What is a PLN and why do I need one?

Martha Thornburgh and I are presenting “What is a PLN and why do I need one” at the upcoming NCCE 2010 conference in Seattle.  We are fleshing out some of our ideas for our session so I thought I would blog some of our ideas.

A PLN is a Personal Learning Network.  A PLN is a reciprocal network that you create to learn from, connect with, gather information or resources, create with and finally share what you have learned.  A PLN can occur in your school, face-to-face, online, at conferences or through reading, reflecting and sharing.

The benefits of having a PLN?

Teaching can be a very isolating profession.  Having a PLN allows you to connect and share with other educators in your subject area.  Think of the Verizon network commercials … your network is always there support you, answering questions, inspiring you and encouraging your own learning.

It can take time to build up an active PLN – so don’t get discouraged.  It takes time to build community – but once its established – you can benefit from the sharing.

Our session plan is explain how to develop a PLN and then share various tools that can make that happen.  We are planning to share Twitter, Blogs, Social Networks, Webinars, and Collaborative Projects.  Here’s some notes about our first tool:  Microblogging (stay tuned for more posts).

Microblogging: Twitter/Plurk

“Twitter is the water cooler of the Internet”
~Neil Chambers


Twitter http://twitter.com/ is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent messages.  People write short updates, often called “tweets”  of 140 characters or fewer.  These messages are posted to your profile or your blog, sent to your followers, and are searchable on Twitter search.

Plurk is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that allows users to send updates (otherwise known as plurks) through short messages or links, which can be up to 140 text characters in length.


  • Be active.
  • Find other educators in your subject area to follow by following  the followers of edtech leaders or use Educator listings, such as http://twitter4teachers.pbworks.com/ (and skip the celebrities!)
  • Response to tweets using @username or use a #hashtag for specific topics
  • Use ReTweet (RT) to repost your favorite tweets.
  • Use third party tools to manage Twitter
    • Tweetdeck – A desktop application that organizes your tweets into groups, lists, or by #hastag.
    • Twubs- Twitter groups built around #hashtags


  • You can get immediate response to your questions or requests for help.
  • There is an active educator community online who love to share resources and ideas.
  • The RT feature furthers the sharing of ideas & resources that users find valuable or insightful
  • Has great search http://search.twitter.com/
  • Plurk keeps threaded conversations


  • Hard to use effectively when you don’t have many followers
  • You miss tweets when you aren’t online.
  • Addicting:  Can be distracting to tweet when you should be doing other computer work
  • A lot of companies are now using Twitter for gimmicky contests or spamming their followers.


  • Dennis Grice posted a Google form to Twitter and Plurk asking his PLN to answer the question “What did you have for breakfast” after reading “George Washington’s Breakfast” with his 3rd graders.  He received responses from all over the world and posted the results in a Google Map.  More info …
  • Every Tuesday, a group of educators hold #edchat on Twitter and discuss the topic for the week.


We know this isn’t an all inclusive review of Twitter and a PLN – but would love your thoughts, ideas or examples of best practices.

6 Replies to “What is a PLN and why do I need one?”

  1. Wonderful post on PLNs! I recently gave a presentation at East Bay CUE on the same topic. I started a wiki to share with the folks I was working with and am continuing to add to it (I just added a link to this post!)

    I wish I would have seen your post before I gave my presentation. It would have helped me focus more, I think. Alas, one cannot yet travel back in time.

    Anyway, here’s the wiki I created, perhaps there’s something here you can use:


    Good luck with your presentation!
    .-= Karen McMillan´s last blog ..Valentine’s Day =-.

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