Build A PLN: A Newbie's Guide

Let me start by saying that I am not an expert in any way. The guide I am going to lay out is a simple way to start building a Personal Learning Network (PLN). I am very new at this (7-10-10 to be exact). I am going to give you my guide in doses, so only take as much as you can handle.

Day 1: Breakfast
Assignment: Create a gmail account.
Why?: You do not need to switch to this email account. We will use it later for some Open ID places and for Google Reader.

Day 1: Lunch
Assignment: Create the following accounts: Twitter and Facebook.
Link: Twitter and Facebook
Why?: These are two of the biggest social network sites right now. You are not doing anything with these accounts yet. You are just signing up.

Day 1: Dinner
Assignment: Create a blog and add the following: About Me, 2 Gadgets (sometimes called Widgets), and One Small Post
Link: Blogger (people use other sites, I prefer this one)
Why?: A blog is where you will direct readers to your posted thoughts and opinions, the links you enjoy, and connect with you a lots of other ways.
How?: To start the blog, pick a simple design (you can change it later). Focus on being clear in the "About Me" part (Job, Family, Hobbies). The two gadgets can be any you pick on the design page (you can also get widgets from other sites and add them in). My favorites: Wibiya (the toolbar you see at the bottom), Revolver Maps (shows where visitors are from) or add a simple gadget on the design page by clicking on "Add gadget". Now for your small post, this can be an introduction of yourself, a welcome to visitors, or you can jump right in and post your thoughts. Make sure you hit save, and then admire your work (rule of thumb: save often!).

Want more? Forgo sleep, and continue....

Day 2: Breakfast
Assignment: Join some Nings! (+Inter. Edu Bloggers)
Why?: Nings are a lot like Facebook, but they are often directed around a topic. Here are a few I am part of: Second Grade, Another Second Grade, Educator's PLN, or find your own. These sites will be places for you to join discussions, gather resources, network, and link back to your blog. You should also join the International Edubloggers Directory if you want to connect globally.

Day 2: Lunch
Assignment: Store sites and feeds with Diigo, Delicious, and Google Reader.
Why?: You do not need to sign up for all of these, and if you are going to pick just one, I like Diigo the best. They all have special features. Make sure you install the tool bar with Diigo, it will place some cool tools on your internet browser (I use Mozilla). If you are ambitious you can sign up for Delicious and Google Reader also. Now that you have one or all of these, spend some time and figure out how to bookmark a website with the tool you chose. The job now is to go back to all the sites you joined and bookmark them (facebook, twitter, your blog site, the Nings, etc.)

Day 2: Dinner
Assignment: Create an awesome blog post.
Why?: You have something to say right? Maybe it is about an article you read, or another blog you read (More Ideas Here). This is the time to really get your thoughts out. Be sure to include some links in your post, read through it once, and fill in a couple of labels at the end before you publish.

Day 3: Breakfast
Assignment: Connect with people using Twitter and TweepML.
Why?: If you are not following anyone on Twitter, most likely no one is following you. Time to change that.
How?: I am going to give you two lists that contain educators: and You need to do this procedure twice. Copy one of the lists (highlight and control+c). Go here. Paste the list in the section that says "Follow a Twitter List" and click submit. It should load up a bunch of people. At the bottom you want to click "Sign in on Twitter Account." A window will open and you must allow the program to access your Twitter. Repeat process with second list. You should now have a bunch of people you follow on Twitter.
(You will get a bunch of direct automatic messages from people. This is a welcome note. You can set up your own at Socialoomph)

Day 3: Lunch
Assignment: Tell people about your blog.
Why?: Know that you are a bit more connected, you should share you awesome blog. To start, create a Tweet that says what your blog post was about and includes a link (you can make a Tinyurl or add a tool later that allows direct tweets from your posts). Next you should revisit all the nings you joined and kindly ask the people in the forum to read your blog and comment. You can also post it on Facebook as a status update or you can join some education groups on there and share.
It may be slow and take a few tries to get people to visit your blog. Don't get discouraged. It may also take some time for people to follow your Twitter. The more you post on your blog and twitter that is relevant to what people are interested in the more followers you will get. (Frequency and Relevancy are key).

Day 3: Dinner
Assignment: Build a network of connections.
Why?: If your PLN is small you may not be getting the best info. Start following other blogs, reading their posts, and leaving a comments (your comment can ask them to read your posts too). Here are a few favorite blogs: Principal's Reflections, Around the Corner, and Moving at the Speed of Creativity. On each of these sites you should see other blogs to follow on the side columns. Feel free build from here. You can add them to your Diigo, Delicious, or Google Reader. You can also follow them at the top if they are on Blogger. There may be other ways to connect (RSS great guide from Will Richardson) so look around the sites. These people are experts and have great things to read.

Day 4: Breakfast
Assignment: Blog again and Get Twittering
Why?: If you want to keep people coming to your site and connecting with you, you need to say more stuff. Blog about a great teaching idea you thought of that others can use. Now get sharing it, share your blog site on Twitter, Facebook, Nings, and other groups you joined.

Day 4: Lunch
Assignment: Explore the Features of Your Tools
Why?: Mostly likely there are more ways you can use Diigo, Delicious, Google Reader, Twitter, Facebook, etc. You would do some searches on some useful ways to use the tools. Will Richardson has a great blog to check out.

You are now pretty well connected. You may want to relax a bit (but keep blogging and sharing).
To keep from going stale and getting out of the loop, you should always respond to messages sent to you. You should do something to your blog at least once a week.

If you are hungry for more, here a few things to explore:
  • Get to know some html code. It is useful for adding widgets, and other tools to your blog. A lot of code is copy and paste now, but it is still useful to understand how it works.
  • Explore some other cools: TweetDeck, Plurk, Glogster, Skype, and Digsby are just a few tools you may want to look into.
  • Message people through a variety of tools. Direct Message on Twitter. Email people. Post comments on forums, and blogs.
  • Build a network of people to follow on Diigo and Delicious. Share bookmarks.
  • Read, Blog, and Comment often. Stay relevant and connected.
  • Look for ways you can collaborate with other educators (Wikis, and other projects).
Again this is only a guide of some things I did to start building my PLN.
What things did I miss? What are some other useful ways to help newbies?

Post a Comment


  1. This is an amazing post. I wish I had seen it when I first started building my PLN. Right now, I feel like I am all over the place.

    I will definitely be sharing this one with my teachers.

    Twitter: @ElaineReads

  2. Thank you for sharing your "step by step" guide to building a PLN. I just added your button to my webpage. The teachers I work with will thoroughly enjoy it. Keep sharing your fantastic resources! :)

    Twitter Handle: @mhuskerfan

  3. Great suggestions. I am just getting started setting up my PLN. So far I have Twitter, Facebook, and a blog that I haven't updated in months. Time to get back at it. Thanks for the motivation.

    Twitter: @rfgrasso

  4. I would love to use your post to motivate new users at an upcoming tech camp! Ok if I link here?
    - Alison

  5. Mme Bullock. I would love if you linked up with this guide. Anything else I can do to help?
    Please let me know.

  6. Thanks for sharing - I will def be sharing with teachers to get them into creating their own PLN's as well as getting my blog updated more often....thanks for the inspiration..


  7. Great post. My journey to building my PLN is similar to your post except mine took over a year. I will refer several of my teaching friends to read this blog. This is a great service to all teachers not just Newbie's. Thank you

  8. Thanks for your kind response Orlando! Feel free to pass it along.

  9. I love this post. I am presenting a district workshop later in the month on creating a PLN and this blog is so helpful.

  10. Sheila

    Let me know how the work shop goes or if I can be of further assistance.

  11. Nice post that I'll refer to again later. Thanks.

    I might add as a followup for finding more people to follow on Twitter that participating in an online Twitter discussion such as #EdChat can be helpful. If you post some of your thoughts as opposed to just reading, you might pickup some Twitter followers too.

  12. May I use this as well in a workshop I'm giving next month to our teachers on building their own PLN? It's wonderful!

    Sharon Brown
    Slidell High School

  13. Sharon,
    That would be fine with me. I made it for people to use. You can adapt it to whatever your group needs. Add things or change things, it doesn't matter to me. If you need any help let me know,

  14. Splendid. I've listed you here: 4 teachers

  15. Ian,
    I am just starting this process. Thank you for the support!

  16. Just like Sharon had asked you, may I use this in a workshop. I have three presentations at my county's yearly technology conference and one of them is starting a PLN. This is really awesome and I wish I had this when I first started.
    One other thing...the workshop is tomorrow.