What is a PLN, anyway?

A  good friend (and a great teacher) e-mailed me after my last post. “Great links,” she said. “But what’s a PLN?”

A good reminder about why I try to avoid acronyms and jargon in my writing.

PLN is an acronym for Personal Learning Network. The acronym is relatively new, but the idea is not. Teachers have always had learning networks—people we learn from and share with. Teachers are information junkies. We’re also social. Put the two together and you have a personal learning network.

The structure of my PLN has changed since I first started teaching.

The pre-Internet 80s

Yes, there was an internet of sorts in the 80s, but I wasn’t on it. Teachers at my school made up the core of my PLN. Network central was wherever we gathered between and after classes. Most of the information we shared came from articles or books we’d read, conferences or workshops we attended. Books came from the bookstore, information from conferences came home in suitcases. The good stuff was photocopied and filed for future reference.

My PLN was very small—the teachers in my school, a few colleagues from graduate school, workshop presenters. Most information was shared face to face.

The e-mail 90s

I sent my first e-mail message in 1995. I could find information about books online, but had to buy them in a store (or, ask someone in the US to buy them in a store and ship them to me). I saved bookmarks for websites I liked, but still printed out pages for my files, and still shared information face to face.

My PLN got a little bigger in the 90s. I could use the Internet to look for infomation, and I could use e-mail to communicate with people after I met them at conferences. However, the people in my PLN were still mostly teachers I had met face to face.

The social 2000s

For information junkies, this decade has been amazing. Not only can I order books online and have them shipped to me in Japan, I can order books and download them to my computer. I access most journals and newspapers the same way. Information is waiting for me each morning in my inbox from discussion groups. The sheer volume of information available can be overwhelming at times.

The  biggest change has been in the way I meet and communicate with people in my PLN.

First, there is Twitter, which is like a big noisy teacher’s lounge. Everyone is talking (texting) at once. I might share a conversation with one or two teachers in the lounge, and catch fragments of other conversations around me. As I read the newspapers and group digests in my inbox, I share the good bits by sending short messages to other teachers on Twitter. Since they do the same, there are a lot of good bits being shared.

Most of the resources are in the form of links—to websites, to e-books, to blogs, or to activities. Rather than printing out copies for my files, I save the links on a social bookmarking site, like Delicious. Because I use tags instead of file folders, I can easily search for specific items. And because teachers can look through each other’s bookmarks, it’s easy to share.

Discussion groups (like JALT’s Teaching Children SIG or IATEFL’s Young Learners and Teenagers SIG) are like conference breakout sessions, where teachers have extended, and topic-oriented conversations.

Nings are like subject area resource rooms in a large school. They’re social networks connecting teachers with common interests. In addition to discussion forums, members keep blogs, share resources, and plan group activities.  EFL teachers might belong to EFL Classroom 2.0 or English Companion, or both.

I attended more conferences than ever before, but travel much less. I still prefer to physically attend a conference, but online sessions and summaries allow me to be there in spirit even when it’s impossible to be there in body. For example, the IATEFL conference this year broadcast plenary and workshop sessions (and then archived the videos available on the website), Twitter allowed workshop participants to share updates and allowed teachers not at the conference (like me) to ask questions during panel discussions. Issues raised during the presentations were discussed in online forums.

The kinds of discussions I have, and information I share with my PLN hasn’t changed all that much over the years–what works in class, how students learn, how to become a better teacher. How I meet other teachers, where we discuss ideas, and how we share information has changed. Significantly. My PLN now includes teachers who live quite far from me—in Asia, Australia, the Americas, Europe and Africa. I meet them online. I learn from them online. I share with them online.

The teachers in my Personal Learning Network are some of the best friends I’ll never meet.

Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto

About Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto

Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto has taught English and ESL in the US, and EFL in Japan. An EFL teacher and teacher trainer since 1985, she has conducted workshops throughout Asia, the USA and Latin America. Barbara’s motto is ‘Always try new things’, so these days, when she’s not teaching, writing, or giving workshops, she’s exploring the potential of new technologies for collaboration and professional development. You can often find Barbara online working with teachers around the world as Program Director for International Teacher Development Institute (iTDi.pro) or on her new blog for English teaches who work with young learners, Teaching Children English.

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94 Responses

  1. September 11, 2009

    […] Read the original: What is a PLN, anyway? – Teaching Village […]

  2. September 11, 2009

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mary Beth Hertz and Edustat University. Mary Beth Hertz said: RT @ozge: Another great post from @barbsaka : What is a PLN, anyway? http://bit.ly/VLPbg #ocp […]

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  4. September 17, 2009

    […] (Note: If this is the first post you’ve read in this series, and you’re mystified by the PLN acronym, start with What’s a PLN, anyway?) […]

  5. September 26, 2009

    […] What’s A PLN, Anyway? […]

  6. October 2, 2009

    […] 80’s” to the “social 2000’s” and experiences with PLN’s. What is a PLN, anyway? I’ll let Barbara tell you at her blog Teaching Village: We’re better when we work […]

  7. November 1, 2009

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Liz Becker, Cindy Marston. Cindy Marston said: RT @Ellsbeth: I've read it before, but I just really like this description of a PLN: http://bit.ly/4awDeh […]

  8. November 15, 2009

    […] (Note: If this is the first post you’ve read in this series, and you’re mystified by the PLN acronym, start with What’s a PLN, anyway?) […]

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  10. March 19, 2010

    […] The Educator’s PLN What is a PLN anyway? A PLN is […]

  11. May 12, 2010

    […] I still used it occasionally, but it wasn’t near as interesting or useful as Twitter and my PLN (Personal Learning […]

  12. June 13, 2010

    […] This post is inspired by several things: The “It’s worth taking a look at this blog” initiative that had folks recommending blogs they liked, Darren Elliot’s call for us to find and recommend hidden gems from blog archives, and my own (long neglected) posts about “What I’ve learned from my PLN.” (PLN stands for Personal Learning Network. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, read “What is a PLN, anyway?”) […]

  13. July 23, 2010

    […] with one or two teachers in the lounge, and catch fragments of other conversations around them (Teaching Village). I liked this analogy…. Though I wanted to expand upon it. Sometimes, during lunch […]

  14. August 22, 2010

    […] a PLN online that will not overwhelm me.  I try to keep my online and offline life balanced [5], so these steps work well for me.  As for my offline PLN, I have created wonderful connections […]

  15. March 14, 2011

    […] could write up my own definition of a PLN, but its been done plenty elsewhere – like in this post, which sums it up pretty well for me. The only difference for me is that my PLN isn’t […]

  16. May 25, 2011

    […] P.S. If you’re not sure what a personal learning network is, you might enjoy What is a PLN, anyway? […]

  17. May 25, 2011

    […] a Personal Learning Network……seems so obvious to me know. The following excerpt is from TeachingVillage.org and offers a short and sweet […]

  18. June 12, 2011

    […] you haven’t heard of it yet, the premise is simple.  Ask your favorite PLN person 5 standard questions, which you’ll see below, and from there, get to know them in ways […]

  19. January 4, 2012

    […] […]

  20. January 4, 2012

    […] jQuery("#errors*").hide(); window.location= data.themeInternalUrl; } }); } http://www.teachingvillage.org (via @lattesc) – Today, 4:01 […]

  21. January 5, 2012

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  22. January 8, 2012

    […] What is a PLN, anyway? – Teaching Village […]

  23. February 27, 2012

    […] to forward the link to family and friends in far away places. Lastly I called upon my Twitter PLN for […]

  24. April 18, 2012

    […] by Jennifer Verschoor Learning Lessons in Thailand by Rob Newberry And two of my early posts: What is a PLN, anyway? and Why I Love […]

  25. June 2, 2012

    […] on the link below to see the great list generated by #ntchat-ers and other educators in my PLN who contributed and get to planning your summer […]

  26. July 16, 2012

    […] of them have never seen my face or heard my voice.  Barbara from Teaching Village said, “The teachers in my Personal Learning Network are some of the best friends I’ll never meet” and I couldn’t agree […]

  27. August 1, 2012

    […] answer two simple questions:What is one important thing you’ve learned from someone in your Personal Learning Network (P.L.N.), however you define that network?What one person, group or organization would you recommend every […]

  28. August 2, 2012

    […] events and activities in dozens of online locations to develop skills and enhance their P.L.N.s, or personal learning networks. Check out the schedule of this month’s online sessions […]

  29. August 2, 2012

    […] is one critical thing you’ve schooled from someone in your Personal Learning Network (P.L.N.), however we conclude that […]

  30. August 6, 2012

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  31. August 7, 2012

    […] is one important thing you’ve learned from someone in your Personal Learning Network (P.L.N.), however you define that […]

  32. August 9, 2012

    […] is one important thing you’ve learned from someone in your Personal Learning Network (P.L.N.), however you define that […]

  33. August 15, 2012

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  34. August 20, 2012

    […] online communities and networks to meet the needs of education professionals.”Who is in your “personal learning network,” or “P.L.N.”? Earlier this month, we asked some educators we admire two questions about […]

  35. August 20, 2012

    […] is in your “personal learning network,” or “P.L.N.”? Earlier this month, we asked some educators we admire two questions about […]

  36. September 23, 2012

    […] What is a PLN anyway? – recommended by Elizabeth A […]

  37. October 4, 2012

    […] PLN (read this post from teaching village for more details) is basically your knowledge and resource pool. Think about how a student of a language has a […]

  38. January 1, 2013

    […] What is a PLN anyway? – recommended by Elizabeth A […]

  39. January 28, 2013

    […] a few resources I wanted to share that really helped me with these questions. One was a post titled What is a PLN, anyway?   The author talks about how a personal learning network in the 80′s would have been much […]

  40. March 4, 2013
  41. March 8, 2013

    […] Years ago we had to sit in a classroom to learn. Find that college, school, course, and teacher that had the expertise to deliver the information to us. We all know how different things are today. Educators are now using various social medias to connect world wide through their PLNs using different hashtags. What is a PLN? Simply stated, it’s a personal or professional learning network. Here is a great article explaining what it is plus a few resources to get you started. […]

  42. March 19, 2013

    […] What a sharp learning curve. It has been fast and furious for me, diving into many new technologies. Kay Li has described the importance of using a PLN or Personal Learning Network to get connected with others. It is important for educators to share resources, ideas and knowledge that may benefit their students. The teaching village explains the rewards for teachers who connect and share and explains that with evolving technology, new ways of networking are being used. Check out the site at http://www.teachingvillage.org/2012/01/03/what-is-a-pln-anyway/ […]

  43. April 3, 2013

    […] here or here for more information on Personal Learning […]

  44. April 9, 2013

    […] This blog sums up the changes perfectly. […]

  45. June 20, 2013

    […] 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/ […]

  46. June 27, 2013

    […] Network” (PLN).   I LOVE the article posted on Teachingvillage.org that answers, “What is a PLN Anyway?“   Many of you already use some of the tools already!  (Twitter or Pinterest anyone?)  Be […]

  47. July 17, 2013

    […] A good friend (and a great teacher) e-mailed me after my last post. “Great links,” she said. “But what’s a PLN?” A good reminder about why I try to avoid acronyms and…  […]

  48. August 5, 2013

    […] reading a post from http://www.teachingvillage.org/2012/01/03/what-is-a-pln-anyway/ I understand a Personal Learning network to be a resource where one can pool ideas about teaching […]

  49. September 16, 2013

    […] Hoskins Sakamoto, B. (2012, January 03). What is a pln, anyway?. Retrieved from http://www.teachingvillage.org/2012/01/03/what-is-a-pln-anyway/ […]

  50. September 16, 2013
  51. October 1, 2013

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

  52. October 15, 2013
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    […] Nuala Reference: What is a PLN Anyway? Retrieved from:   http://www.teachingvillage.org/2012/01/03/what-is-a-pln-anyway/ […]

  54. October 27, 2013

    […] References: Sakamoto. Barbara. (2012, January 3). What is a PLN, anyway? Message posted to http://www.teachingvillage.org/2012/01/03/what-is-a-pln-anyway/ […]

  55. October 28, 2013

    […] Barbara. (2012, Jan 03). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://www.teachingvillage.org/2012/01/03/what-is-a-pln-anyway/ […]

  56. November 3, 2013

    […] Teaching Village. (2012, January 3). What is a PLN, anyway?. Message posted to http://www.teachingvillage.org/2012/01/03/what-is-a-pln-anyway/ […]

  57. November 17, 2013

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

  58. March 22, 2014

    […] What’s a PLN anyway? […]

  59. March 31, 2014

    […] PLN refers to my Personal Learning Network and has been around forever. This is the entire collection of people with whom we engage and […]

  60. May 29, 2014

    […] of them have never seen my face or heard my voice.  Barbara from Teaching Village said, “The teachers in my Personal Learning Network are some of the best friends I’ll never meet” and I couldn’t agree […]

  61. May 31, 2014

    […] of them have never seen my face or heard my voice.  Barbara from Teaching Village said, “The teachers in my Personal Learning Network are some of the best friends I’ll never meet” and I couldn’t agree […]

  62. June 2, 2014

    […] A good friend (and a great teacher) e-mailed me after my last post. "Great links," she said. "But what's a PLN?" A good reminder about why I try to avoid acronyms and jargon in my writing. PLN is …  […]

  63. August 15, 2014

    […] Sakamoto. B. H. (2012, January 3). What is a PLN, anyway? Message posted to http://www.teachingvillage.org/2012/01/03/what-is-a-pln-anyway/ […]

  64. August 24, 2014

    […] Sakamoto. B. H. (2012, January 3). What is a PLN, anyway? Message posted to http://www.teachingvillage.org/2012/01/03/what-is-a-pln-anyway/ […]

  65. October 8, 2014

    […] What is a PLN anyway? by Barbara Haskins Sakamoto – Teaching Village Blog […]

  66. November 1, 2014

    […] Hoskins Sakamoto, B. (2012, Jan 3rd). What is a PLN Anyway? [blog post]. Retrieved from http://www.teachingvillage.org/2012/01/03/what-is-a-pln-anyway/ […]

  67. November 3, 2014

    […] Sakamoto.H.B.(2012, January 3). What is a PLN, anyway?. Retrieved from http://www.teachingvillage.org/2012/01/03/what-is-a-pln-anyway/V […]