What is a PLN?

What is a PLN?  In a short period of time, I have progressed from asking this question to creating my own online Personal Learning Networks.  I believe, like Barbra (2012) indicated in her blog “What are PLNs Anyway?”, I have had PLN’s all along ranging from co-workers to share questions and concerns with to people I met at conferences over the years.  However, the expansion of this to the electronic age and new online forums has been a much newer experience for me.

About three years ago, I began venturing out into the online PLN arena.  I started first with Facebook to catch up with friends from long ago and encourage family to join in as well.  After hearing about LinkedIn at a conference two years ago, I joined that network as well.  Within LinkedIn, I found some like-minded groups to join and regularly review those postings.  After having my arm twisted a little for a class, I added Twitter, YouTube, and an online Blog last fall.  I have subscribed to additional groups within those tools as well and enjoy the commentary from those venues as well.   After researching additional tools that looked interesting for this course, I now have Delicious, Diigo, and Google accounts as well.  I have to say that I have had some reluctance to adding some of these tools but the more I explore them, the more I really enjoy them.  I have used some of the commentary as leads to researching items for coursework, etc.  For example, I recently enjoyed a conversation on LinkedIn where they were discussing their “hero” John Dewey and some of his works which impacted them.  As I am currently working on an article related to Dewey’s work, I found this conversation directly relevant.  I used some of this information to extend my search for materials.  Even after all of my reluctance to add Twitter to my network, I am finding the updates from this application helpful as well.  My PLN quest has let me to discovery of many new online tools, such as Live Binders and Pinterest.

My biggest struggles with PLN’s at this point are related to my reluctance to stick my neck out and add my own commentary.  In line with this, Liz Davis (2009) has identified and outlined 8 different stages of social interaction related to personal learning networks as follows:

  1. Learning Basic Trust Versus Basic Mistrust (Can I trust the world?)
  2. Learning Autonomy Versus Shame (Is it OK to be me?)
  3. Learning Initiative Versus Guilt (Is it OK for me to do, move act?)
  4. Industry Versus Inferiority (Can I make it in the world?)
  5. Learning Identity Versus Identity Diffusion (Who am I? What can I be?)
  6. Learning Intimacy Versus Isolation (Can I Love?)
  7. Learning Generativity Versus Self-Absorption (Can I make my life count?)
  8. Integrity Versus Despair (Can I contribute?)

Related to stage 2, Liz indicated “I had to test my autonomy and put aside my fear of being embarrassed or ashamed of what I had to contribute. This is a frightening stage. It required venturing away from the people I already knew in my personal life and reaching out to widen my learning circle. At times it felt lonely out there. I might write something and receive no response. I took the chance of revealing my weaknesses and asking for help. I was able to build my own voice in the blogosphere and found myself supported in my opinions.”  (Davis, 2009)  I have been posting information in the various PLN sites, but alas, I have had no responses and only a few friendly followers (people I knew personally).  However, I have not yet had the courage to step up and respond to others blogs, tweets, and postings.  Although, I am finding myself increasingly more compelled to do so.

Jennie Snyder (2013) indicated that “In my work, I frequently hear profound trepidation about the big, wide world of social media.” (para. 2)  I take comfort in knowing that I am not alone in my trepidation.  Snyder continues with inspiring words to help motivate those of us who are still afraid of social media, to stand up to our fears and become “open leaders”, as outlined by Li (as cited in Snyder, 2013).   I especially enjoyed her comments “Social media is, first and foremost, about relationships. It is not about the digital tools for connecting; it is about listening, learning, dialog, and collaboration with real people. Social technologies can enhance personal connections; they do not necessarily replace them.” (Snyder, 2013)

In my very limited experience, I have seen many benefits associated with PLNs and see the much potential these resources have for my future.  I am inspired to continue my PLN quest and to move past Liz’s stage 2, and into stage 3, where she indicates “Once I had established a group of people online who I felt I could trust, I started to push those boundaries. At times I would take on issues that might be less popular. I became comfortable enough in my network to play or joke around, to add a silly comment here or there and to reveal more of my true self among people I don’t “really” know.”  (Davis, 2009) 

Snyder (2013) has made a call to everyone to be social media leaders and I plan to join this group.


Barbara. (Jan 3, 2012)  What is a PLN, anyway?  Teaching Village.  Retrieved from:  http://www.teachingvillage.org/2012/01/03/what-is-a-pln-anyway/

Snyder, Jennie (March 30, 2013) Moving forward in the face of fear…  The Educators PLN.  Retrieved from:  http://edupln.ning.com/profiles/blogs/moving-forward-in-the-face-of-fear

Davis, Liz B.  (January 26, 2009) 8 Stages of PLN (Personal Learning Network) Development.  The Power of Educational Technology.  Retrieved from:   http://edtechpower.blogspot.com/2009/01/8-stages-of-pln-personal-learning.html

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