On the Origins of a Personal Learning Network

flickr photo shared by Cea. under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

Note: This post is an extended reflection from the EdTech Team’s Teacher Leader Certification Program. I am participating in the initial cohort.

General Thoughts

Early in my teaching career, I was fortunate enough to get involved in with the National Writing Project. Becoming part of that network of K-U educators, kind of kickstarted the development of my own personal learning network as an educator on a digital front. Of course, I “followed” other educators prior to attending a summer institute, but NWP influenced me in countless ways, leading to a number of unanticipated branches and interesting additions to my PLN.

Apart from that, I have been cultivating my PLN through all my other experiences, both analog and online. I still use a few different RSS readers, following a fair amount of blogs, as well as Twitter and other social media tools. I even subscribe to a fair number of old-time email newsletters. In fact, I have been thinking I may produce one myself.

On the sharing front, I still have this personal blog, although I do not update it often enough. There was a time when I was on a genuine tear and posting every day. Then changes at work took time away from that endeavor for awhile and I have never completely recovered to that level of production.

As it is, I write regularly about edtech related items for HPS Digital, a work-related endeavor.

Currently, I share most items I am reading or grab my interest on Twitter. I still occasionally add items to my Flipboard magazine, but that was highly tied to my more productive blogging period.

I am always kind of tweaking my workflow around how to share with greater ease. It is a perpetual project.

Value & Benefits

A good, well-tended PLN can proved immeasurable value. On a basic level, a PLN offers a highly effective filter. There is so much content generated on a daily basis that it can easily overwhelm anyone.

Cultivating a strong PLN is the first level of defense from becoming overwhelmed. Since no one can drink from a firehose, my PLN can reduce the stream to a more manageable flow. It requires effort, but it is well worth it.

As an educator recognizing this aspect of a PLN is a not just valuable to me, but it is something that I can share with other educators and students. A strong PLN can trump Google every time. It privileges humans over machines and taps the collective intelligence and wisdom of people I have selected on purpose.

That human element can make all the difference. For example, what students often do not understand is that people might be the most valuable resource in almost any kind of research. Plus, relationships improve our lives.

In terms of my goals in building my PLN, I am always on the lookout for people that have expertise in areas of my interest. Consequently, I am always trying to identify the important players in a field. I am always adding, in that sense. However, think I may need to sharpen my focus a bit more to increase its effectiveness. That requires a bit more tending than I necessarily do.

However, think I may need to sharpen my focus a bit more to increase its effectiveness. That requires a bit more tending than I necessarily do. There is no magic vetted list. It is in the creation and curation of that makes it personal.


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