Need Help Building Your Personal Learning Network (PLN)?

Image of PLN YourselfDo you have some spare time? And want to work on building your personal learning network(PLN)? I’ve set up a PLN Yourself site that might help you.

The idea of this site is to provide a central location for “how to” guides so that you can start building your own PLN based on the 5 top tools as recommended by responses of over 160 people to my online survey.  Most of the resources on the site are compiled from information from my different web sites.

Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) are all about using web tools such as blogs, wiki, twitter, facebook to create connections with others which extend our learning, increases our reflection while enabling us to learn together as part of a global community. PLNs increase our opportunities to ask questions and receive help compared to our normal daily face-to-face interactions.

It’s really important that we use these tools first for our own personal learning so that we can understand how to use them with our students.


I’m thinking of expanding my PLN Yourself site to include 5 Top Handy tools because there are some everyday tools that are important to us all that aren’t necessarily as important for building a PLN.

What are your thoughts?

  1. Should I add 5 Top Handy tools? Or would it be too overwhelming?
  2. If I did include 5 Top Handy tools, what would your 5 choices be?

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42 thoughts on “Need Help Building Your Personal Learning Network (PLN)?

  1. Cool. Sue I’m thinking to start my Edublog as a type of professional reflective practice space. A thinking testing space for ideas but where I can interact with others as part of my PLN to push ideas on-as a newbie. Whatdyou think?
    If so Id like to rename my blog can I change it inside here please?
    Cheers Ruth

    1. Hi Ruth – that is exactly how I used my blog. As I gained my knowledge my readers also gained so we all benefited. Inside your blog dashboard click on Settings on right hand side. There is a section there that allows you to change your title.

      Make sure you check out the manuals on Getting started with Edublogs – they help.

  2. Thanks Sue no need to reply Ive tried it its so easy!

    Eventually I believe Friendfeed will overtake the rest. I practically use it as bookmark/search tool. Of course the more people connected the vastly more interesting and effective. I use it in conjunction with Stumbleupon (I have two browsers so I finally stopped having two profiles on Stumbleupon last night i response to this dialogue!) rather than Delicious purely habit and preference, familiarity but that works well for me. I dont use a mobile phone at this time (solo motherdom$!) otherwise Id be into Twitter alot more…but I like it. However Friendfeed keeps me updated on others twitters so its just easy.

    You’re starting me to engage with wikis by the way at last.

  3. I forgot Flickr Creative Commons Search!(advanced) oooh coupled with blogging its beautiful. However there are a few too many stages to jump through both on the blog backend and the Flickr search end needs a developer to sort this one out! (Sliderocket integrates creative commons image search/audio to perfection-forget Powerpoint)

    But I have to say I love Flock as a browser and perhaps once I really learn how to drive it I can aggregate all feeds into it onto the home page and use it to drag and drop images into my blogs etc. Its the beasty for web 2.0 I believe.

    Not a top 5 perhaps yet but in answer to Shannon above Semantic Search Engine-Hakia
    Semantic Search allows for relevant search results. The Hakia Search Engine has a side by side Google/Hakia search results comparison. So there you go Shannon! Semantic search is mainly for research/information gathering, rather than navigating to a specific document source.

    I’ m currently looking at ‘ search’ as a skill set through a food trend watching blog. Ive watched myself hesitate with personal opinions, thinking to not alienate people, but also Id like to encourage student/others opinions. So In that case I have to walk the talk. Its as much a repository for ideas for a unit and a Blogger Learners License!
    I’ m up for feedback thanks

    1. @Ruth Unfortunately I’m bad and haven’t used Friendfeed but that relates to my information overload situation.

      The best tool for searching FlickrCC is – really quick. Give it a try. I did try to get Photodroppr installed as a plugin for Edublogs but unfortunately it wasn’t working properly with WordPress MU.

  4. Hi Sue Im a new teacher but Ive found that I can set up a blog and feed everything into it in a central place. I like that type of aggregation of info. Even Google Reader can feed in..Google Reader! So Id say Blog (CMS) platform is essential to distribute and collate connect and remix…you know that!

    I love Friendfeed! Ive signed up for the Friendfeed ‘ Room’ (to learn more about Friendfeed) and perhaps because I had filed a series of searches under education following Mwelch and GeorgeSiemens I was instantly connected with educators on Friendfeed Rooms. So now I have a choice to follow anyone there. Anyway you can look up in advanced search anyone from Twitter etc but basically EVERY Thang can feed into Friendfeed I mean its the Cherry. Um that’ s three but its already a tight list!

  5. Thanks for putting this together! As in instructional designer who has been experimenting with these technologies for a while, I found your wiki to be one of the best sources of information I’ve come across for explaining things in a way that’s easy to understand and professional enough for someone in the learning and education fields.

    I’ve already shared it with my colleagues who are still sitting on the fence to try and get them more involved in the web 2.0 tools that are slowly making their way into all aspects of learning, even the corporate world where I live. Keep up the great work and if you wind up in Northern California, I’d be happy to meet up!

    1. Thanks Carol for the feedback. As someone who does what I do from my own gut feeling of what works/doesn’t it’s really lovely to hear that I’ve done it in a manner that makes it easy for people.

      Would love to come to USA and you never know. And I never say never but Perth, Western Australia feels so far from everywhere.

  6. I’m in a masters program for integrating technology in the classroom. I have thought of myself as “tech savy”, but I am realizing that there is so much out there that I haven’t heard of before. Your site looks promising as a resource to help me learn more about educational technology. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

    I like the idea of adding 5 handy tools. My vote would be delicious. I just recently opened an account and don’t understand how to search other people’s bookmarks without knowing anyone on the site yet.

    Another tool I would like to learn about is a way to search the web more efficiently. I love Google, but I get so many useless sites on top of related hits to searches. One of the articles I read for my class briefly described Grokker ( It seems to give a graphic display of results that pinpoints high quality results better than traditional searches.


    1. Hi Shannon – yes when I was first introduced to Web 2.0 tools I was blown away and felt like I had been fast asleep while a whole different World was happening.

      Delicious is already on the PLN wiki under social bookmarking because it was rated in the Top 5 for building a personal learning network. I think I’ve covered searching popular bookmarks but if I haven’t please let me know so I can add it.

      I’m using Google Reader now for much of my searching as I subscribe to lots of blogs so often find the information I’m after faster than I would with Google.

  7. In my classroom, we use Facebook, some Twitter, Blogger, diigo and Zoho. I’d like to also add Skype for after-hours tutoring. I’m going to get my middle schoolers on Whyville this semester and see how that works out as a “what do we do when we’re finished” activity.

    I really like the applications as opposed to the Google Docs. I find their interface is much more similar to MS Office03 apps than Google’s – my students can do their work in Office03 and then upload to Zoho for sharing and collaboration. I also prefer this for my students who use Macs at home and need to use MS apps for classwork.

    1. I haven’t spent any time checking out Zoho Mrs Madden – so definitely sounds like I should.

      Would love to hear more about how you are using Twitter with your students. While I use Twitter a lot for my personal learning I’ve pondered the benefits of how you might use with students. Also what advantages have you seen with using Diigo with your students as opposed to Delicious?

      1. We use Diigo simply because that’s the one we tried first! I tried using ikeepbookmarks but I didn’t like it so much.

        I’ve used Twitter for them to finish a story line – they finish it with their 140 characters. We’ve also used in to connect with other classes live. And I use it for answering questions – I tell them I’ll be on Twitter during a certain time.

  8. Hi Sue,

    During the last year, I have tried Blogger and PBwiki with some of my classes with varying degrees of success. for keeping in touch with others I have used Skype and Elluminate. This year I wilol be introducing my students (who don’t have a great deal of money to spend) to Google Docs and Open Office 3.

    So that’s it for my five Web 2 tools. I have also used Screencast and Audacity to varying degrees of success to put my students to sleep.

    It is only now that I am beginning to comment on three or four blogs that I feel comfortable with rather than a feeling of intimidation from being a newbie.

    The social networking tools that I have been using would be Facebook, delicious, and there is another one but I am having a senior’s moment right now and haven’t got a clue what it was called. Not to worry. I shall wake up at 3 a.m. yelling out, “Ning! No, it was Netvibes!” and then be told to go back to sleep and to please be quiet.

    So since I am trying to stick to the point, that’s all for me tonight on social networking and web 2 tools that I use.

    Regards, Bill Oldham (

    1. Hi Bill – I’ve found Facebook excellent for connecting with my VET students as it’s often the site they use and know they are able to quickly contact me through it. Also good for remaining in contact with them once they have finished the course.

      When we did the Comment Challenge in May quite a few of the people who had been blogging for quite awhile also stated that one of their biggest barriers to leaving comments was the feeling of intimidation. So I’m glad to see that you are feeling more comfortable because it’s an important part of blogging and comments make the blogger reflect more on the information.

  9. Your post is perfect timing. I have accounts in everything mentioned. Next step, I realize, is actively using them-and remembering my passwords:). However, what is the next step to organize all this? Do you recommend one site- a wiki maybe- where I post all this information? Or, I could put my wiki/podcasts info under pages in my blog??? Just not sure the best way to put it all together. I just looked up google sites and was wondering about that as well. Thanks!

    1. Interesting question Leslie. Not sure if this will help but I use different sites for different purposes. For example, my blogs are for reflecting on topics, sharing information and engaging in conversations with people.

      Twitter is used for short quick conversations and is a mix of small talk blended with helping each other.

      My wikis are for when I have information that I want to pull together into a form that is collated into one location – alternatively I could use a page on my blog to do this.

      I use iGoogle and Google Reader to grab the RSS feeds from all the sites to bring to one centralised location.

  10. I am always surprised at how e-mail seldom makes the lists. However, e-mail is still one of my top 5. Even though I often begin/meet people in other venues, it seems that we “fall-back” to email for any long and detailed correspondence on different topics of mutual interest. I find those exchanges (through mailing lists or multiple recipients) to be very enlightening. I think many more public exchanges (forums, walls, tweets, comments) are characterized by brevity–because of the format, because we don’t want to be considered “wordy”, etc. I find people apologizing for making long forum posts even though their thoughts are quite well articulated and fascinating to read.

    So I am going to say that email should still be on the list even thought it seems an “old fashioned” communication tool.

  11. Hi,

    I really like your way of you approached this topic, and I strongly believe you should include those tools in your site. They are part of your presence online, thus they contribute to develop your identuty (reputation) while in connection with other individuals across networks and virtual spaces in which you take part.

    My 5 handy tools:

    1. Twitter
    2. Diigo
    3. Skype (personal and collective chats, and also working as a permanent backchannell chat for a restrict group of people who can join upon request/invitation)
    4. YahooGroups!
    5. Ning (different ning sites)

    …slideshare is also relevant for me! 😉

    1. Twitter, Ning and Diigo are already on the PLN site under 5 Top Tools for Building Your PLN however Skype and Slideshare are definitely two I’m considering for the 5 Top Handy Tools.

  12. @Kevin, Tilgunas, Danna, Tim, Jeanettem, Lynne, Character Education Looks like you are all interested in the concept of the 5 Handy tools. I’m thinking I may need to set up a poll to get people to vote on their top 5 Handy tools — to help make a decision on which to add to the wiki.

    Will let you know when I get around to setting up the poll!

  13. Hi Sue,

    I feel as if I’ve been on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride this year, my own version of a ride to “nowhere in particular.” I didn’t know where I was going or what it was supposed to look or work like. In that time, I have created a classroom blog with edublogs, accidentally bumped into other people’s blogs and added a few comments, and experienced a F2F meeting with some Twitter folks who hooked me up with that tool. Special thanks to lizbdavis, bcdtech, and dogtrax. Twitter has had the most influence in developing my PLN. It provides limitless possibilities for learning and sharing and the tools are literally dropped in my lap(top.) Every single day, I explore something completely new to me that may have been directed to someone else but was offered to all in the process.

    So, while the Wild Ride continues, I at least have a vision of where I’m going. I seek out the new learning opportunities by joining in podcasts, trying out new tools, sharing what I know with a “safe” group, and following some great mentors.

    This reflection has been somewhat “stream of consciousness” but I know you are interested in my process and I feel more than “safe” in sharing it with you (and the million other people who read your blogs.)

    Gail P

    1. Hi Gail P – thanks for sharing your journey with us. I think many of us are the same. PLNs are like this evolving journey that can be rather messy in some ways in that they aren’t necessarily planned, go off in the most amazing directions and connections. Yet for me each extra node on the PLN increases the richness.

  14. Hi Sue,

    Your PLN wiki is a fabulous resource – thanks! I think my top 5 would be Ning, blogs, wikis,, flickr and as I get more used to it – twitter. I also use and heaps and I have reluctantly been sucked into facebook by my family Oops – that’s way more than 5. Well its just too hard to choose! I agree with the others on here – your top 5 would be interesting. Great blog
    Lynne Gibb

  15. I would love to see the Tools listed here. For those of us with little time to focus on personal learning it is great when everything is in one place!

    I really enjoy the ideas you provide on your blog Sue! Thanks for your hard work!

  16. Sue
    Your PLN wiki really works. I shared some features of it with an inexperienced but keen to learn technology colleague at work and already she is now emailing me with her successes. Thank you from both of us.

    I’d like to see 5 top handy tools but newer users may feel overwhelmed, maybe a link or sub category? My new number one tool is retaggr badge, it has flexibilty and scope to do a range of things and it looks good too. I’ll ponder my other 4 some more.

    I’m working on getting my DET to formally recognise PLNs as acredited TPL and PD. I’m sure if teachers know the quality learning/reflection they engage in will also be recognised by their employers it may encourage more to dip their toes in. Here’s hoping anywho.


    1. Glad to hear Tony that my wiki is working for newer people to using online tools.

      The reasoning behind the 5 Handy tools is when you are first starting out you don’t always appreciate the need to building a personal learning network whereas Handy tools may be initially more of a catch.

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