Monday, July 31, 2017

Reflections on Having a Professional Learning Network (PLN)

When I first started this blog, I had hoped it would result in my becoming more a part of an online community of like-minded ELT professionals in the same way that having a personal blog had led to my entering a community of kindred spirits, many of whom--over a period of seven years--I ended up meeting face to face. I was quite frustrated in the beginning that there didn't seem to be the same code of reciprocity among professional bloggers as I had experienced among personal bloggers. You comment on my post, I will come comment on yours. You list me in your blogroll, I'll list you in mine. Oh, well. I blog as much for myself and for the benefits of reflection as for community building, so it's all good.

Today I am feeling very glad that I stuck with this blog, posting weekly whether anyone was reading or not. One of my earliest readers ended up being a coworker and now will, I'm sure, be a lifelong friend. Another online ELT peer ended up inviting me to visit her in Toronto during spring break and is arriving on the VIA today to give me an opportunity to return her gracious hospitality. It may have taken a bit longer for me to begin to feel a sense of community in the TEAL corner of the blogosphere, but it is now starting to gel.

When I first used Twitter, I hated it. I mean that I really just did not get it. I found it boring and pointless. What could anyone possibly say in 140 characters or less?

It may have taken a few false starts for me to "get it," but now I am so glad I decided to open and maintain a Twitter account. Twitter is where I can participate in regular online chats with other TEAL professionals. There's a different chat for everything from educational technology to LINC! Twitter is where I stay abreast of the latest ELT research in a convenient digest format, thanks to @ResearchBites. It's where I get ideas for new classroom activities and book recommendations. It's also where I found out about Tony Vincent's Classy Graphics course, which has propelled me from the stone ages into the stratosphere when it comes to designing and creating my own materials, classroom posters, and marketing materials.

One common misconception about maintaining Twitter and other social media accounts is that it's time consuming or overwhelming. Well, it can be if you let it be. But I'm here to tell you that it's not an 'all or nothing' choice. Of course if you are trying to launch a career that will require a large following of people, you'll need to be consistent. But if you, like me, just want to stay abreast of the news and research, share a few ideas of your own, pass on a link to a good article now and then, benefit from others' ideas and free offers, you can easily do all of this by checking in for a few minutes here and there throughout the month.

How about you? Do you consider yourself to have a PLN? In what way do you feel included or not included, up to speed or not? How valuable do you perceive it to be and why?


  1. So much of what you wrote about your online "life" resonated with me. And isn't it wonderful to take online friendship up a notch and share F2F hospitality!
    I first saw the expression "PLN" on Tutela - and I added a couple of names from contributors but never felt that was anything more than a registry of (maybe) "useful" names. I disliked the term from the gitgo perhaps because I sold cars for a year and part of the job was maintaining a network of people to contact for business. I was great at cold calling but I could never call friends and family to turn then into part of my "network". And I feel the same about "PLN" and the developing group of (mostly) TESL educators that I was communucating with. (That includes Sarah Thomas whom I met through REALIZE2015!) My Twitter account is for my professional interests and sharing and FB more for photos of what I ate for breakfast! But the "contacts" are part of my "parasocial" life - and more than just "business".
    So how happy was I to see the term "PLF" - Personal Learning Family -coined by Sarah @sarahdateechur - because it personalized that part of my online life that is about teaching - but it also allows me to declare that I am online for social needs and reasons as well as learning/knowledge. This give and take is valuable not just for content but for the human contact.(caveat: My expectations are realistic and the boundaries are set, of course.) I do want to add though that if I had an ESL business I would use Twitter, maybe have a FB page - I would be upfront that I was out for business and then I would create a network!

    1. Claudie,
      Yes, it IS wonderful to take it up a notch. I'm glad you're a central part of my personal learning family or whatever you want to call it. You are an endless fount of good links, ideas, articles, and people to follow. I have never met anyone who zips around the country attending as many conferences as you do. That in itself inspires me to up my game. --K