What’s the Point of a Personal Learning Network? (Guest Post)

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I’m proud to announce the very first guest post on A Relief Teacher’s Journey, written by Pooky Hesmondhalgh (@creativeedu) in response to my PLN Voicethread Project. It was first published here.

About our Guest Blogger

Pooky Hesmondhalgh (@creativeedu) represents Creative Education:

the largest independent provider of training for school staff in the United Kingdom, … which specialises in working with schools facing difficult circumstances  (from website).

She blogs at www.creativeeducation.co.uk/blog.

What’s the Point of a Personal Learning Network?

We all have a personal learning network or PLN. Even if we’ve not reached the dizzy heights of Twitter and the like our PLN is all around us every day. It’s the people that we work with and exchange ideas with.

Traditionally our PLN wouldn’t have reached very far beyond the staffroom, but these days in the blink of an eye you can be accessing information and answers from a PLN that spans the globe.

But what’s the point?

I know that a lot of people – generally the type who won’t be reading this blog, and certainly won’t be dropping me a line on Twitter to talk about it, think that virtual PLNs are just one big time wasting activity. That we’re all busy talking about what we had for breakfast, or watching videos of dancing cats. Of course, there’s some of that – just like there is in the staff room. But there’s a whole more to it as well.

Michael Graffin, a teacher over in Oz started a great discussion up on Voicethread a few days back trying to encourage an exchange of ideas about what we each get out of our PLN and how it’s changed us both personally and as educators.

Voicethread will eventually appear below – or you can access it here


Participating was a learning experience for me as I’ve never used Voicethread before. It made me examine what the point of my own personal learning network is and I decided that for me, the key elements were being part of an environment which was completely unprejudiced where I could ask any questions I liked without fear of looking silly. And also having the privilege of being able to draw on a huge range of ideas and experiences of educators working in a wide range of roles, all over the world.

Whenever I have a question, idea or problem if I talk to my PLN I always find that I am offered a wealth of advice and ideas which are more wide ranging and certainly a lot more rapid than if I had used my traditional offline PLN.

It’s well worth listening to the other views expressed in the voicethread and adding your own voice too. Some of the standout points for me were that a PLN offered the opportunity to:

  • Talk to like-minded, real people
  • Share and exchange a range of ideas
  • Inject creativity into everyday practice
  • Enjoy a constant flow of ideas
  • Encourage innovation
  • Discuss and consider controversial thoughts
  • Develop enthusiasm and passion

So are you a convert? Do you find your virtual PLN a great resource or do you think we’re better off sticking to the traditional methods of actually talking to people we know and exchanging ideas over the photocopier? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

6 thoughts on “What’s the Point of a Personal Learning Network? (Guest Post)

  1. Thanks for featuring this post Michael. I think this is a really interesting and important discussion you've started and I look forward to hearing more voices contribute! Pooky

  2. Thanks Pooky! I've found a wealth of information about PLNs 'out there', but it has been an amazing experience to hear & showcase diverse global perspectives about how Personal Learning Networks actually influence us as educators. Every person has a story to share, and we'd love to hear your thoughts!

  3. PLNs are such a wonderful way of networking, especially when it isn't always possible to travel to / attend conferences nation/worldwide. Through PLNs, a wealth of ideas and insights are constantly at your disposal and you realize that when a challenge comes up, you're not alone and that there are lots of colleagues ready and willing to lend you a hand. This is awesome!!

  4. Hi Lu!I really must agree with your point that PLNs allow teachers to network without having to attend / travel to conferences – to be honest, such conferences are few and far between in my little part of the world. I'm really glad I've got a PLN – They've been there for me when I've got stuck, and yes, it is a wonderful (empowering) feeling to know that you're not alone. Thanks for the comment and the compliments!

  5. Michael when I first saw this post I was swapped with end of year preparations! Now, that my year is finished and my summer is underway I have had time to reflect on the transformation my PLN has made for my kids, my colleagues, and me. If I haven't missed the moment and you would like to share my latest blog post, you are welcome to share. http://deb-frazier.blogspot.com

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