Sunday, June 16, 2013


blog last updated October 8, 2015
Welcome to PLN 2 GO a self-help starter for creating your Personal Learning Network (PLN). This blog is intended for people who want some help and assistance with finding out about PLNs. I will purposefully go slow, take it easy and try to give suggestions and tips that will get you thinking and encourage you to have a little fun. I will figuratively hold your hand and go over the ABCs of getting started formally compiling a PLN. Lets start with giving a bit of consideration to the whys and wherefores of PLNs

The PREZI is not a "how-to" but simply an opportunity to think about what a PLN is and where you might draw your ideas from

Consider the power of networks . . . are networks universal structures? Check out Manuel Lima's talk, The Power of Networks   

Social Capital and PLNs: Discovering, Building and Cultivating Networks of Learners

This discussion is part of connected courses. I recommend that you spend a little time looking around the connected courses site!

A useful article re:creating a PLN is Chuck Frey's, How to cultivate a personal learning network: Tips from Howard Rheingold.

Your (email) Personal Network

We all have a personal learning network. Take a few minutes to consider the network that is illustrated by your email. 
  • Who are the people in your contact list? 
  • Who do you correspond with? 
  • With what frequency? 
  • Which contacts share common traits? 
  • Which contacts know each other? 
  • Think about your learning in relationship to your email activities.
If you have a gmail account take a moment to look at a visual representation of your gmail account network by visiting


What is Your Passion?

Brainstorm, make a list, a drawing, a video or a mindmap and identify your areas of interest and expertise! Find the Twitter handles of others who share your passion and start by following several people - when you are comfortable move from sampling others' posts to sharing (see below for further Twitter suggestions)                                                    

Charles Leadbeater video
You are what you share. . . what do you think?

Exercise Your Lifelong Learning Muscle

Take a course, online or in person. Meet others who share your interests and make a point of connecting with them. Personal Learning Networks include those you see day-to-day, those you meet at a workshop or other professional development opportunities as well as those you connect with online. You might have consulted YouTube for an answer to a pressing question. Did the person who posted that brilliant response post anything else, provide a Twitter handle, a link to a blog? Have you Googled their name? 

Organizing your PLN

I do not "organize" my relationships although I do nurture them. My PLN is organic and constantly shifting to meet my needs, expand my interests, share, reach out. My PLN consists of relationships. I have found that I am better off spending time reflecting or writing in my blog (I blog in several places including Thinking Out Loud and eXPLRing Personal Learning Networks) than spending time documenting my PLN. But I hope you realize by now that each person creates and maintains their PLN in their own way.

If you are feeling adventurous you might consider organizing your PLN within a mind-mapping application. Check for suggestions and reviews of mind-mapping tools.

You Want Books? I've Got Books!

If you are a book person . . . this should be a real treat. I have started a collection of books related to Personal Learning Networks at Librarything.

When you are reading a book or an article and you come to a great line or an idea that has resonance for you - Tweet about it and include the authors Twitter handle (follow the author as well). Chances are you will get a response and it may well lead you to connecting with other people who are interested in the same things you are. 

A Little Birdie Told Me So

Do you remember the saying, "a little birdie told me so!" - well now you get to put it to the test. 

Twitter is how you stay current & it is an easy way to contribute to your network!

There are a wide array of digital tools available to chose from to assist you in creating and maintaining your PLN but I think Twitter is essential!

It is like having your own private newsfeed tailored to your areas of interest and concern. 

Teachers Guide to Starting on Twitter - simple, direct, good guide to starting on twitter.

Three Things You Should Know About Twitter (thx to Steve Wheeler)

Click HERE for instructions on setting up and using a twitter account

To expand your view of what Twitter is and is not, and what it can potentially become check out Rita J. King's article,
How Twitter is Reshaping the Future of Storytelling 

An overview of Twitter by Alec Couros (aimed at teachers but relevant for anyone thinking about their PLN)

A little more Twitter instruction for those who want to dive deep.

Twitterchats are a synchronous way of connecting, creating and sharing! Sue Beckingham has a very comprehensive blog posting, Why is it useful for educators to participate in a Tweet chat, that is well worth reading!

Blogs and Blogging

I admit that this is a late addition to my PLN "how-to" because I was slow to figure this piece out, however, I discovered it is a very important element. The first part, the blog part, it easy and fun. Find several blogs that you enjoy reading! Yup, it is that simple. You might stumble across them by accident, find a recommended list, discover them through a professional development opportunity, as references in an article, book or academic paper, or find them by following a Twitter link. If you find one that interests you, I would recommend you:

  • read several other posts from the same blog . . . and if you are still enamoured 
  • bookmark it
  • tweet out to others and let them know you have found something worthwhile (if you need to shorten the link for Twitter or simply to keep track of your own links in a way that you can access them from anywhere I recommend
  • comment on the posting (This is very important as creating a dialogue is one of the joys of web 2.0. The author or others may start interacting with you) I am moving towards thinking that commenting on other people's blog is critically important and one of the best ways to develop a  PLN! If someone comments on your blog . . . respond. Write a comment in response AND see if they have a blog and go visiting!
Blogging - means you blogging. You need to share. Why? 
  • you become part of a conversation
  • your views are important and the very act of writing them down will help you clarify and solidify your thinking
  • others may engage with you through comments (these are people who are interested in the same things you are an they may contribute a great deal to your thinking).
  • After you have written your blog post - let other know!! Tweet about it, link to it in the comments you leave in other people's post. Don't be shy but also don't be obnoxious, assume that other people with similar interests will appreciate being informed. 
Blogging a good way of interacting with and expanding your PLN. Blog as dialogue.

For instructions on how to set up a blog on the two most popular platforms (Blogger and Wordpress) watch the following clip.

Avoid being Overwhelmed!

You are now mindful of the fact that;

  • you do indeed have a PLN 
  • consciously tending to your PLN is a valuable professional practice 
  • there are books to assist you (should you desire)
  • a Twitter account is essential, so set one up to reflect your interests 
  • things can feel like they are speeding up and if you are not sure you can keep up - there are simple measures you can take
Firstly, remember that you make the choices regarding your PLN, it does not direct you. PLNs are fluid, they contract and expand as energy permits. When you think fluid, think water. You may often skim the surface but when time, inclination and interest trigger the need to dive deep  . . .  it is all there for you! Figure out what is FLOW and what is CAPTURE for you. In addition to flow and capture I would stress that you need to reflect and contextualize.

Take a minute to consider how much more time you would have if you quit email! Sound outrageous? Well, email is old think in a new world, it swallows up our time and contributes to feeling overwhelmed (want to think about this some more? I wrote a blog post, Quit Email, Embrace Open Leadership)

Most people don't read all their tweets. There will likely be considerable overlap of interest and information amongst all the people you follow. If something is REALLY important in your field it will likely surface several times from different sources. Pay attention to overlapping info! By the same measure, if you miss something important, or don't pay attention for several days . . . the important pieces are likely to pop up again. Don't sweat it. If it still seems to be too much parse the number of people you are following on Twitter - you pick.

"I added and subtracted voices from my attention network, listened and followed, then commented and opened conversations."                                                           - Howard Rheingold commenting on PLNs 

notice Rheingold refers to his 'attention network' - set your PLN up so that it is effective when you are able to pay attention to it!

Understanding that tools are intended to assist and that you make choices on what tools to use and when to use them is part of keeping everything sane. You need to Mind the Technology!

Meet a MOOC

MOOC is an acronym for Massive Open Online Course. (click here to see my blog post on My Take on the Term MOOC) There are a variety of MOOCs available but the two types that I am familiar with are cMOOCs and xMOOCs.

cMOOC is the term used for a connectivist MOOC that is characterized by a network or decentralized structure where the participants both locate and provide the content. The focus is on open and connected learning. The initiators act as host/facilitators of the process, providing feedback and encouragement (as do participants) as well as a "mechanism for linking participants and resources to each other: (Downes 2013). A cMOOC is designed as an outline rather than a package and is built by participants creating a network of links to each other, to artifacts and to resources. Artifacts are often developed through reflexive practices and/or interaction with each other.

Inevitably if you participate in a cMOOC you will expand your PLN!

How do you find a cMOOC? For starters I would suggest checking any or all of the following Twitter hashtags: #etmooc, #ds106, #msloc430, #xplrpln, #moocmooc, #ccourses, #oclmooc, #rhizo14. Or go straight to ds106.

xMOOCs tend to conform to a more traditional instructor/student format and are usually polished multimedia productions put on by a large university of group of universities. The big players in xMOOCs are Udacity, Coursera and edX.


"Filters no longer filter out. They filter forward, bringing their results to the front. What doesn't make it through a filter is still visible and available in the background."        - David Weinburger, Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge

The other 'trick' to sharpen the focus of your PLN is to use alerts. Alerts allow you to select key words and then have the Internet go to work for you. I use Google Alert to deliver current information regarding 'personal learning networks' (and several other categories) to my email on a daily basis. For the ABCs on Google Alerts, click HERE

And Now for Something Completely Different

All work and no play makes Jack and Jill dull. If all your information is concentrated on a few narrow areas of interest you are limiting yourself. Take a page from nature's book, think cross-pollination or increasing the gene pool.
Look at, think about or read something new and different. This should expand your creative potential.

One of my favourite digital resources for broadening my horizons is, StumbleUpon. Stumbleupon is  a 'discovery engine'. It recommends websites to you, you rate the sites it shows you and it continues to find sites that you might never have discovered by any other method.    


When I first started to gather materials for my PLN I started to collect great sites like they were going out of style. Pretty soon I fell prey to hoarder's syndrome - too much of everything and hard to find what I wanted when I wanted it! I had to slow down on the rampant collecting, allow some ponder time, be much more mindful, make a few notes and decide what really worked for me, how I was going to use it and add to it - in other words I had to start curating. What is curation? Check out Carrie Morgan's piece on curation

"Well-executed content curation isn't just a regurgitation of content that was already published but rather a personalized retelling of a story" - Susan Gunelius

Think carefully about what you pay attention to,how you will add to it and share it. Then start curatingFor a good read regarding curation check out, Curate Content Like You Mean It!: A Guide to Engaging Content Curation

another link with tips for PLNs (many similar to the ones listed above) can be found at Getting Smart

The Next Move is All Yours

The Internet abounds with suggestions of how to use a vast array of digital tools associated with PLNs.  Remember to make your PLN reflect you, your interest and your personality (and then, for the sake of diversity, add in at least a bit of random, completely different from your usual, sources). 

Check through the top 100 listed below to get a sense of the variety (& the names) of tools you could use.

Top 100 Tools for Learning 2014 from Jane Hart

It is well worth putting in the time to create a vibrant PLN. Remember to connect with and share your findings with your mentor - it may be one way of you giving something back to your mentor - a little lagnaippe (look it up!)

It's all about you

Sounds a little like "The Next Move is All Yours" and infact it is. Having a PLN is an iterative process. You are the learner! You are also in charge. Again, and again you have to ensure that your PLN is engaging for your purposes and that you participate in self-assessment and if necessary self-redemiation! thx @davecormier

More that just Your Calling Card

"Your PLN shouldn't become something like a business card; one that you only pull out and refer to when a professional connection is made. It should be flowing, meandering and always evolving - and something you nurture in order to keep active." - Brandon Hoover

contact me - let me know

I welcome feedback & suggestions
my twitter handle is @jmc3ualberta
I blog at

Instructors -you are welcome to use this page as a resource or to augment your instruction, however, I would appreciate you letting me know either through Twitter or in the comment section. Thanks

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