Ning
Search on Twitter


Join Classroom 2.0
- find "friends"

Join Twitter
- search for people to follow
- post tweets
- search on hashtags of interest

Helpful Twitter tools
Tweetdeck (download app onto computer and/or smartphone)
Hootsuite (web-based)

"Protecting tweets is like yelling from the mountaintop while wearing a muzzle." -- Jennifer Wagner (on Twitter)

Links & Resources

Classroom 2.0
Educator's PLN (another Ning community)

Articles & Blog Posts

Twitter evolving into a professional development tool
Kathy's Basket (on the use of RSS)


Google+ for Educators Livebinders Collection -
Google+ Cheat Sheet at Mashable -