Monday, December 28, 2009

What's the Big Deal about PLN?

What's the Big Deal?

I was talking to a colleague recently who told me that they have been teaching now for over twenty years and that everything they could possibly need is filed somewhere that is easily accessible. We were discussing the importance of developing a PLN and networking with teachers around the world. Her question to me: "What is the big deal about PLN?" since I already have everything I need. She didn't quite understand the impact of what having access to great teachers around the globe can provide! Although she thinks she has everything she needs, she is living and teaching in the past. Her students, unfortunately, will not be given the same opportunities that other students will be given when a teacher provides access to the world!

What is a PLN?

Before getting deeper into why developing a PLN is so crucial, we must first understand what a PLN is. A PLN is a "Personal Learning Network." This is a place where people can collaborate together about a specific field of study, profession, or just about anything they choose to focus on together. My educator PLN had grown exponentially over the past week simply by seeking out great resources. My PLN, The educators PLN ( is a great place to start if you are looking for teachers who are striving to incorporate technology into their practice. I also have begun using twitter with the specific purpose of sharing resources and comments with other teachers around the globe.

I have found that a PLN provides more than just people to chat with on the same level as you. It gives an invaluable resource at your fingertips. If I have a question or if I am searching for something specific that I want to use in my class, I simply put it out to my PLN and I have access to thousands of people instantly. It is awesome! Also, I have the opportunity to share what I find to assist people daily. A PLN is a network where you concentrate on helping people in the same profession as you in order to help them become better at what they do. In return, you will find that these same people will be helping you every step of the way!

Why is it Crucial to set up a PLN?

With technology on the rise and information changing so quickly, we as teachers must adapt as well. A PLN provides a resource where we can get instant feedback in "Real Time" from people in the same profession as us. A PLN provides constant learning which in turn helps us to become better thinkers, more creative, and overall great at what we do. People without a PLN are very limited in their resources. Yes, they can "google" search just about anything, but imagine the time wasted using that simple tool alone. With a PLN you have thousands of people who can give you what you are seeking in many different ways... instantly! It is crucial in today's day and age to embrace this concept and understand that without a PLN we are limited in many areas, trapped in an old way of thinking, and not quite ready to move into the 21st century as teachers. A good teacher never stops learning and can adapt to the students they have. I think it is time for us as learners to adapt and be great!

How do I Set up a PLN?

A PLN is very simple to set up and there are many ways in which you can go about doing it! Here is a great video from one of my PLN teachers Shelley Terrell where she explains a simple approach to setting up your first PLN. Shelley is an avid tweeter as well and can be found giving out great information on twitter daily ( Another post by Shelley giving a simple explanation of what a PLN is can be found here, thanks Shelley! One last link on How to Build a PLN This is a good slide show that gives ideas and step by step instructions! Hope this helps!

Once you set up your PLN you will see how quickly it grows and how impacting it will be on your professional growth! I encourage EVERY person reading this blog to set one up immediately.

Where do I go from here?

Instead of going into great detail about where to get started I decided to simply list a few of the tools I use and I would LOVE for those of you with advanced PLN skills :) to comment and let me know what you are using as well!

Twitter: A great site when used properly (Don't worry about what the celebrities are doing! Instead worry about what those, with common goals as you, are doing!) Complete Guide To Twitter:

Delicious: A great training video, explains it all :)

Educators PLN: A networking site using NING to bring people together!

Blogspot: There are many other blog sites you can use as well! The key thing to using a blog is to find a niche, don't use it as a personal journal. Remember, a blog is about your readers not you! :)

Classroom 2.0: Another good NING networking site for educators interested in technology and the future of education!

Friendfeed: Similar to twitter and facebook but if used properly can be great! There is a good explanation video on the homepage (just click on the link)

Plurk: Post to multiple networks from one place, fewer users than twitter, and no third party clients.

Final Thought...

I have found that a PLN is like a family in a way... people who truly care about the same things you do and are looking to help make you better at what you are interested in and what you do...

You can follow me on Twitter as well here: cpoole27


  1. Thanks for the info about PLN's... very helpful to a newbie :)

    Also, I love the resources you've included about where to go to expand your network! One that I'd add to that list, however, would be Diigo! That's also a great way to share ideas with other people that have the same interests as you!!

  2. Thank you so much! I will def. add Diigo to the list as I look into it!

  3. Oh yes, I started with Diigo, then moved to NINGs, then to Twitter.

    I call my PLN "the colleagues that I wish I had across the hall." I LOVE that everyone is so supportive and positive. Everyone is there because they want to make his/her school a better place for the students. It's the teacher's lounge we dream about, not the one that we avoid.

  4. I am going to look more into both Diigo and NINGS to continue to network... I love the concept of having a teachers lounge that we do not avoid! I do not think I have been in my teachers lounge since I started teaching!

  5. Sorry -- but I am going to have to disagree just a bit.
    I don't believe, nor do I want, all teachers to feel that they are in the dark ages if they are NOT a part of a pln.
    For a variety of reasons, but mainly because, we cannot have a template of proper teachers that all must adhere too.
    Your friend is probably an excellent teacher and probably is always adding to that pile of stuff without even thinking.
    I think her students will be given excellent opportunities from an excellent teacher. Life experiences, educational experiences perhaps from someone who is not willing to play the PLN card just yet.
    If she is closed to new ideas, to learning, and to "tech" then I would tremble. But for now, she is being honest. And to be truthful, PLN's though helpful, might be shown to have disadvantages as well in future studies. So, lets please not dismiss her yet.

  6. Lynn,

    Thank you so much for your comment! I would never dismiss her :) I always try to help reluctant teachers to embrace technology... She just happens to be someone who does not believe in adhering to new ideas or new thoughts. Her view is "if it isn't broken than why fix it." I think there are a lot of excellent teachers who are not part of a PLN and have amazing creative ideas. I think those teachers would benefit from and give so much back to teaching if part of a PLN. Although there may be disadvantages to a PLN that may be found sometime, I feel that opening ideas and sharing the creativity we have as teachers with the world is something that can take education very far. Thank you so much for your disagreement however, it is always best when people see both sides of any discussion or view!

  7. I love this post! This is definitely a good starting point for those new to PLNs.

  8. Thank you Shawnette! I am glad it will be helpful and I hope people use it to begin their PLNs