Sunday, January 12, 2014

Student PLNs

If you are reading this blog, it means you are probably part of my PLN (Personal Learning Network), and for that I thank you.  As educators we should all have people to learn from on a regular basis.  We need a network of like-minded professionals to challenge our thinking and heighten our professional experience.  These can be co-workers and colleagues in our buildings, but I am sure you are reading this via Twitter, which means you are plugged into a broader global community of learners and know the potential of connecting digitally.  Since personal learning networks can include anyone who you trust to support your learning and make you better, shouldn’t we encourage our students to develop their own personal learning networks so they can experience the same benefits?
  I decided to apply this idea to Writer’s Workshop last year.  We were doing daily conferring and pair shares, but students really wanted to meet with me every day.  I explained to them I was only one perspective.  I introduced PLNs and told them about mine, locally and globally. I shared the importance of trust with PLNs.  I gave an example of how I would create a new workshop or blog and I would ask Mrs. Heizman and Mrs. Kasprowicz to critique it.  They are dear friends, but I also have great respect for them as professionals.  Mrs. Kasprowicz is a 5th/6th grade teacher, but also a published author.  Mrs. Heizman is our experienced Technology Administrator.  They are also extremely honest and will tell me what they think.  That is an essential part of the learning process if I expect to learn and grow.  

To help my students decide who was already part of their learning network, we answered the following questions:
Who helps us learn?
Who really knows us?
Who makes us laugh?
Who pushes us?
Who are our cheerleaders?
Who will be honest?
Who listens to us?
Who do we connect with locally and globally?

They went to work creating their PLN on Google Drawing.  I was happy to see they included me, a few classmates, parents, previous teachers, our current buddy classes, and Mrs. Barnes' class, our blogging buddies from Virginia.  Over the next few weeks in Writer’s Workshop, instead of asking writers to find a partner, I encouraged them to find someone from their PLN for feedback until I was able to confer with them.  They loved the term “professional” and took the responsibility seriously.

I found success with 5th Grade student PLNs, but I wondered if this same idea could be applied to younger students.  I consulted another member of my PLN, Ms. Losik, a 1st grade teacher at Merton Primary School.  Our students had done a few collaborative activities already and were comfortable working with each other. I felt my students were confident with their knowledge of PLNs and they were ready to teach their first grade buddies what a PLN is, and help them create their own so they could start using their network in 1st grade for Writer’s Workshop.  Ms. Losik prepared her students for our visit by talking to her students about their own learning experiences and brainstorming together who helps them at home and school. 

When we finally brought our students together for our PLN pair share/teach activity, the excitement was explosive. They were so proud to share the important, special people in their lives who help them learn. First the 5th graders explained what a PLN is, and shared their Google Drawings of their own PLNs.  Next, 5th Graders assisted their 1st grade buddies to brainstorm their PLN members by asking similar key questions we used to develop our own PLNs.  They wrote the names of the people and drew pictures on a graphic organizer similar to our Google Drawings.  After about 15 minutes, each 5th/1st grade pair presented their PLN.  It was interesting to note that even though these students were different ages, they both valued teachers, classmates and parents in their PLN.

This year my students continue to grow their PLN. They are excited that our blogs have reached new classrooms this year and we have made connections with famous children’s authors. Each TCRWP unit of study has a new element of excitement because the audience is no longer limited to our classroom, but reaches an unlimited global community and Personal Learning Network of their choice.  



  1. Julie, I am impressed with your enthusiam for your teaching profession. I love that you not only publicly share your experiences, but pay-it-forward to other classrooms, teachers and students. Great post!

  2. Love the post on PLN in Writer's Workshop. Great questions to prompt student thinking!

  3. Hello!
    We have been learning about PLN in my class at school! I think having people to bounce our ideas off of is very helpful. I think we also need people to encourage us and just be there. I think the people who can help us the most with this is the people we work with and people who understand what we go through. I think it is great that you are incorporating this in your class and getting children used to it, so they can use it for the rest of their lives.

  4. hey! My name is Ashley Bigoney and I am in the class EDM310 at the University of South Alabama. This year was really the first time I had even heard about PLN. It is so important and useful to have. I definitely agree that people need to learn about this at a younger age. I love how you had the 5th graders help the 1st graders. It helps them to learn by teaching others. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Mrs. Reuterj,
    I am an Ashlyn Hubbard, and I am an EDM 310 student at the University of South Alabama. My professor, Dr. Strange, has taught me how useful PLN's really are. When I first started the class, I had no idea what he was talking about when he would talk about PLN's. I am so glad he introduced us to them, because I can not wait to use them in my classroom. I agree, it is very important we have people we learn from, and I have learned so much from Dr. Strange in this class. PLN'S are great for any age/grade, and I think it is something all students will enjoy. I am so thrilled to see your positivity and excitement in the classroom. The students really look up to that! Thank you for sharing your post. You are doing an incredible job!