Building a PLN

Personal Learning Networks for Connected Educators

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Learning isn't something that just happens to you. Learning involves you having an interest and pursuing it passionately.

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A Personal Learning Network is:

  • Personal - you get to decide who is part of your circles.
  • Learning - not necessarily teaching but more what you want to learn more about
  • Network - you are connected to others who share your interests

You get to control how connected you become, when you connect, and with whom. Being part of a Personal Learning Network doesn't mean you will end up like this:

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"Hold on, I'm going to conference in my wrist"

New Yorker Cartoon by Paul Noth

Six Easy Steps To Creating Your PLN

The following six steps are a remix of the ideas presented by Will Richardson in an ASCD Educational Leadership article, June 2013.


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Start With Why

Why do you want to connect with others? What are you passionate about? What do you want to find out more about? What are you looking for inspiration on?

Here are some ideas:

  • educational leadership
  • 1:1 iPad or MacBook programs
  • Visible Thinking
  • PYP Exhibition
  • Augmented Reality
  • Google Apps for Education (GAFE)
  • ....?


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Yes, there is LOADS of irrelevant, mindless stuff on Twitter. But, if you know where to look, there is also a wealth of educational professional development waiting there for you.

Here are some quick tips for getting started on Twitter:

  1. Pick your handle - eg. @terSonya or @sonyaterborg or @sterborg - something that people will know to be you and isn't cumbersome to remember
  2. Upload a photo - this makes you seem like a real person and people want to connect with people!
  3. Fill in your Bio - as much as you are interested in sharing. It is a good idea to put what you are interested in (Looking to learn more about 1:1 programs) and not necessarily your whole life story
  4. Do a search on Twitter for your passion and see who is tweeting about it. Follow those people.

Read this book for more:

Twitter Handbook for Teachers

Take a listen to what Alec Couros has to say about Twitter in Education:

Using Twitter effectively in education - with Alec Couros


One of the things spoken about in the video was the #hashtag. As Couros said, "It is becoming a detriment if teachers do not know how to connect via hashtag".

Just For Laughs: Take a quick look at this lighthearted take on the hashtag from Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake:

"#Hashtag" with Jimmy Fallon & Justin Timberlake (Late Night with Jimmy Fallon)
For a more helpful look at hashtags and how to use them within Twitter to connect with others, take a look here:


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Search Out Bloggers Who Connect With Your Ideas

You don't have to have your own blog to be a connected educator. Start by searching for blogs on the topics you are interested in. When you find blogs that interest you:

  • follow the blog by email
  • follow the blog author on Twitter

You might consider creating a feed reader. This is a website where you can store all of your websites and you will be able to go there and check all the blogs you follow at once.

You could start with Digg Reader or take a look at this video below which includes a review of Digg Reader, Feedly, Flipboard, and Fark:

Which iPad RSS Reader to Use: Digg, Flipboard, Feedly, Fark


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It is totally fine to build your network slowly. Lurking is a term used to describe people who visit websites but don't engage with the author or other readers.

When you are ready, begin to interact:

  • retweet someone else's tweet
  • add a comment to a post on one of the blogs you are following
  • respond to someone else's comment on a post to further the conversation


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Eventually you are going to want to share with your network:

  • tweet a link to an article you have read
  • ask for ideas about an upcoming project or unit
  • share a photo of classroom displays

This sharing can be in the form of a Tweet or a Blog post on your own blog if that is what you choose to do.


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Being connected takes time.

Carve out some time in your week or day to stay in touch with your network. Peruse the Twittersphere using #hashtags to refine your search. You may even wish to look up when other connected educators are getting together to chat via one of the many online chats through Twitter such as #pypchat or this massive list of online chats.

Twitter is alive 24/7 and while you are too, it is recommended you don't try and 'keep up' with all that is happening. Other people will tweet and blog daily - that is their thing. It doesn't have to be yours.

Find a balance in what works for you!

Ready to Begin?

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The Teacher Challenge is made up of free professional learning challenges where educators are stepped through weekly tasks that increase their skills while being supported by mentors.

The Challenge is open to any educator who wants to increase their skills.

Participants can complete as many of the tasks as they like and in any order.

It’s all about you choosing when you want to learn, while being supported by mentors would assist you with your learning!

Click here for further information and to get started!

Sonya terBorg

I am an international educator located at the intersection of innovation, creativity and passion – I look forward to meeting you there!

I have been teaching for 18 years in 7 countries, located in 4 continents. I am passionate about finding a significant opportunity to make a positive change wherever I am working. I enjoy learning more about the challenges and triumphs in education and believe in sharing ideas in order to deepen understanding.

I am the Learning Technologies Teacher in the Junior School at Munich International School. My job is to work with teachers, teams, and students to integrate technology into our units of inquiry.