Saturday, 26 May 2012

With my PLN; I am.

With my PLN; I am more supported, more able, better inspired, affirmed, engaged and connected. I value my PLN immensely. I am enriched because of my PLN. Having known a PLN; I don't think I could continue working effectively without one!  What about you?

There is much discussion around the why's of a PLN. How do you connect using Web 2.0 tools to gradually build a PLN?  Is a PLN necessary in an educational setting?  How does one benefit from a PLN?  Why does one need a professional (or personal) learning network? 

My response?  
Why not?  

Just the same as having a car without a trusted mechanic OR a petrol station to fill your car up. Or food to sustain you. A PLN is a terrific support and is ever offering. Dr Alec Couros, an associate professor at The University of Virginia, Canada and @davecormier believe in Rhizomatic education (read more about this concept here on Dave's blog) Within the rhizomatic model of learning, knowledge  is constructed and negotiated in real time by the contributions of those engaged in the learning process. (Cormier, D. 2008)  Learning with a PLN is like a rhizome. It responds to changing environmental conditions.  A Rhizome makes its own path- which is needed in forming our own PLN.

Why wouldn't you be without one? 

 The beauty about this, lies in taking responsibility and "owning" our professional growth.

Most professional learning networks might look like this:
                         Image by fairfaxcounty:

YOU, your immediate colleagues at your sole place of work, your heads of department and leadership team; perhaps the odd people you may meet at the occasional conference; that you may or may not keep in contact with.  So, if you need help, this is the extent of your support network.  Limited when only a couple of those people   maybe able to help you with the support required OR the person that you need to ask that important question is off sick for a few days....

With web 2.0 tools, our PLN now has the capacity to stretch across the globe and be as interactive and supportive as YOU allow it to be. 

So, rather than asking an "expert" from your school IF you can get hold of them and IF they can assist you- ask YOUR PLN -you now have all these wonderful tweeple to call upon!  24/7 -statistically there is always someone that can help. If they cannot, a simple RT (retweet) puts your request in touch with all their followers and so forth. Of course, this works both ways. A retweet can also assist many others as they may find a resource, idea or concept one to capture.  Below  you can see a simple screenshot of my interactions screen on Twitter (one very effective way to develop your extended PLN):

Web 2.0 tools used to grow my PLN:
  • Twitter (THE absolute main source of building my PLN)
  • Instagram (sharing images with others and commenting; building relationship; conversation)
  • Skype (real time audio and visual building relationship; sharing ideas, wisdom & knowledge)
  • Edmodo (sharing resources, ideas, conversation about all things educational)
  • Blogging (reflecting, sharing ideas and knowledge; exploring and expanding ideas)

My Twitter PLN looks something like this:

Below is a Twitter mosaic of some of the people I follow on Twitter; they form part of my PLN.

A simple message:  
I am me, myself and I. You, TOGETHER with your PLN; can be one of the billions of people worldwide that may have the most pertinant bit of information, or support or help that is need at that minute.Visualising where your connections and their reach can be viewed at

How have I benefitted from my PLN? 
  • As illustrated above; Accessibility –drawing on others expertise and passions.
  • Plethora of ideas, resources, connections, tools.
  • I have been inspired to teach myself how to set up and maintain blogs.
  • Via Twitter I stumbled across a conversation on #teachmeets- you know the rest and how much I  love and have become involved in this f2f extension of PLN! 
  • Via my PLN I have been introduced to authentic and meaningful PD- the best last year was #ravoties- a highlight of my year! (click here for more info)
  • I manage files, communicate and gather data more effectively via google docs, google forms, google alerts, drop box, Skype, Edmodo, QR codes and Twitter. 
  • I have been inspired and encouraged to start and maintain groups for others (see below).
  • I have become involved and presented at international teachmeets. (click here for more info)
  • Through these global connections I was able to organise a sykpe session for the Oakhill Teachmeet 2011 and World record teachmeet at Eveleigh Sydney, 2012.
  • Pearltrees has asked if they could use my presentation from international teachmeet on their website.
  • My passion of educating others on the benefits of wholesome eating and cooking has been reignited via #foodrev (@jamieoliver@FoodRev stand up for #realfood and our @foodatoakhill instagram and twitter account.
  • I became involved with #ccglobal - (click here for more info)
  • I get a BUZZ out of helping others connect or providing info that is helpful to them.
  • Sense of achievement when someone you don't know believes in your message enough to retweet or a compliment from your PLN...

...and those you do know, affirm your input.

  • At the time of writing I am yet to meet virtual Food technology buddies @jgeorgejulie@s_harper3 and @willo23 but it will happen! (Since drafting this post way back in Term 1/2 holiday break, I was able to catch up with talented @s_harper3 at a Teacheat/edu-catch up and with @willo023 at Signature-fine-dining: Balla with fellow Twitter foodie and educator @acoure)
  • Pass it on- sharing of cool stuff! One person shares, retweets and so on.  So many people come in contact with some amazing and handy resources very quickly...and effectively. Imagine calling a staff meeting to impart info you can read about at your pace, when you like, where ever you like.

  • Even whilst writing this post a form of affirmation arrives in a tweet by @mesterman after sending him a link that I felt he may find useful.
  • Apart from the professional aspects of my PLN; it has been fun receiving responses back from  "well knowns" such as Julie Goodwin, Wendy Harmer, Melissa Doyle and Jamie Oliver amongst others.
IN short:
  • A PLN allows me a tremendous sense of belonging. A belonging much more epic than my staffroom.
  • A PLN allows me to challenge thinking,  keep learning/not stagnate, be challenged, and assist me in keeping up to date with current thinking as well as providing me with a never ending tap to a global wealth of knowledge.  
  • A PLN allows me to better assist the students entrusted to my care.
A PLN is there- you just need to open the door.

How do you know what is available if you keep within your own very localised work environment?  

I acknowledge there are many effective educators that are not part of an extended PLN. (Wouldn't it be great for those educators to share their tips and wisdom with others) I also acknowledge any organisation needs to evolve; so why not education? We are getting there and I am excited about the subtle changes, especially for the next generation. After all, it is their future!

Some examples of PLN groups that I have created (and hopefully benefit others) :-

  1. Click here to visit the Catholic educators ning
  2. Click here for link to join Edmodo Food Educators group
  3. Click here for link to join the Edmodo Religious educators group
  4. Edmodo Health nutriton 4 us (USA) this is a group that I am co teaching with another teacher Mrs Susan Nicholas and her PDHPE classes in Illinious.  Classes have connected this term and next term they will create a small project together. What an awesome and exciting experience for all concerned!
  5. A blog for my Year 11 Food Technology class where we share our learning journey with the world. (click here to visit)
To help build your PLN, regularly participate in hashtagged converstations such as:

#ozengchat          (English-but great for general ideas!)
#ozscichat           (science)
#ozprimschchat  (primaryschool)
  • Also, be active in your tweeting, replying, sharing and commenting on other blogs.  This forms part of the conversation and challenges thoughts on your own practice and the practice of others.
  • Join in projects: in 2011 #ccglobal (connected classrooms ran an Advent card exchange using QR codes, the good old fashioned postal service and tools such as Vimeo or voice thread to send Christmas messages to each to each other.) You can read more about this here and see some of the great products of the kids creations. Kids enjoyed sending AND RECEIVING messages around the globe! This was a great initiative by @LiamDunphy and @pammoran. Here I met tremendous educators such as @vickyloras@lizarmenio and @corriekelly.

As I was writing this blog post I came across Caine's arcade. If you haven't seen this wonderful, feel good documentary, click here or bookmark to watch later. It is worthwhile! (9minutes)

Inspirational quotes:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do." 
-Mark Twain

It's a funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it.  
-W. Somerset Maugham

The guy who takes a chance, who walks the line between the known and unknown, who is unafraid of failure, will succeed.
-Gordon Parks

Take heed: you do not find what you do not seek. 
-English Proverb

You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore. 
-Christopher Columbus

In response to asking my Twitter connections about their PLN:
(I asked the question Why connect? Why a PLN?)

In response to asking my Edmodo connections about their PLN:

An example of PLN support:

Even tonight as I finish off this post, someone retweeted this:

Returning to car analogy from the beginning of the post; a PLN helps fuels my drive.
It provides me with additional energy and motivation to be as an effective educator as I think I ought to be.

To assist developing your PLN via twitter:

Extra reading and viewing:

-Primary Pride blog: I thought I appreciated twitter and then...
-Tech support of a different kind comes in a time of need (social media for good)
-Getting started with a Twitter PLN- by @milesmac TERRIFIC poster!
-A 2001 (yes!  2001 article on COMPUTERS as social networks! Interesting to read through)
-Twittermap-see a pin drop of your tweets or hashtag

With my PLN; I am more supported, more able, better inspired, affirmed, engaged and connected.
I value my PLN immensely. I am enriched because of my PLN. Having known a PLN; I don't think I could continue working effectively without one!  What about you?

Continuing the conversation and forever addicted to learning,
Kind regards Jeannette James


  1. Aw. Nice post. I am continually inspired and energised by your tweets and our catch-ups too. Has opened up my world of education so much! <3

  2. Thanks Elly! Sent draft to publish, served dinner and bingo! A reply from Elly :) So glad to have met you. Looking forward to many more laughs and great times! Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

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  4. Viviene Tuckerman26 May 2012 at 19:44

    Thank you so much for your never failing generosity and willingness to embrace the new. You are an inspiration to me Jeannette :)

  5. Love investigating the new! Who knows what it may deliver. Thanks for the comment. So glad you are also happy to share and support so many -especially all the great work you do on Edmodo!

  6. Wow, amazing post. As always your enthusiasm and energy for life, teaching and everything in-between humbles and inspires me. it is great to know, share and learn with you.

  7. I had the privilege of meeting you and watching one of your presentations at my very first teachmeet at NBCS. I was directed to your blog and amazed at all the work you do; not only for your students but other educators as well! One of my favourite presentations of yours was the Questioning (and sock!)techniques at St Augustine's College #teachmeet! I could never tire of learning from educators such as yourself. Thanks for all you do!

  8. What an epic post on your personal PLN journey!! My whole approach to teaching and love of learning has changed for the better since I began growing my PLN a couple of years ago. So glad you're a part of it JJ xo

  9. Right back at ya Megan! Love your enthusiasm and am continually amazed at your knowledge ;)

  10. Wow, I couldn't stop reading. Way to go documenting your learning journey. Wish I had half your energy!

  11. Thanks Cam. This post has been in draft since the holidays - revisited week 3 this term but didn't quite finish. A friend asked me to blog about using web 2.0 tools to develop a PLN (for a University assessment) It was an interesting process to reflect upon for sure! Glad I did :)

  12. Dear Jeannette,
    thanks for this wonderful post. It captures my feelings exactly! Before building my PLN I always felt confined to the walls of my country, but now I belong to the world. As you say, there's always someone in this huge international staffroom and I never feel alone any more. My PLN is my support, my inspiration and my encouragement. Thank you so much for being part of it.

  13. HI Arjana! I love "huge international staffroom!" So very true. Thanks for all your exciting work with International teachmeet and the Student teachmeets-heaps of fun! Have a great week. Are you guys almost at the end of the school year? How long is your summer break?

  14. Wow...! Your post really resonates with my own baby steps in establishing my virtual PLN. I came from a school that had an amazing embedded culture of professional dialogue and support, and have moved to place where it is taking longer to establish those connections as the newbie on the block. Connecting through twitter to #ozengchat, #tmsydney, and through those to people like you, @malynmawby, @vivimat78, @cpaterso, and more and more has been the best PD I've had in years. Through Cameron, we were able to attend Instructional Rounds, providing an invaluable opportunity to experience this firsthand before introducing at our place. Thanks for your post and again to everyone out there who offers their time, thoughts, etc to supporting the learning of our students and the growth of our profession.

  15. What an outstanding post! I am very lucky to be part of your PLN, and a friend.
    Your energy and desire to connect and share are such a inspiration to us all.
    There is so much for education to be proud of in this country, and we built this; it's organic, real and meaningful, so it cane sustained.

    I love what we have, the support for what we do and who we are can never be underestimated.


  16. Jeannette, This is an incredible post. Please can we get together in the holidays so you can give me some lessons in how you do what you do? I am blessed to be listed alongside those who have energy. Your energy abounds! It is so inspiring. Thankyou for including me in your PLN. I learn so much from you.

  17. Wow Jeanette what an amazing post. I really enjoyed meeting you, John, Elly, Andrew and Malyn at the teach eat last holidays. I started to setup my PLN in edmodo last year and have enjoyed sharing and receiving great ideas on how to integrate technology into learning.

    As you know I am very new to Twitter and I have met and followed many passionate educators like you. Like you I love to learn and lately found that the edmodo data stream was not fast enough. I can see how twitter is the backbone of a strong PLN as it is more personal. On your advice I have been compelled to start my own blog to share my experiences with the community that has shared so much with me.

    I am so happy to be part of your PLN and yours of mine. I look forward to getting to know you better through edmodo, twitter, teach meets and teach eats.

  18. Howdy Denise,
    Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment and get involved! Don't you just love the dialogue that bounces around in cyberspace- so inspiring when educators put this into action. Great you had a go at Instructional rounds. I went to Cam's school last year and would love to go back! Looking forward to meeting you sometime this year. Thanks for your support.
    "If the wind will not serve you, take to the oars!" Latin Proverb

    Dear Summer!
    You are amazing and I am humbled by your energy and positive outlook. I love hearing about all your wonderful students and the learning that occurs at the big R. I loved #ravoties- what a tremendous effort to instigate such a worthwhile professional learning environment for all of us who attended (and those that attended via the VERY active backchannell!). So, so, so very glad we connected at #teachmeet Shore!

    Hello Little Engine!
    It is thanks to YOU, I wrote this post in the first place. :) Sure, would love to get together and help you out in any way I can. I am a trial and error type of gal so, fall with me and learn new mistakes and we shall go places!
    "Experience is a brutal teacher. But you learn. My God, do you learn." C.S Lewis

    Howdy Simon,
    You are an amazing educator and I am so glad we connected via Edmodo! Fellow foodies at heart! I still love this quote: "Innovators are mixers: they blend together ideas and people to come up with new recipes". Charles Leadbeater. How great is our "pantry" of resources! My eyes are still so wide as to what is possible. The future is indeed bright.

  19. Really nice post. I too share your passon about PLN's and have blogged/presented on the subject. I just wish more of my colleagues would get on board and develop their own. -K.C. Boyd

  20. Many people in a PLN are helpful. Many people in a PLN are passionate. I have no hesitation in declaring you Jeannette as passionately helpful! My PLN is all the richer for your contributions.

  21. Thanks KC!

    Lovely to have another global tweeter join the conversation. It is great that you took the time to comment. I really do enjoy seeing all the various countries come across this blog, via the live traffic feed and stats. Very exciting! It is truly becoming an increasingly connected and engaged world. Even tonight watching the Eurovision singing contest, it was extremely entertaining reading everyone's Tweets via the #sbseurovision hashtag- some hilarious tweets!

    I would love to read your blog post on PLNs- can you direct me to it via Twitter? You seem like a funky librarian! Sure would be fun learning with you and your students at Wendell Phillips Academy High. I am looking forward to reading about your adventures on the other side of the world!

  22. You always make me smile Steve!

  23. Great post, Jeanette! Pulls everything together. Wll share with my staff... see if we can't get more people seeing the value of expanding their PLns beyond the school walls.

  24. Thank you Jeanette - not for singing my praises but the love and support you have shown me. I attended my first teach meet on your recommendation and have now increased my PLN with some inspiring people. I thoroughly agree about the benefit of twitter. I decided to begin my PLN through twitter and at first it was slow going and felt like a secret handshake club. But with the help of people like yourself it has spread worldwide and I have passed each one of my Masters subject through great connections with their fingers on the pulse. Let's hope I make it to the end of the race!

  25. Thanks for the kind words Miles. I am glad this post is able to provide help.

    Hello Lobroo! Another Queensland twitter buddy. Even though we are 10 hours apart, it is has been wonderful connecting with you and sharing ideas, resources and conversation. I am so glad you managed to get to a Teachmeet! I hope others at least try a few to get an overall sense of how valuable this PD can be. I am sure you will enjoy the rest of your masters. Glad you are in my PLN!

  26. Wow - look at those page views skyrocket! Great post and the viewing stats simply confirm the power of PLNs!!!

    So inspiring--great reflective post. I hope to share the post with educators at a workshop in August (still the old-style way until they are on-board!)!

  27. Jeannette,
    You have created a really substantive post here about so many benefits for joining the conversation beyond our school buildings. I would like to link to this post and share it with the participants in a workshop session coming up in June at the Iowa Reading Conference. Is that all right with you? Here is my "handout" for the conference. I would add this post to the resources I'm gathering here.

    Thanks for taking the time to explain it so fully,

    Thanks for taking the time to explain it so fully,

  28. Dear Karla,
    Great to hear #pln support from Minnesota! I am amazed at the positive response to this post- over 550 views in over 3 days. It is heartwarming to know people value your reflections enough to comment, read or RT (retweet) a link to the blog via Twitter. You are right; the power of a PLN is shown right here as people engage in a conversation about professional (or personal) learning networks and share the benefits with others. I am glad you can use this post in August. I would love to hear about it. Drop by and let us know how it goes :) @7mrsjames

    Dear Denise,
    Absolutely! That would be marvellous! I would be honoured knowing others may benefit from my reflections regarding "the deprivatisation of teaching and collaboration" (G, Whitby 2012 via Twitter). Feel free to link the post to your collection of resources.

  29. I'm right there with you! In August, when I try to spread the message of how my PLN has helped me, I'm going to cite this blogpost if you don't mind. You are so thorough and the instances you cited are stellar! Thank you for putting what I keep thinking into words! @JoyKirr

  30. I would be very honoured it you do Joy! Thanks for connecting :) You made my day!

  31. Great post and you've summed up so much of how I feel about my PLN - it's hard to explain to others without sounding evangelistic, they need to see it for themselves and you've done a great job of 'showing, not telling'. Thanks - will be sharing this post around our school to try to get others on board.

  32. Thanks Macgirl19. It was great to connect with you via the #ncab12 (National centre against bullying) twitter feed backchannel last week. Thanks to active Tweeple like yourself, others unable to attend are able to keep abreast on current thinking, ideas and resources. I am so pleased more and more are sharing! After all, we are here for the good of the kids! #kidsmatter

  33. Hi Jeannette, if this post doesn't convince people to start building a PLN then I'm not sure what will! I enjoy reading your posts, tweets and shares on edmodo. Your energy and enthusiasm for sharing and collaborating is wonderful. Thanks for sharing your PLN journey. I hope we can be as convincing in our conference presentaiton on PLN's next week :-0

  34. Good luck with your presentation in SA. I am sure attendees will be open to such a supportive network. Start small and slowly stretch your comfort zone is sound advice. There is always someone to help and support you. Educators must trust in the good of others and have the confidence to belong to a PLN. As in any group or relationship, it is important to "give" as well as "take". It is very much a two way street that can lead you into many intriguing little lanes and alleyways! Have fun!

  35. Wow, I really like this post. You've described not just the practical benefits of being part of a PLN, but also the tremendous joy and sense of belonging that it brings. I keep trying to explain to others why its worth investing the time to build a PLN. I think this post communicates that really well. I'll definitely be sharing this with others.