One of my research participants shared that for her, learning through a PLN was like going to a good cocktail party. While I can’t promise you a delicious drink, I have given each of you a tiny cocktail umbrella – so tuck it behind your ear, or poke it in your lapel, and let’s start learning together!
All jokes aside, the reference to the cocktail party was serious – when learning through a PLN, there are opportunities to take on board new information and resources (like having a drink and a nibble at a party), you might engage with professional dialogue with colleagues (just as you will probably chat with friends at a cocktail party) and you will make new connections and network with others (hopefully at a cocktail party, you leave knowing more people than when you arrived).
My own experiences with learning through a PLN have been as enjoyable and positive as going to a cocktail party. In my career, I have worked as a classroom teacher, a deputy principal, a teacher librarian, an education officer and a sessional academic. During this time, I have had a passion for connecting and learning with others, offline and increasingly, online. I have blogged, tweeted, pinned and instagrammed. I have spent many hours with my iPad on my lap or sitting in front of my computer. I have had many learning experiences due to the connections I have made online.
My PLN experiences are what inspired my PhD research. I wanted to find out if the PLN could be an opportunity to transform professional learning. I wanted to learn more others’ experiences, and I wanted to discover whether there might be evidence for how this type of flexible, accessible learning may overcome the temporal, geographic and structural limitations.
So three years after I began this journey, what have I discovered? I’m excited to be sharing that with you today. But first, it is important to ensure that everyone here shares a clear understanding of exactly what a PLN is. You may have been developing your PLN for as long as I have, but it may be a new term for others. I also understand that when I say PLN, I might be describing something completely different to what you are thinking.
Transforming professional learning to learning as a professional What might I conclude from these findings? Clearly, professional learning through a PLN offers many different learning opportunities, that may be tailored to the individual’s needs, context and personal approach to their profession. Engaging with learning through a PLN has the capacity to transform professional learning into an experience that I call “learning as a connected professional”
Learning as a connected professional elaborates on what we already know about professional learning, and presents a complex, multi-faceted experience of professional learning which draws upon the theoretical foundations of connectivism, networked learning and connected learning. Let’s examine each part of the model in turn.
This research reveals that initiating and maintaining a PLN that enables learning as a connected professional requires more than an account on a social media platform and several individuals to follow or friend. Transformative pedagogical, personal and public learning opportunities are more likely for active, self-directed learners who nurture a network of diverse connections. The conceptual model of learning as a connected professional provides teachers with an overarching picture, while the framework offers insight into the ways experiences of learning are formed by the learner’s purposes, their attributes and the qualities of their PLN.
Becoming Connected - with your PLN
Faculty of Education,
Queensland University of Technology
firstname.lastname@example.org @kayoddone www.linkinglearning.com.au
“Learning through a PLN
is like a good cocktail
Says one research
You talk a
You drink a
You network a
• An online network
• Connections with people, information & resources
• Strategically developed by an individual
• Opportunities for informal learning
She’s talking about a PLN –
a Personal Learning Network!
“Online applications and
services that enable
collaboration and content
creation and sharing.”
(Dabbagh & Kitsantas, 2012)
Learning as a
Arenas of professional learning
Embedded in social software
A conceptual model
learning to learning as a
The PLN offers many types of learning…
Connected professionals are -
It’s not about
It’s about how
you interact and
contribute to the
Use the power of
the hash tag.
It helps you
those who will
your practice and
help you to grow
by presenting you
with new ideas.
Be literate in
The PLN offers
opportunity to learn
as a connected
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Castells, M. (2000). The rise of the network society (Vol. 1.). Malden, MA; Oxford;: Blackwell Publishers.
Downes, S. (2010). Learning networks and connective knowledge. In H. H. Yang (Ed.), Collective intelligence and e-learning 2.0: Implications of
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Nussbaum-Beach, S., & Hall, L. R. (2012). The connected educator: Learning and leading in a digital age. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.
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2005(January). Retrieved from http://www.itdl.org/