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PLN Starter Kit

About a month ago I asked you to help me create a “PLN Starter Kit” – a resource for educators who are ready to start building a Personal Learning Network but who just don’t know where to start.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t decide to do this out of the goodness of my heart. Rather, this project is the answer to complaints concerns I hear all of the time. “Well, I know I should be reading some blogs, but I just don’t know who to follow.” Or “I just don’t get Twitter. I’ve tried it, but I just can’t seem to find the good information.” It’s not that I’m tired of comments like this, (ok, I am a little bit tired of them), it’s just that I never quite know how to answer them – which is really frustrating because I simply cannot say enough about how my PLN has shaped my thinking, helped me grow as an educator and, to be blunt, made me a happier person. It’s absolutely maddening to know that something has made an indelible, life changing and permanent impact on my life and not be able to say “here’s how you can have the same experience!”

But that’s the thing about Personal Learning Networks. They’re personal. There is no fool proof, step by step plan to building one.

What I do know for certain is that the desire to create a PLN has to be genuine. A lot of states are starting to include PLNs as part of their educator appraisal instruments, which I see as a double edged sword. While I’d love to see every teacher, librarian and administrator develop a network of professionals to support and inspire them, the minute we start mandating it, PLNs will become just one more box to check-off during a hurried post observation interview. Truly, you might as well mandate that all educators be happy. It’d be about as effective

The other thing I know is that PLNs have to be passion driven. When I look at the networks some of my friends have created, I can see very clearly what motivates and inspires them. If you’re an avid reader/book reviewer, let that passion inform how you piece together your PLN. If you’re turned on by educational technology and free tech tools, make connections that lead you to those resources. If you’re fired up about educational reform, well… you get the picture. Following my network will only be effective if you are passionate about the exact same things I am. And I can’t imagine many people are. So, as you start this journey, be selfish. Think about your passions and let them be your guide.  We all know that are best lessons are the ones we love and feel most strongly about.  Follow your passions when developing your PLN and you won't go wrong.

That’s not to say, of course, that a few recommendations would hurt – which brings me back to the PLN Starter Kit. Back in June I asked you to share some of your “must follows," or the blogs and tweeters that you couldn’t live without – and boy did you deliver. In fact, I received over 400 responses!  A fact that was both amazing and daunting. So, over the last few weeks, I’ve been trying to compile them in a way that made sense and would be the most useful.

At first, I thought I’d just blog about your choices, the way Tamara Cox did recently when she wrote about cleaning out her RSS Feed so that the cream of the crop could rise to the top. I love her post, but I wanted this to be an evolving/growing resource, which made a single blog post impractical. Then, I thought about pinning your picks to a Pinterest board the way Nikki Roberston curates her amazing resources, because, let’s face it, Pinterest just looks good. But then I remembered that Pinterest is still blocked in a lot of school districts and I think you still need and invite to join, so I scrapped that idea too.

In the end, I decided to use Live Binders as the tool to create my PLN Starter Kit. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as though Live Binders was my last choice – far from it. In fact, once I realized that I really wanted to sort the resources into different categories, LB was the obvious choice.

One thing I want to make clear is that this resource is far from finished.  It's in no way exhaustive.  My hope is that it will continue to evolve as our networks grow. That said, as you look through our kit I’d like you to do the following:

  1. Pat yourself on the back. YOU created this. 

  2. Keep in mind that the resources are listed in no particular order. In most cases I just copied and pasted directly from the google doc that was created from from your suggestions.  (Although, it is my party, so I took the liberty of adding some folks and moving things around when I wanted).

  3. Keep in mind that I don’t follow everyone listed in this resource. This is a crowdsourced product – and while lots of the blogs/twitter feeds listed fit in my network, some don’t. You’ll have to choose which ones fit in yours. 

  4. Finally, if I’ve missed folks – and, let’s be honest, how could I not – let me know! Resources you leave in the comments will be added to the binder.  And don't hesitate to add yourself - if you've got something to share, by all means, share it! 

Finally, I just want to say thank you to everyone who participated in this project. I wasn't exactly sure what this would turn into when I started, but I love where it's going and I'm hopeful it will be helpful to people.  And big, big thanks to John Schu who is continuing to help me curate the “author” tabs in this resource - a section I hadn't originally planned to include.  Boy, it’s great to have a reading rock star in your PLN!


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