PLNs, Where Do We Begin?

Technology Concepts 1

Recently, I did a technology training workshop via Skype to teachers in Michigan. I have to thank Dave Sapp, a wonderful technology specialist, for this opportunity. I am located in Germany so I really enjoy doing Skype training with people from all over the world. The topic was PLNs. I began by directing each of the participants to look at each other, because these were already members of their Personal Learning Networks (PLNs), because these are the educators they go to for support, training, resources, and support! I was happy to see the teachers hug themselves and show appreciation to each other when I spoke these words.

Where Do We Begin?

Most of us who have seen the benefits of social media and PLNs want other educators to participate. I believe that sharing at the local level is where we should begin. If the educators at our school are already collaborating with each other and sharing resources then the leap to sharing on social media is not that huge. Primarily, the teachers have already seen the benefits of having a PLN at the school. For this reason, I love Alice Ayel’s recent idea to start a teacher club at her school for sharing resources. Also, I love how Dave Sapp has his own teachers in the school provide training during professional development days. These are fantastic ways to support the ideas of PLNs.

Why Should This be the Goal?

I don’t need to convince you of the power of PLNs if you already use social media. However, I can tell you a little bit about my growth. Did you know that I’ve been blogging and using Twitter for less than a year? I really started using Twitter in May. Since then, I started blogging and now my blog is up for the different Edublog Awards I’ve listed in the side bar. I cannot thank you enough for the nominations! Moreover, I have participated in online and face-to-face conferences. I have met other PLN members in Berlin, France, Poland, and LA. Before my Twitter birthday comes up, I plan on meeting many more of you. I have collaborated with schools all over the world and have had some of you be so fantastic as to share your experiences on my blog. Please look on the sidebar to read stories from guest bloggers from all over the world! I have been able to converse with Alfie Kohn through Edchat. How amazing is this?! I wake up every day excited to be part of this amazing conversation with my PLN, you! A little less than a year ago I was not connected to any of you and neither were my students. Now, my students and I learn from you daily. Many of you are like my additional family and I am humbled that you have supported me. In fact, you have made some of my family members believe in the power of PLNs. They no longer think my Twittering or blogging is a big joke! 😉

Our Difficult Jobs

Most importantly, you have rekindled my passion for continuous learning, growth, and self-reflection. As educators we have very tough jobs. We are responsible for the learning of society. What we do impacts students’ daily lives and futures. We are not paid enough and never appreciated enough. We do not have all the answers to the myriad of situations we face daily, such as students with learning disabilities, classes that lack resources, mixed ability classes, culture issues, security issues, poverty, and more. None of us were trained to handle all these obstacles which often coincide. Therefore, collaboration and resource sharing is the key. If every teacher had a PLN to turn to, then every teacher would have their own community working to solve these tough issues. If you enjoyed this post, you may enjoy reading these posts:


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Which ways have you encouraged resource sharing among the educators at your school?

Shelly Terrell

Shelly Sanchez Terrell (@ShellTerrell) is an award winning digital innovator, an international speaker/consultant, and the author of Hacking Digital Learning with EdTech Missions, The 30 Goals Challenge for Teachers, and Learning to Go. She has trained teachers and taught English language learners in over 20 countries as an invited guest expert by organizations, like the US Embassy, UNESCO Bangkok, Cultura Inglesa of Brazil, the British Council in Tel Aviv, IATEFL Slovenia, HUPE Croatia, ISTEK Turkey, and Venezuela TESOL. She has been recognized by several organizations and publications as a leader in the movement of teacher driven professional development as the founder and organizer of various online conferences, Twitter chats, and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Two of the projects she co-organized were shortlisted for ELTons, #ELTChat and the Virtual Round Table Language and Technology online conference. She was named Woman of the Year by the National Association of Professional Women, awarded a Bammy Award as a founder of #Edchat, and named as one of the 10 Most Influential People in EdTech by Tech & Learning. Her greatest joy is being the mother of baby Savannah and Rosco the pug. Shelly has an Honors BA in English with a Minor in Communication and a specialization in Electronic Media from UTSA, a Masters in Curriculum Instruction ESL from the University of Phoenix, and a CELTA from CELT Athens. She regularly shares her tips for effective technology integration via Twitter (@ShellTerrell),, and on her blog,, which has won several awards and recognitions as one of the top ESL, Edtech and Elearning blogs. Find over 400 of her slide presentations at


  1. Another great post, Shelly! I accept your challenge. While I have retired from the K-12 arena, I now train teachers and try to gently encourage them to utilize social media and the power of the PLN. I think modeling is the most potent tool I have so I try to actively share resources on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Nings. Having a Facebook page, in addition to a profile, has been helpful. After being immersed in ed tech for two decades, I have to say that the last year has been amazing for me too. I am so grateful for all I have learned from my colleagues.

    • Teri,

      The way you are using Facebook and other social media sites sounds very proactive. I have not quite gotten to be interactive yet with Facebook like I would want. I think actively sharing resources on many platforms is a great way of promoting PLNs.

  2. Just this Friday I realized I needed to get my staff going locally. This will be a good read for them. You are a mind reader.

  3. I’m continuously amazed at you, Ms Terrell!!!

    I really think one of the most important things for anyone to understand when taking up the challenge Shelly is laying out before you, is that in many cases, there really must be a leader/motivator/coach or dedicated team member which makes sure the rest of the team respond, actively participate, share and are challenged 😉

    Shelly Terrell stormed on to Twitter with initiative, grace, style, dedication, kindness, beaming with positivity and it’s these qualities above all, which have helped her do what she’s been able to achieve in this space of time.

    She makes our PLN work.

    Copy her (or do make sure to assign someone to do the same type of work in your sub-PLNs/real-world PLNs) as this is the way to motivate others.


    • Karenne,

      I would designate you as that leader. You are one of the biggest supporters of the education/ELT/EFL community and you encourage all members no matter their VIP status 😉 to be active. You have really encouraged me and others to have a voice and add to the conversation and shown that everyone has something valuable to offer!

  4. I love this post Shelly. As you said teachers have an impact on their students’ futures. It is really important that we also have the opportunity to think about how we can best improve all our futures together as we live in this world together. Thanks for your clarity and support for teachers and students. Teachers are not valued enough and its important to recognise this!

    • Hello Sara,

      It’s great to have you here! I think if teachers feel valued this improves their performance. Miserable teachers who feel undervalued will carry this into the classroom.

  5. Hi there Shelly,

    This is the second time I’m trying to comment, the last time I left a long comment and my browser crashed and I lost it all 🙁
    This was a lovely post too, and I can’t believe you’ve only been tweeting since May as I consider you a major tweeter (can one say that?) and one of the key players in the ELT PLN movement scheme of things. In my opinion anyway.

    One thing I’ve noticed recently is how big my PLN is getting. I think I need a post entitled PLN – Where do we end! By that I don’t mean give up, but how to keep up with all these new blogs coming out. I’m exhilarated and exhausted at the same time. Will be interesting to see what happens.
    Thanks again though!

    • Lindsay,

      Thank you for visiting! I feel the same way. My Google reader gets up to 400 posts now daily. I want to read and comment on them all. I look forward to reading your 6 Ways to Manage a Growing PLN 😉

  6. Shelly, what a great post, this would be my top contender for best blog post of 2010.

    It was well written, thought provoking and put things into words I couldn’t have said better myself.

    I did my own PLN post on Buffy Hamilton’s blog and had similar type thoughts. It’s funny, when I started doing this and blogging (twitter just since this summer) I didn’t even know what a PLN was. I remember asking Jennifer Dorman a question on Diigo and she responded “Isn’t a PLN a great?” Of course I said “Oh yes, it sure is!” having no idea what she was talking about. I had to google it only to find out what is stood for. Now low and behold I’ll be doing a presentation on it.

    It’s educators and people like you that make learning through technology such a joy. It fuels the fire that is my true passion of Technology Integration and Professional Development!!

  7. Shelly, you’ve really helped us come together and build a community. I’m amazed at your energy and determination when it comes to education. Thanks for making us a part of this big group of educators and sharers. I look forward to another year of great blogs and tweets.

  8. Thank you for the informative, detailed, and practical post. Sometimes one does without knowing the words or labels to describe one’s activities. Now I see that, in an informal way, I’ve been developing PLNs for some time.

    Your point about starting locally resonates, but comfort with technology varies – especially in traditional educational institutions that often view “populist” mediums with a certain distrust. Yet, slowly and inevitably, the possibilities and power of new ways of learning and teaching become evident – even to those who wish to be blind.

    Good luck and keep exploring!

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