A Learning Network for You…Seek, Sense, Share

Annette and I decided to pair up on the final, and let me tell you, it’s great to have someone to ounce ideas off of.
PLNs versus SNs

The differences between professional learning networks (PLN) and Social Networks (SN) are subtle yet important.  Social media is defined as “forms of electronic communication through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages and other content” (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/

social%20media).  Social networks can be further narrowed down to an online community.  Online communities generally have a higher quality, continuity and degree of commitment in the relationships between members. (NetSmart, p.162). In short, members of an online community care about one another.


According to edudemic.com (http://www.edudemic.com/2012/10/build-personal-learning-network/), personal learning networks are “systems that help learners take control of and manage their own learning”.  A personal learning network allows you to organize resources and materials, learn about current trends, as well as network and be a part of a community of learners.  The PLN is a place to learn from community members and resources as well as the ability to contribute to other people’s learning.  

Using a culinary context, imagine you are making a pizza.  Your ingredients, toppings, crust, etc., are your social media tools.  You evaluate which stores have the best ingredients, and then you buy some ingredients from Safeway and some from Foodland.  Once you combine the ingredients and cook it up, you have a pizza which is your personal learning network which you consume.


A Look at PLNs

After learning what a PLN was, we both realized that we each have a PLN of our own. We didn’t realize that this is what it was called. Because of our interests, we naturally look for environments that ignite and fuel these interests. Nick’s PLN includes forums, Facebook groups, Twitter feeds as well as online publications that help him to gain an understanding of new trends and best practices in the audiovisual field. Annette’s PLN includes teacher blogs, a ning called Elementary Technology Teachers, Twitter feeds and Facebook groups that involve elementary education or educational technology. And within both our PLNs, we are both members of the Tech Cadre. The Tech Cadre is a Department of Education mail group where members are involved in technology at the school or department that they work at. Since we are both Technology Coordinators at our schools, we network amongst our peers by sharing resources, posting questions and answers, and even giving away equipment/supplies from time to time.

Having a PLN is very important for educators. PLNs allow them to connect with others in the fields that they are intrinsically interested in. Within PLNs, they learn, share lessons and ideas, and keep up with current trends and best practices in education or the area of interest. Instead of “one size fits all” professional development (PD) classes, educators can choose the environments they want to learn from and include these places in their PLNs. Because they choose, they engage themselves in the areas they are passionate about. Having a choice makes educators want to learn and continue their learning thus developing themselves as professionals.

Organizing Tools for PLNs

LiveBinders is a free online tool where users can organize their digital life.  In a LiveBinder, users can create a visual portfolio containing websites, documents and media.  All of the content can be annotated and placed in different tabs for easy sorting.  Each LiveBinder can be shared with students, colleagues and administrators, along with the general public.  With LiveBinders, users can also collaboratively build a binder for things like presentations, teaming and evaluations.

Organize and Share with LiveBinders – This resource covers: What The Heck Is LiveBinders, Getting Started, Navigating, Livebinder It Tool, and Challenges of using LiveBinder. It shares videos, screenshots and resources such as An Educators Guide to Twitter and iPads in Schools. Rating 5

 Diigo is a social bookmarking tool which allows users to share internet resources with others.  In Diigo, users can tag bookmarks, follow other people’s bookmarks, and search popular bookmarks.  Within Diigo, users can also perform screen captures and use sticky notes to comment on resources.  Diigo is a cross platform software with Android and iOS apps available.

12 reasons why teachers should use Diigo – This resource takes readers through 12 different, and effective uses for Diigo.  From tagging to multi-platform operation to highlighting, this article demonstrates the capabilities of Diigo in education.  Rating: 5

Comparing the Features





Free (premium available)

Free (premium available)

Content Stored


Bookmarks, screenshots





Windows, Mac, iOS, Android

Windows, Mac, iOS, Android


Blog Integration

Blog Integration







Attwell, G. (2007). Personal Learning Environments-the future of eLearning? eLearning   Papers, 2(1), 1–8.

Gilbert, E., Bakhshi, S., Chang, S., & Terveen, L. (2013). I need to try this?: a statistical overview of pinterest. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 2427–2436). Retrieved from http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2481336

Lieberman, A. (1995) Practices that support teacher development: Transforming conceptions of professional learning.

Rheingold, H. (2012). Net Smart: How to Thrive Online. MIT Press. 55 Hayward Street, Cambridge, MA 02142.


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