23 Resources about Personal Learning Networks (PLNs)

Part of the Cool Sites series

For the past year, I have researched the what, who, when, how, and why of Personal/Professional/Passionate Learning Networks (PLNs). We have seen the benefits of the people we choose to connect, collaborate, and problem solve with through social media. The educators, subject matter experts (SMEs), authors, and mentors we choose to derive knowledge from help us self-reflect on our methodologies and beliefs. They support us, remember our birthdays, celebrate our accomplishments, and stir within us a passion to improve the status quo. Many might argue we are an echo chamber, but I don’t really believe this. I know that within one year of connecting with a PLN I have jump started so many projects at my own institute. A few examples include- my five-year-old students have connected with others from other countries, we use technology with the English language learners regularly at my institute, and we Skype. We also have added many new courses and wikis along with these classes. We give workshops about technology to parents and educators. The students love the technology, are improving their English skills at faster rates, and are motivated by using technology. I am excited, because I know that I am preparing them adequately for their world of globalization and information and communication technologies (ICTs). By preparing them I know I am actively making a difference in the future. As an educator my goal is to send forth my students skilled and armed with knowledge to better, not burden the world.

A community raises a child! Yes, I do believe this, which is why I am passionate about PLNs. My PLN helps me be a better educator and prepare my students daily. They feed me experience, knowledge, and support 24 hours a day/ 7 days a week. Therefore, I hope you take time to bookmark these various resources, share them with other educators through workshops and presentations, and spread the message of PLNs.

Research about PLNs

Below are several resources I have collected about the history of PLNs, how to build a PLN, and the tools needed to build a PLN. Please scroll down and take a look at these resources and see if they can be an addition to a future presentation.

We Connect Wiki- This wiki is full of videos, Wallwishers, Wikipedia articles, and more that help educators find the resources to build a PLN. You will find all the materials listed in this post there as well as at least 50 other links to video tutorials, step-by-step guides, lists of people to follow, and more to help any educator new or old to this concept build a PLN.

Wikipedia article about PLNs- This article explains the history and theory behind PLNs. Do you know where the term developed, the theory behind PLNs, who are the forerunners of the PLN movement?

Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age by George Siemens- Siemens is noted as one of the forerunners behind the PLN movement. In this article, Siemens discusses the theory behind PLNs. This is one of the most important articles behind the PLN movement.

Origins of the Term ‘Personal Learning Network’ by Stephen Downes- Downes is another forerunner of the PLN movement and connectivism. In this post, he delineates the origins of the term.

The Art & Technique of Personal Learning Networks by David Warlick- Warlick defines PLN in easily understood terms, explains how the process works, and provides several articles for more information.

PLN posts on Teacher Reboot Camp- Read several of my posts about PLNs and the type of learning they provide. You will also find posts like, PLNs, Where Do We Begin?, to help you relate the concept to educators who have never experienced this before.


Why Do We Connect? from Shelly Terrell on Vimeo.

How To Build Your PLN Using Twitter

Personal Learning Networks for Educators by Skip Via

The Network is the Learning by George Siemens

Personal Learning Networks – the what, why and how from darren elliott on Vimeo.

Sketchy Explanation: Starting a PLN


Presentation: Constructing a PLN by Richard M. Byrne

Twitter for your PLN Public by Al Rowell

Interactive Multimedia

VoiceThread- Why a PLN? by Steven Anderson

VoiceThread- What Does the Network Mean to You? by Alec Couros

Wallwisher- What My PLN Means to Me by John Evans

Wallwisher- Getting Started with a PLN by Don Lourcey


Use one of these resources to prepare your next PLN presentation.

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What are other PLN resources I should add to this post?

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How Many School Districts Are There on the Head of a Pin? by Tom King

Part of the series: Global Issues in Education

Education Secretary Arne Duncan Testifies On Obama's Education Act>

I recall a Superintendent in my bygone days who, when queried about our district’s insatiable need for more money during hard times, quipped: “I never met a dollar I didn’t like.” I suspect that applies to many of us, even if we’re not running a school district. $4.35 billion in RTTT (Race to the Top) funding is a lot of dollars to like. So how much of the meager energy we have left after our days and nights in the classroom, or supporting same, can be spent on winning the Race?

What are we to make of these well-meaning feds, from the President to the Secretary of Education, to say nothing of those reading proposals from the likes of us, and who are dangling these golden RTTT carrots in front of us…the “us” being the we being who pull and push the school district’s ancient oxcarts, loaded with kids who want to learn? These are the kids who need to learn, but far, far too often aren’t learning nearly well enough. These funds won’t likely go to the schools, being left behind, nor the students, nor the districts, but to the states!

There are 16,000 school districts in this nation and if there’s one out there who doesn’t need more money, please raise your hand. Of course, no amount of printing more money would provide enough for even the deserving top ten percent….whoever they are and whatever “deserving” means. If 20 states split the pot, each would get a couple hundred million dollars to split among school districts. If a state had, say 400 districts, the dollars would average $500,000. By the time it gets divided again amongst the schools, the pot of gold has shrunk to a more molecular level, nowhere near enough to address the lofty requirements of the RTTT manifesto.

It wouldn’t be so bad if these funds actually helped us leave no child behind. But most of the states, districts, schools and classrooms that need them most probably won’t see a nickel of it. Our local school district has to cut 25% from its strapped budget in the next 2-3 years. It would be higher if there weren’t temporary federal funds for this year (unless more money is printed). Class sizes of 50 students?Yet, higher standards? More teachers fired and more schools closed? Another “Newsweek” diatribe?

On top of that we are all being asked to ensure all the the children we teach are soon above average. Never mind that the standardized tests that measure this are designed to replicate a normal curve and ensure that only half are average or above. How can that strategy possibly help in leaving no child left behind?

Did I mention that all of this depresses me greatly? I have been looking for a silver lining or at least some answers.

Anyone? Anyone?


Tom King is a retired math teacher, the founder of the Saturn School of Tomorrow, adjunct professor for 35 years +, husband, father, grampa, friend, tennis and golf partner, coffee buddy, reader, photographer, poet, and a marveling lifelong learner. He blogs at Tom King’s Blog of De-Fog and tweets by the handle, @profTK. Read his previous contributions to Teacher Reboot Camp.

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What Did They Tweet? The New Look!

Beginning of May 2010 edition of the What Did They Tweet weekly series!

Let’s see what our Personal Learning Network (PLN) tweeted about in education and social media. However, I should note that one of the top stories this week on Twitter was about the new way to embed Tweets as posts in 3 easy steps, which was tweeted by @xdamman. This feature is reflected in this post! Do you like the new look? Please let me know in the comments!

Fantastic Videos

Visual Effects: 100 Years of Inspiration http://youtu.be/LP_hAszQPgk

Wanna motivate? watch this: [http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/618]

RT @hyponastic Using stats to design the ultimate TED talk. http://tinyurl.com/22p4e98

Seth Godin talks Education and his book Linchpin live in Elluminate at 8amPDT/11amEDT/3pmGMT http://tinyurl.com/344wf6w

Find the archive of the event here- http://www.learncentral.org/node/71871

Excellent lecture! Watch recording http://tinyurl.com/379vf8n
#downesba #Rosario

Resources by me & others

Opportunities for Educators

Below is a list of great opportunities for free resources and more:

If you enjoy this series, you may want to subscribe for FREE to receive regular updates!

For more tweets, check out these posts:


Share one of these resources with another educator not on Twitter. Then tell them you got the tip from educators on Twitter!

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Character Development Using Voki Speaking Avatars

Recently, I participated in the I Heart EdTech Blog Swap from SimpleK12.com. This post about using Voki speaking avatars was originally posted in Kelli Erwin’s blog, which is full of great educational technology reviews!

Voki is an application that lets you create personalized avatars to use on your wikis, blogs or websites. You can also e-mail these wonderful characters. This free web 2.0 tool is a great way to motivate learners of any age, because they are very interactive and provide various options for students to customize them.

One of the best ways I like to use Voki avatars is to have students develop characters for digital storytelling projects. Have students create a Voki character as the main character in their digital stories! This is especially helpful with young learners who love reading and telling stories. If you take your students to a computer lab, let your students begin creating the avatars and walk around and ask the following questions about their characters. Feel free to develop your own questions. These questions are just to get you started and get you familiar with the various Voki options.

Character Development Chart

Here is what one of my students did with his Voki character. My student is from Germany and only 5 years-old. English is not his first language. The Voki next to his is a six year-old student from Turkey! My friend Ozge Karaoglu and I did a collaborative project sharing characters!

You can also use Voki’s with older students. I teach English to adults and they love the conversations my Voki characters have like the one below to teach idioms.

To see more Voki characters by children and to find out more ways to successfully integrate web 2.0 tools with young learners, visit the wiki created by Ozge and me, http://technology4kids.pbworks.com. You will find great ways to do international collaborative projects as well!

**Note: Please remember to get written permission from parents before using any web 2.0 tools and to set-up the account under your name.


Use Voki with your students to help them develop their characters in an upcoming story!

If you want to learn more effective ways to integrate technology with your students, you may want to subscribe for FREE to receive regular updates! You can subscribe by e-mail as well!

How can you use Voki’s with your students?

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April in Review

Month in Review: April 2010!

April has been a busy month and you may have missed some of the tips, resources, and tools shared on Teacher Reboot Camp.

What you might have missed…

Your favorite posts this month based on comments and overall traffic:

  • PLNs, Conferences, and Tweet-ups- In this post, I described my PLN as the bar scene in Cheers where everyone yells, “Norm!” I guess that makes me Norm!
  • Changes- I recently am undergoing changes in my life that are impacting my online activity. Has this ever happened to you? How did you deal with this fork in the road?
  • Favorite What Did They Tweet Series- In this post, our PLN shared with us a Chris Lehmann education technology quote, children’s books on the IPad, the youngest participant of TED Talk, and more!
  • Favorite Cool Sites Series- In this post, you can find 15 resources and tips to back up Twitter hashtag discussions, DMs, blog posts, e-mail, and your Ning content.
  • My Favorite Tech Tools & Resources This Month-
    • Twistory- Simply sign-up with your Twitter account name only then pick which calendar service (ICal, Google Calendar) you’d like to export your tweets to and your tweets will show up on this starting soon after you sign-up. Looks like the picture below.
    • Box.Net- Sign-up for 1GB of free space to share and archive various presentations and documents. You get a nice widget to embed to your blog and can access the files on your mobile phone.
    • WikiMatrix-If you want to start a wiki, then you’ll want to compare the various features on the free Wiki sites using this matrix.
  • Guest Posts- A heartfelt thanks to all my guest bloggers this month! Please leave them comments on their fantastic posts!
    • If you would like to contribute to this blog, please e-mail me at ShellyTerrell at gmail.com.
  • My Wikis and Presentations:
    • We Connect- Updated! This is my PLN wiki where you will find several resources, tutorials, videos and more on helping educators join a PLN. Please feel free to use the resources in your presentations on PLNs and social media.
    • Technology 4 Kids- Updated! Ozge Karaoglu and I developed this wiki to help educators integrate technology effectively for young learners. Read about digital storytelling tools, Glogster, Voicethread, and more!
  • My Guest posts!
    • Check out my favorite post ever written, Children of Immigrants, on Ken Wilson’s blog!
    • I write the weekly summaries for Parentella’s #PTChat, the parent and educator discussion, which occurs every Wednesday at 9pm PST.

Thank you so much for your support of my free 30 Goals Challenge E-book. Over 1200 of you have read it and I am truly grateful! Download your free copy here.

Please feel free to use any of the resources shared here or in the wikis because the ultimate goal is to get other educators in our PLN.

You may want to subscribe for FREE to receive regular updates!

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