Short version:

Start to understand what other educators who you already know of (and some you don’t) are doing for their own PLN to gather ideas for your own.


Image: Some rights reserved by WebWizzard

Long version:

This step invites the kind of classic meandering, exploratory Internet browsing that could use up a lot of time (and much, much more than 15 minutes if you want it to). Saying this, it’s justified because taking inspiration from other educators who are leading out on PLN usage is surely a valuable step in developing your own PLN. Once you commit to developing your PLN, you will inevitably take this particular step time and time again as you connect with more people, and doing this will become even more rewarding the more you understand about the tools and methods for maintaining a PLN. It’s worth bearing this last point in mind – if you are starting out on all of this from scratch, some of the questions below might be initially confusing and you should be prepared to move on and come back to them again later. For now, the main hope here is really that you will begin to think to yourself that you could begin to do some of what it is you appreciate other people already doing.

However, remembering that your time is finite, take care not to let this activity balloon into something that stalls you from the next steps for getting your own PLN up and running. Looking at what others are doing in this way is only helpful if it spurs you into action.

There are individual educators and groups of educators out there whose online work you admire and are very much aware of already. You have probably bookmarked their website, linked to their work and shared that link with others (students, colleagues and perhaps parents), and you have used some of their ideas / resources at some point in your recent teaching.

These are the sort of people you are most likely prepared to take inspiration from, so it’s a good idea to see how they manage the online professional life and look for tips on how to establish a successful PLN.


Image: Some rights reserved by Torley

With this specific intent in mind, go back to their websites / spaces on the web where you have found their stuff and seen their active contributions to education. Keep these questions in mind:

(a) How do they share content via various online tools?

If you are on their own website then this is the most obvious way that they can distribute their work. Is it a blog? (This site is, for example, a blog … an online journal with ‘posts’ ordered by date with the most recent at the top). Or is an aspect of their website a blog? How is it linked to? Advanced question – can you figure out what are they using to host that blog (blogger, wordpress, edublogs, etc.)  – this is often revealed at the bottom if not in the web address.

(b) How do they encourage people to stay updated with their work?

Do they include some kind of rss feed? This allows others to receive regular updates on their work through a web-based rss reader such as Google reader, or a piece of desktop software that does the same thing. More on this in #15MINPLN No. 6.

Do they link to a twitter account which they also maintain? Even if you are unfamiliar with twitter at this stage, it is worth looking at what they are writing about and linking to from their website. Can you see their ‘tweets’ (mini-blog posts)? Can you click on a link that will take you directly to their twitter profile? If so, what does that looks like? (And is there a link there taking you back to their main website?)

Do they link to their space on other networking sites, such as Facebook,, diigo, linkedin, youtube, etc.? Visit these spaces to see what that involves.

(c) How do they invite and maintain regular dialogue with other educators?

  • Do they allow comments on their content?
  • Do they respond to comments, therefore encouraging active dialogue?
  • Do they invite email feedback?
  • What evidence is there that people appreciate using this site?

(d) How do they encourage others to spread the word on what they are doing?

Is there an easy way for someone to redistribute their work (posts, tweets, etc.) through buttons / links for instant tweeting, emailing, bookmarking, etc.?

(e) How do they spread the word on what others in their PLN are doing?

This is a key question. It may well be that you start to explore some of the online presence of these people too. That’s part and parcel of how a PLN works – you are led to more and more like-minded people through the people you already follow online.

  • Do they link to sites run by other educators?
  • Do they refer to and credit others’ work? Links, youtube clips, slideshare presentations, and more.
  • On twitter, do they ‘retweet’ other people’s tweets.

In most cases to the above questions the answer will be ‘yes’, and it’s possible you would have known that already. It’s useful, however, for all those interested in developing a PLN to recognise how these things actually work and get increasingly familiar with the process.

One final, more general question worth having in mind …

(f) Overall, how do they project themselves online? (What is their answer to step 3 in the #15MINPLN series).

Next in the #15MINPLN series – Staking out your corner of the Google Universe.