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Build Your Personal Learning Network


Your “Personal Learning Network” or PLN is the group of people who feed your learning head. In a true PLN, you’re a contributor, not just a consumer. Meaningful participation in a PLN should be part of your Personal Learning Plan (see Task #1). Over the course of your learning plan, your PLN will begin to overlap with the professional network of practitioners in your field, where you’ll need to demonstrate value in order to connect with opportunities (see Task #4: Demonstrate Value to a Community).

To visualize your PLN, draw a diagram that looks like a dandelion head. You, the learner, are at the center. The seeds around you are the people or groups in your life who contribute to your learning. Here’s some places to find them.

+Family and friends

+Real-life classmates, past and present

+Real-life teachers, past and present


+Google Reader,, Delicious,, Digg,, Diigo, or Reddit, or another “social bookmarking” service. You can “follow” people on these sites as they share links of interest from their daily reading on the web. Because the whole site is designed around sharing links, a free flow of ideas generally follows. 

+Facebook, Google+. Most of your social network friends probably don’t belong in your personal learning network, but you may have a few who consistently post links that connect with your interests, or start interesting intellectual debates. That’s who we’re talking about here.

+Blogs & YouTube channels. Some blogs have active communities of people in the comments.

+Conferences, meetups, bookstore events, or talks.

+Special interest online forums like StackOverflow (, for programmers, Vimeo for filmmakers, and many more.

+Professors or other experts whose classes you watch on open courseware sites, whose books you read, or whose ideas you connect with in another way. 

+Participants in study groups or book groups, online or offline.

Once you get going you might be able to list hundreds of people who belong in your personal learning network. Some may be close friends, and others you’ll never meet. If you’re following a personal learning plan, it’s a good idea to create a dedicated online place where your personal learning network can live.

Task Discussion

  • AJC   Sept. 12, 2011, 3:33 p.m.

    I'm starting to believe that through building this network, a stronger learning plan will reveal itself. As I unearth more connections in the potential network of people places and things I can learn from, I perceive a stronger vision for the direction I could go in with my learning goals. This has been pretty fun.

    I'm working on a drawing of my potential network at the moment and will post it up in a day or so. What has everyone else been discovering?

  • Anya Kamenetz   Sept. 12, 2011, 3:38 p.m.
    In Reply To:   AJC   Sept. 12, 2011, 3:33 p.m.

    Love this idea, Alison!

    I'll post mine too in a couple of days.