Edited by Amanda · Sophia · Mercy · Carrie

What do you normally do on the Internet? Do you browse the latest news? Do you play computer games? Do you follow any movie stars on social media? You may think that you are just killing the time, but perhaps you are also acquiring knowledge or improving your skills beyond imagination.  

In fact, learning can be classified into three categories: (a) formal learning: people study under the supervision of teachers in professional institutions and mostly aim to get a degree or a certificate; (b) informal learning: people learn something new in their daily practices, such as the leisure activities mentioned above, spontaneously and unconsciously; (c) self-initiated learning: people proactively look for learning materials and are enthusiastic to engage in various learning experiences (Tour, 2017).

Among all these, teachers’ self-initiated learning through Personal Learning Networks (PLNs), a platform that provides users with various resources and opportunities of communication, has gained public attention because learning via digital technologies is undoubtedly an integral part of this era and teachers’ involvement in it may influence how students learn new literacies, and further, participate successfully in daily life increasingly mediated and supported by technologies.

Image Credit: Mathieu Plourde CC-BY

Therefore, Tour studied three experienced teachers’ digital literacy practices in varied contexts for five months by using participant-generated photography, two one-hour open-ended interviews, and online observation. His research presents a comprehensive view of teachers’ engagement with new literacies in both personal and professional environment can be seen from his research (Tour, 2017):

  • Information retrieval & resource aggregation: Participants collect professional resources online and transform them into knowledge, which is an essential part of their digital activities. 
  • Cooperation: PLNs allow the participants to exchange professional information and personal ideas with others, which on the one hand helps some members solve problems and on the other hand makes teachers work more efficiently and effectively.  
  • Collaboration:  Participants can collaborate with one another on a common task. Compared with traditional professional learning programmes, they are much more likely to bring their strength to the project and improve their professional knowledge.
  • Reflection: PLNs enable the participants to record, reconsider, and review their teaching practices. Although they are inspired to reflect on their work regularly, the authenticity of feedbacks or critiques remains to be discussed. 
  • Socializing: Participants are able to establish personal or professional ties with people they are interested in with both online and offline communication, which not only gives them emotional support but motivates them to continue learning through PLNs as well. 

Based on these findings, it is not hard to identify the different roles that teachers take on when learning on PLNs: 

  • A learner: gathers information that is related to their work or interest and turn it into knowledge 
  • A citizen: builds a digital world by sharing resources
  • A speaker: expresses individual opinions and communicate with others
  • A collaborator: works with other teachers or experts wherever and whenever 
  • A designer: designs teaching activities or relevant programmes
  • A consultant: provides suggestions or solutions for other members 

These identities are facilitated by PLNs’ characteristics: (a) all participants are connected with one another; (b) anyone can contribute to the virtual space; and (c) the participation is completely voluntary and self-initiated. 

With the benefit of PLNs’ characteristics, teachers can:

  • Find and access useful resources, like lesson plans, in-class activities, drills, and quizzes, etc. easily, which facilitate in-time and in-depth learning and can be put into practice in the real world.
  • Communicate with other educators by following their blogs, Twitters, etc., commenting on one another’s sharing, and forwarding amazing ideas with more people. In this way, teachers have access to plenty of ideas, experience, and areas of expertise, which is of vital importance to their professional development. 
  • Receive help from other members when teachers are confronted with teaching problems. 
  • Gain emotional support by building both personal and professional relationships with other members.
  • Learn without being constrained by the traditional approach, as teachers can acquire knowledge whenever and wherever they want as long as the Internet is available.  

Nevertheless, the drawbacks of PLNs cannot be neglected according to our own experiences:

  • Teachers might get distracted due to a large amount of data available online and the problem of information overload.
  • Teachers cannot always get a truthful or critical evaluation. For one thing, it is not mandatory for them to comment on others’ articles or videos. For another, they may want to maintain their friendly interpersonal relationships, which may impede them from criticizing others’ work straightforwardly.

To sum up, PLNs are assorted communities that assist teachers to learn from others and improve professional skills. Several hints are worth pointing out here:

  • Cultivate the habit of learning through PLNs regularly and integrate it into your learning programmes.
  • Do not follow too many people or their blogs when you get started, otherwise you will be overwhelmed by tons of ideas.
  • Learn to filter the information using digital tools and find the resources you truly need.
  • Analyze and evaluate the materials critically and take into consideration your own situation. 
  • Put what you have found and learnt through PLNs into practice and remember to share your experience with others afterward. 
  • Try to build relatively close and stable relationships with other educators and give feedbacks to them objectively and politely.
  • Keep reflecting on your teaching, accepting new ideas and questioning your understanding of teaching, which is beneficial to your professional enhancement. 


  1. Have you tried learning something professional via PLNs during your free time? If yes, which PLN do you usually use? Why did you choose it?
  2. Will you try to learn through PLNs if you have not tried them before? What factors attract you most?
  3. What do you think are the main differences between ‘learning through traditional programmes’ and ‘learning through PLNs’? How do you think teachers should apply the resources from PLNs in class to complement the knowledge obtained by the conventional way? 

62 thoughts on “Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) — Seeing the Real World Through Virtual Space

  1. Really nice layout and reader-friendly! I have a habit of looking at the microblogs of some famous IELTS teachers and can usually find inspiring thoughts and both teaching and learning materials. I also asked my students to follow them but the fact was that they seldom read the content other teachers posted on microblog. How can I deal with it?

    • Thank you for your compliments Sarah😊! I guess students only read those blogs which they believe are closely associated with their learning, such as strategies that might improve their learning efficiency, materials that might be useful for their assignments, etc. or those contents that they are interested in and would like to know more about. Therefore, I suppose two approaches perhaps work. Firstly, ask your students to list their learning problems, try to find solutions from different teachers’ blogs, go back to the class, and share with all classmates. Secondly, ask them to discover a topic they take interest in, collect relevant resources from teachers’ blogs, go back to the class, and give a lecture in public. Both these methods can motivate students to read others’ post I think.
      For IELTS teaching specifically, I guess a great many students have the same problem that they have no idea what they can talk about in the speaking part. I suggest that you can either choose a topic, ask your students to collect ideas from other teachers’ blogs, and retell the story in their own way, or ask them to share thoughts with different teachers online, get feedback, and discuss with you. Hope these ideas can inspire you😄!

    • Thank you so much for you suggestions and advice Amanda! I think your methods will make sense. The key thing is letting them give a feedback on what they read and obtain from the microblog!

    • Hi, Sarah, I have the same problem as you do. But some of my students (esp. those who are preparing for tests) will spend time reading those posts if I tell them they are closely related with their coming tests, then at least they will check it. But the rest of them will not. Then I try to spare some time during the class to talk about some of the key points, which I think is a waste of time since the class time is so limited. So I am still struggling with the problem.

  2. In terms of the second question, personally, there is one factor that would influence my decision on whether to use PLNs or not. That is, although there are various resources and all kinds of learning approaches on the Internet, I still have the concern that whether their methods are suitable for me. I have tried to use PLNs to learn things that I am interested in, but sometimes it just turned out that their ideas and methods do not apply to my situation. I still need to make some adjustments. But it is undeniable that those learning approaches proposed by others sometimes really offer me new inspirations.

    • Thank you for sharing your ideas Celia😊! I agree that sometimes the learning materials we find online may not suit us. But using a hashtag or keyword may help you search more accurately. Personally, I regard the resources on the Internet as both a complementary and an integral part of my learning.

    • I think there are many materials for us online, but the problem is sometimes those materials are in disorder and I cannot tell the quality. So if we cannot tell which materials are good which are bad, then it will be a big problem. So I myself seldom choose to use the PLNs, but I must admit there are some very good sources that I miss. OLD-FASHIONED ME. But after reading this blog, I must say there are a lot of benefits with it and maybe I need to give it a try.

  3. Really clear and comprehensive editing!!
    As to the first question, I don’t know if learning through a paid online class can be count as PLNs. Because although it is called class, there are only yourself to regulate your schedule and homework etc,. I choose that class is because I really need a “teacher” to guide me about how to pass IELTS. I thought the time and place you are taking the class can be flexible. I have learned to try to get a high score in IELTS in a really short time and I can say that I have to give credit to that class I have taken.
    I definitely will try a new PLNs without trying before. The last paragraph just proved that I did. The factors attracted me most maybe is the flexible time and place you can choose to learn. It is designed and fixed by yourself. Also, I think it is good for some shy people if they are not willing to communicate with others.

    • Thank you so much for your praise Nicole😄! I think that the online courses that you have to pay, such as the IELTS class you took, are more like a kind of SNSLL. In my opinion, there are three categories of SNSLL.
      Firstly, websites like “busuu” and “duolingo” provide users with an opportunity to taste a bit of a foreign language. People basically interact with the machine following an established procedure, which is easy and convenient for beginners to start foreign language learning, but simultaneously hard to communicate with others or get a deeper understanding of the target language.
      Secondly, people are able to participate in courses offered by prestigious universities from learning communities like “coursera” and “futurelearn”. These spaces meet the needs of people who take interest in a particular field or are curious about certain knowledge, and combine the on- and offline resources together, which I believe are really useful for independent learners.
      Thirdly, some language training institutions supply users with paid online courses. To a large extent, they transfer classes from the real world to the virtual space. People normally attend them aiming to pass a test or obtain a certificate. Strictly speaking, they do not reflect many characteristics of learning via new technologies.

  4. Really thanks for your group’s clear explanation on personal learning networks (PLN)! I have not used any PLN in my free time. The reason behind is that as a teacher in Hong Kong, I have tons of workload and need to take some courses after work to enhance my professionalism and my market value.

    In the near future, I may try to use PLNs. There are three factors which me most. The first one is the time factor. As I said above, if I am not exhausted physically and mentally any more, for example, between June and August, I will have a strong motivation to try a new and useful learning platform. The second one is that I can freely ask for advice and exchange opinions with other educators who do not know my real identity. I had some bad experience about asking for pedagogical advice from colleagues. They did not want to share their useful teaching methods with me and said something bad about me. The third one is that it can help me think outside the box. There are always some new and effective teaching materials and methods. Surrounded by the same group of colleagues and friends, I may not have enough exposure to those. So, PLNs are a good platform to widen my horizons.

    • Thank you for your comments Ivory🌹! I am really interested in professional training programmes in Hong Kong. Could you please share more about that?

    • Since I worked in teaching industry, I have studied some courses which can enhance my professional development like PGDE (postgraduate diploma of education), curriculum design and leadership courses provided by Education Bureau, courses about SEN (special education needs) students and of course the whole MAES programme which is fruitful and spiring. 😬

  5. I really appreciate your group’s well-organized blog and thanks for your clear summary and critical ideas of learning through PLN.
    I have learnt some teaching methods and different designs of English couses through sina blog. As the blog was openned by my supervisor during my internship, all the teachers at the school including intern teachers could write their own blogs and read others’ blogs. Sometimes, we shared different course disigns of the same course in the blog so that we could pose our own ideas and gain others’ suggestions. Also I could learn and inspire from various teachers’ designs of the same course. Sina blog has really given me a chance to communicate with other teachers freely without the restriction of time and space.

    • Thank you for your compliments Mandy☀️! It is the first time that I heard blogs are truly put into use in teachers’ professional training programmes👏👏👏!

    • Yes! It is also the first time I have tried the real way of learning through PLN! It is really wonderful and unforgettable!

  6. Thank you for elaborating PLNs for us. I used PLNs before but I found that it was not that helpful for me because I am not a self-regulated learns hhh. I need a physical learning environment with many other learners studying around. Only in this way can I settle down and concentrate on studying. As for PLNs, though there’s still a virtual community that connect learners from all over the world, I myself as one of them just sit in front of my laptop typing on the keyboard, which easily distracts me. I would say that PLNs are good because learners are connected and enable to improve their learning via all kinds of interaction like giving and receiving feedback. But they are not helpful to everyone.

    • Thank you for your sharing Champion🏆! I agree that learning through PLNs might not be everyone’s choice, but I do believe that PLNs can be complementary to your learning, especially in such an era increasingly mediated by new technologies. Perhaps you do not regard it as a great help for language study, but you may find resources of other disciplines you are interested in and would like to know more about. Wish you a great journey on PLNs🌹!

  7. When I was in senior high school, I always watched videos from TED Talks Education to learn English. These learning materials are multimodal and can easily arouse learner’s interest. I chose different types of videos according to my own interests. What’s more, those videos always provide English subtitles so that I can mark down the unfamiliar words and infer the meaning in the context or look them up in the dictionary, which I think it is a helpful way to learn English.

    • Thank you for sharing your experience with us Charlene☺️! I am also a big fan of TED🤝and I believe it is a wonderful platform where you can meet interesting people, acquire new knowledge, hear inspiring ideas, and know more about the other parts of the world which you have never been to. What you did — looking up new words in dictionaries — really impressed me! I tried to do that before, but to tell you the truth, no more than three times😂! Shame on myself😳, but I think a lot of people might have the same issue — being attracted easily but finding it hard to show perseverance. Therefore, it is necessary for us, as teachers to solve this kind of problems if we want to integrate TED talk in the language teaching.

  8. Thanks for your sharing. The clear layout and the well-organized content are easy for readers to get information they need.

    I’ve joined the online courses for TEM-8 and the Korean learning courses before on Youdao. I wonder if these kinds of online courses can be seen as PLN? But I do think those kinds of courses are very flexible because I can watch it whenever I want and wherever I am. And those websites I used before had a teacher to teach and TAs answered the questions immediately online on the chat window.One of the reasons I chose that websites for self-learning was because that website had different kinds of trial lessons,it enabled me to try different kinds of course that I interested in and I could find out which teaching style I like most, then I finally paid for the whole course. Also, we had a WeChat group that we could share our learning outcomes and did the online discussion after class. Compared with those APPs or websites that weaken the guidance from teacher but just let the learners to learn through the recordings, I consider that the website I see before are more useful for us to learn.

    • Thank you for your compliments Pat😄! I think Youdao is more like a kind of SNSLL because it is provided particularly for foreign language learners and users have to pay for courses that they are interested in. However, PLNs are various online communities where people find resources and information offered free of charge. They can learn a foreign language there, or they are able to learn about almost any other disciplines. Briefly speaking, I believe PLNs supply users with much more possibilities than SNSLL.

  9. First, I have to say I really love the layout of your blog. Hahaha😊It’s easy for us to get the information.
    On the first question, well, I remember that I watched YouTube videos about some notions, such as behaviorism, innatist perspective, cognitive perspective, social-cultural perspective, learned in SLA course last semester. Those videos made me have a better understanding of the theories. I also follow some English teachers on Sina blog and read their posts. Sometimes, I can get some useful learning materials.

    • Thank you for your compliment Sophia. What you have shared about learning SLA through YouTube is exactly what I did last semester! 🤝 This is an amazing PLN I believe. I am keeping using it and I subscribed a channel called” TEFL LEMON” which up-dates ideas and fun activities about English teaching. 🤗happy to share it with you.

  10. A very good summary here👍👍👍💕 which reminds me of an app: Little Red Book. 😂I think most girls would be familiar to this app, cause it originally is a beauty makeup online shopping platform,😉 but nowadays, many people would use it as a public platform to record their daily lives and some of their valuable life experiences, like some people, would share their ways or methods of how to being a successful person and concerned with PLN part, some teachers would share their experiences of how to be qualified teachers and some of them would share teaching methodologies that suit for some certain students. Below the diary that they post, all the people who have read this diary can comment it, either click the “like” button or just share their common view.
    However, I do admit that nowadays, there are more and more advertisers who are pretending to be the one who is just sharing something, so when it searching for some teaching materials or methods, we need to be careful.☺️

    • Yeah I agree with you. 🤝 The teachers and learners both need to evaluate information online, think critically whether it is truthful and tailor it to our needs. btw, thank you for reminding us of Little Red Book. i thought it was just a make-up and beauty app, but after your recommendation, I do realize now people are sharing learning methods and materials on it! PLN is everywhere. 👏

    • Wow! Thanks for your sharing, Jean. I like the app as well because there are great varieties of good sharing on it including food and makeup. It is the first time I know there are some teachers would share their experiences and some teaching methodologies on Little Red Book. I think now I have a new way to learn from others’ teaching experiences!

  11. I have gained a better understanding of PLNs. Thanks very much for your group’s post.

    Let me share stories related to part of the first question (probably not during my leisure time). A few years ago, in order to prepare for an interview, I read a blog of the interviewer’s in order to obtain a deeper understanding of different concepts and/or theories covered in the programme. The explanations and elaborations of the ideas provided by the owner were very concise and interesting, and also the comments from the viewers of the blog were useful. With the assistance of the blog, I succeeded in the end.

    Another story is that I used to learn my second language (i.e. English) via YouTube. On this platform, I was able to find all kinds of English-related videos, for example, explanations of specific grammatical rules, teaching and learning theories, the introduction of lexicon words and sounds of different words.

    However, recently, because of the tight schedule like some viewers above, I have rarely used any PLNs. However, in the future, if time allows, I will continue my language learning with the adaptation of PLNs. Also, I will recommend such a way to other language learners as it caters for different learners with different learning styles.

    • Thank you for your sharing Fannie🌹! I can see that you acquire different kinds of information and resources from PLNs. Do you interact with other learners by commenting on each other? Have you tried to share any experience or knowledge with other users? Do you think it is necessary for all participants to contribute to PLNs? Please share your ideas if you have time. 😊😊

  12. The content is very clear and logical! For me, I used PLN to acquire in-depth information about various exams, including TEM4&8, IELTS, through microblog, and some language learning websites. Users there would share their tests experience, exam key points and kindly reminders. I think I use PLN mainly as a learner, not as a teacher.

    But contributing to the virtual space with my own ideas is a great idea to share my opinions and to check the usability of my own teaching method. Apart from sharing, I can also learn from other users and apply their unique resources.

    As for the second question, the factor attracts me most is the content in the PLN. More users share, more creative the contents will be. So, the frequency of users’ interaction maybe the key to intrigue new users to join the discussion.

    • Hello, Yan!
      It is really nice to know your personal experience about combining PLN into your language learning process. The microblog (Wei Bo) you have been used is a good example since I have also followed some language-related subscriptions, and they are pretty awesome! Especially some videos perfectly realize the multi-dimensional learning purpose. The audio, the subtitle in bilingual, as well as the flexible progress bar, all of these manage to meet different needs of different learners.
      And I also agree on your opinion about the “brainstorming” function of the PLN. It is completely true that PLN provides a platform with learners to discuss and absorb other’s original ideas, which means the collaboration for group work or for individual advanced work. I have registered some online courses in MOOCS (it charged) and I have to discuss with my international classmate, I have to say through PLN I saw a different world. What really surprised me is not only on the aspect of different linguistic features of them, but their perceptions, attitudes and beliefs. We compromise and comunicate, I know how to deal with different situitions with people. It is really an amazing experience, and helps a lot.

  13. Thanks for the summary. It provides me a very clear picture on this topic. It is well organised! I really enjoy reading your post 🙂

    I have never tried PLNs in learning something professional.
    After reading the benefits that you have mentioned, I believe that it is worth trying. However, I believe it is not easy to have a try in the real situation!

    In fact, there are not many PLNs in Hong Kong for teachers. Even if there are some good PLNs, teachers are too busy. Assignments marking, different kinds of meeting and activities after school and documents have already occupied most of their time. If they have free time, they probably will do something unrelated to their work.

    Therefore, the low participation of teachers in using PLNs makes it less benefitial to the participants. Theoretically, PLNs is good for the participants for both resources aggregation and professional sharing. However, teachers in Hong Kong seems not so ready for the practice.

    Anyway, do you have any good PLNs that can recommend me?

    • Hi Gladys sorry to hear that teachers in HK have so heavy workload. 🤣 I have a recommendation for you to start your PLN journey when you are ready.
      TEFL lemon. https://www.tefllemon.com/ or follow its Wechat Offical Account:TEFL lemon.
      This website provides teachers with a lot of classroom activities and interesting topics cater to learners aging from kids to adults. Articles are short and super super super easy to read( = spending 3 mins on the metro). Maybe you can adapt some ideas as a warmer in your class if it fits your learners’ level. (I don’t have any school teaching experience. so i am not sure if it is suitable for you.😳)

      Preparing to become a teacher, I have followed a list of blogs.
      This one is my favorite, Sott Thornbury’s blog https://scottthornbury.wordpress.com/ AN A-Z of ELT with 200 articles about English teaching(He stopped up-dating 3 years ago and does not reply so frequently) but those comments under his posting are also interesting to read.

      one more to go: https://organizedclassroom.com/homework-motivation/
      The Organized Classroom is a blog primarily for teachers who need help making their classroom functional and efficient. It offers free resources, tips, and ideas. e.g. improving students’ homework motivation. (however, 🤐too much advertisement)

    • @Sophia – these look like good places to start. One thing to keep in mind is sharing experiences back to the community, as you mention in your post. This seems like one of the more challenging aspects. Do you have any suggestions on how to go about that?

  14. Thanks for your sharing. The blog is well-organized and has a clear structure to make me know more about PLN. As for me, I will watch TED in my spare time to find some information about English or other knowledge of different fields. Compared to print media, I found PLN more interesting for its dynamic and updated information. And I could find whatever I need in the websites for its abundant resources.

    • Thank you Chelsey for sharing your opinions with us. It is nice to know that you have had similar experience before. It is true that TED brings you a lot of useful information and is most likely very inspiring for your learning. I hope in the future you will make good use of PLNs whenever you need to.

  15. Thank you for sharing us some information about PLNs. For the first question, I have prepared IELTS test through IELTS learning APPs. I think such kind of APP is quite convenient that it has a lot of learning resources and its functions are comprehensive and considerate. For instance, when I want to practice my listening, I can use the APP to do the exercise and see the answer explanations, and I can also practice intensive listening since the app can repeat one sentence or play the listening material at different speeds. Learners can also share their learning feelings or exam experience with others. For those who need to pass the IELTS exam, I suppose that these APPs are helpful and user-friendly.

    I think learning through PLNs depends more on learner’s autonomy. First of all, you should have a strong desire to learn something, and then you can make the most of PLNs and find this way of learning interesting. Otherwise, you may not be able to study in this way for a long time. As traditional learning programmes often take place in physical environment, the learner’s needs and learning situation can be noticed. Therefore, choosing what ways of learning should depend on the situation.

    • Thank you for your sharing Winnie😄! (BTW is Winnie the Pooh your favorite cartoon character?) Based on your opinions, I would like to ask a few questions:
      a) How do you think people can be motivated to insist on learning through PLNs? Any suggestions about that?
      b) Do you think PLNs should be integrated into the offline class? Why?
      I am looking forward to your reply if you have time to share your ideas. 🎉

  16. Thanks for your group’s post with in-depth explanation of learning through PLNs.

    I did have learning experience via PLNs when I prepared my language tests.

    In my opinion, the traditional programmes may mainly focus on relatively complete aspects of a learning topic with a typical or traditional structure while PLNs may mainly concentrate on the specific aspect of a learning topic. If learners want to explore the specific information about a topic, maybe the content in PLNs could to a great extent, meet the needs of learners.

    Also, the contents in PLNs are mostly updated associated with the development of an era.

    Moreover, the contents in traditional programmes may not be as creative as the contents in PLNs.

    Teachers could appropriately tailor the fresh ideas that are advantageous for students’ learning and allow them to have group discussion as well as share own ideas.

    • Hi Yasmine😄! Thank you for your compliments🌹! I agree that resources and information on PLNs are much ampler and more up-to-date and the best thing, I suppose, is that the huge platform provides people with different perspectives, which enables teachers to deepen their understanding of teaching!

  17. Interesting comments. A lot of people have had experience in learning English through online communities or apps, and while relevant, it’s not quite the same as establishing a PLN. This would involve identifying resources to support the teaching of English and describing experiences with challenges that you are encountering (as well as how these are resolved) and receiving support and feedback from a community of interested teachers that you share your ideas with.

    As Yan points out – ‘I think I use PLN mainly as a learner, not as a teacher’. What we perhaps need to look at is how we can use online communities and resources to support professional development as a teacher. Also, being part of a PLN is a very active process – much more than just ‘consuming’ resources, it involves ‘producing’ activities (sometimes just modified from other sources) and reflections on their use which are shared with a community of supportive teachers. Interested to hear what you think about this kind of professional development.

    • Thank you for your comment Christoph😊! I suppose a great many people are just involved in ‘consuming resources’ instead of ‘producing activities’ on PLNs for the following reasons:
      a) Sharing experiences or knowledge is time-consuming, which is not quite possible for those teachers who are extremely busy at school.
      b) All participants are only encouraged but not required to share things, which is definitely good news for lazy people.
      c) Some teachers may have technological problems, such as how to produce a video and upload it to YouTube.

      In order to solve these problems I mentioned above, several solutions might be taken into consideration:
      a) Integrate professional learning through PLNs into the offline teachers’ training programmes, which means teachers will be given enough time to get engaged in PLNs.
      b) Contributing to PLNs can be a part of the assessment of teachers’ professional development, which on the one hand encourages teachers to familiarize themselves with new literacies, and on the other hand, make them interact with more educators around the world and further have a deeper understanding of teaching.
      c) Technological assistance or training should be provided for teachers in the process of training, which not only helps them share creative ideas and areas of expertise easily but exerts a positive effect on their students as well.

  18. Thanks for providing us these useful information which gives me a lot of reflection. For me, as a English learner, it is quite attractive and interesting when i can learn something meaningful and effective online. For unlike conventional and formal learning experience, this kind of acquiring knowledge seems casual and semi-conscious. I also find that not only us learners find learning online is useful, but those teachers do because we can access through many channels. On the one hand, i can filter those information and build up my professional knowledge via PLNs gradually, but on the other hand, sometimes i will feel tired about those advertisements and be distracted by some entertainments. So how to keep interest in learning through PLNs?

    • Hi, Lucy!
      Nice sharing. I am so glad to know your personal experience about combining PLN into your individual learning. The point you have referred is the function of filtering which means the website system can sift “trash information” automatially, and remain key parts which are relevant to your learning purposes. It largely saves our time to check every correlated hyperlinks or recommended topics. And you also have mentioned the overloaded advertisments have bothered you. I totally agree on that since I also have met this situations before. When you input some key words online to search something but there are many advertisements pop out which are dressed in “learning materials”. This indirect lies constrians the sharing of useful information. Consequently, the fruitless searching would cause bored reaction of learners, even impacting on the utilization of PLN.
      Your asking is very intriguing. For our group part, we suggest that except for improving the filtering function of system, some games which associates with learner’s interests should be considered. Such as some role play, which means learners can choose they loved players in Marvel comics.
      How about your suggestions?

  19. Thanks for your sharing, from which I gain better and clearer understanding of PLN.

    When I was preparing IELTS, I found IELTSBro quite useful, especially for speaking.I chose this app because it offered many speaking recordings of learners of different language proficiency.Latest topics are listed ; good answers are shown on top; you could upload your own recordings and comment on others’.At the same time, you could also easily get some correction from others. It could help save much time and improve your speaking skills in a rather short period.

    I regard PLN as an interest-oriented and activity-oriented tool.It is creative and collaborative,while traditional programmes go with clearer teaching objectives, and there is time limit and few students have the chance to express in class due to the size of the class.

    Teachers could apply PLNs in class to help students form a habit of studying by working together with others , and gradually guide them to learn online efficiently.Post-evaluation is necessary to test learning outcomes.
    To be honest, many students could not concentrate on learning online once they start to hold eletronic products. 

    • Evelyn thank you for sharing your experience and opinions with us it is great. It is also nice to know that you have had such similar experience before using IELTSBro that benefited you in many ways. PLNs can be like that for you as well once you see how many good things it brings to your teaching and learning.

  20. I would definitely try PLNs if I become a teacher! There are two elements attract me most about PLNs. First it is time-saving for teachers to search relevant teaching materials for the class. Second, teachers exchange ideas with each other and I think this is a very important credit that PLNs offer us. Teachers can share their teaching experiences which can be really useful for new teachers who do not know how to cope with some hard situations.
    One big difference between learning from PLNs and traditional programmes I think is that the content for traditional programmes is often selected , specially designed and approved by experts. Therefore, it is authorized. But sometimes it may not applicable to teachers’ daily practice. For PLNs, because everyone can post so it requires teachers to have the ability to identify the reliability of the information.

    • Thank you Rachel for sharing your ideas with us! it is nice that you are thinking about using PLNs when you become a teacher. The point you mentioned is true that for using PLNs, you need to be woke while taking different advices from other professionals because not everyone’s way of teaching can be good for your situation. Therefore we should know how to select the good ones for our practical uses. Traditional learning programmes are examined so it is reliable without doubt.

  21. Actually I benefit a lot from PLN, especially when I prepare for my lessons. Take grammar teaching for example, some Chinese teachers write a whole board of grammar rules and ask students to memorize and do exercises on it. I find it super boring, so I turn to the internet to see how grammar is taught in English speaking countries. Here is one great website to download the teaching plan: https://www.eslkidstuff.com/ . From this website, I learned that grammar and vocabulary can be taught in a playful way and students love it. Another major resource I turn to is Youtube, a lot of videos are made for ESL teaching. Although it is a bit inconvenient to get access to Youtube, but I use VPN. (LOL)
    So my students don’t feel grammar boring and difficult, thanks to the PLN.

    • Nice sharing, Ivy!
      I totally agree on your point about that “teaching method” as the decisive factor to the instruction efficiency on different classes. And your individual experience is a good example to prove the feasibility of the PLN in your teaching research, because you really have learned more advanced and creative teaching methods of grammar teaching, and made some relevant changes on your personal teaching patterns.
      I have watched the video you posted, it is really intriguing to me reflect the features of language class of native speaker countries, it seems to be more dynamics and more attached to the learner’s characteristics. And this is the important part which Chinese Ministry of Education shoud be learned, managing to integrate PLN into black-and-white textbooks. Until now, there are many junior high schools even universities in China require students to hand on hard copy of students’ assignments. It is not a sound way to pormote the utilization of PLN function, such as lack of peer review and interaction between teachers and learners.
      You have mentioned the limitation of watching videos on Youtube in mianland China, which is related to the sensitive topics about Chinese policies. I think you are right to point out the nature of the problem which Chinese teaching are little lag behind other countries.

  22. A really nice work. From your introduction to the PNL, I can have an overall view of the merit as well as the constraint by this approach. Actually, I have unconsciously taken this way in my daily learning and teaching. I found that it is really useful for a beginner who has no intended learning approach or learning goals for a specialized discipline in language learning. Once I began to prepare for the language test like IELTS or TOEFL, I got totally lost and missed my direction. However, when I searched for the learning strategies on the internet, I found there are many resourceful platforms which aggregate the language knowledge as well as the test skills. I also read a lot of others’ valuable experience which helped me shun going astray. Of course, I sometimes shared my experience with those who have the same doubts like my previous situation. To some degree, it is an effective way to learn language.
    Nevertheless, just like the drawbacks your guys mentioned, the learner should be smart enough to elect or judge the suitable recourse for their own studies from the loaded data.

    • Thank you for your compliments Miles😊! You are the first one who mentioned sharing personal experience with other users on PLNs👏👏! It seems that quite a lot of people, especially English majors perhaps😄, learn about taking exams or getting certificates through PLNs. It is truly a much easier and more convenient method compared with taking offline classes or asking experienced people. Besides, the huge network enables all participants to know more about one particular thing from various perspectives, which I suppose is the greatest advantage!

  23. Thanks for sharing and great editing.
    I like watching Crash Courses online to get new ideas. I can exchange opinions with others by commenting, some are very professional guys and I do have more deep understanding. Also, when preparing IELTS oral test, I used an app for improvement. There I can upload what I said and others gave me many helpful suggestions. So I like PLNs.
    As for the differences, an obvious one is that “learning through traditional programmes” gives me a better environment, it’s easy for me to concentrate. While “learning through PLNs” can distract me. I am surrounded with many fresh things, sometimes it’s hard to control myself.

    • Thank you for your sharing Moon🌛! Do you have any suggestions about helping users concentrate while learning through PLNs?

  24. Thanks for your sharing! *^▽^*

    I may try PLNs in the future to learn a foreign language for several reasons. First, as I’ve taken some formal classes before, the rich language resources of PLNs may make my learning more targeted and deeper. Second, learning through PLNs is more flexible and time-saving compared to formal tuition. In addition, the diverse forms and opportunities of learning language provided by PLNs may make my learning more interesting and lasting.

  25. Thank you for your sharing! I have never tried PLNs but I would like to try later because I think it is a convenient way for me to learn from other teachers or experts since I don’t have much teaching experience. Maybe I can gain some interesting and effective ideas from their sharing to improve my teaching skills, and also I can make friends and communicate with them, which may enable me to get help from them when I have difficulties in teaching. As for the differences between these two ways of learning, I think in PLNs everyone can be a learner and meanwhile a teacher to each other as they can share their experience and give comments to teach or help others and at the same time they can receive feedback and learn from others’ sharing; while in traditional learning program mostly the learners are the receivers of knowledge and there may be less interaction between learners and instructors. When using the PLNs, teachers should be critical about the resources and carefully consider and about the feasibility of the suggestions.

  26. Thank you for your sharing. When I was in college, we students were asked to use ‘Mooc’ (massive learning online course) and the platform we used were called ‘Chinese university Mooc’. It is a platform that provide you with various courses including history, language, etc. It has its own community where you can share with what you’ve learnt with people, and I think this kind of sharing can be seen as users’ output.
    This is probably one time that I was close to PLNs….?

    I would like to try other ways of learning by PLNs as I think PLNs provides with more information compared with traditional ways. Also, various expression forms, like dynamic video, static images, can be used on PLNs.

    • Thank you for your sharing Bella👧! I must say I envy your college hhhhh! I’m a big fan of MOOC and I do believe it’s a fantastic idea to integrate those courses into the curriculum! But I sometimes find it hard to insist on learning lectures due to the tight schedule, the long reading list or assignments involved online discussions or making short videos. Do you have any suggestions for me?

    • Thanks for your reply Amanda! Personally I will join in this kind of lectures only when I have enough free time or the skills taught by a certain lecture are urgently needed. If you have enough free time, you can plan some time (like 2hrs) everyday for the lecture, and finish everything about the lecture in the planned time.

  27. Thank you for your wonderful post. I do not know whether Brother ILETS is a type of PLN. If it is, then I do have some experience KKKKK. I actually benefit a lot from PLN, I think it is a perfect way for self-initiated learning. When I was in undergraduate school I was busy with my school work but I need to take the IELTS test, so the online courses really came in handy. Also, the section where users can check each other’s oral practice is truly useful for someone who does not have access to practice oral English offline.
    However, the PLN also has its weakness, the online courses were not specifically designed for my ability. Hence, I found the course is too simple sometimes and other times too advanced. The major difference between traditional learning and PLN is also the point I have mentioned above. Without instructions which specifically meant for you, the learning process can be quite confusing and tiring because half the time you are wasting your time looking for the right section.
    For using PLN in class I would recommend to use it as a pre-class section and homework discussion where students can familiarize themselves with the materials which they are going to learn in class and after class students can discuss freely what they have learned in class. In this way, pre-class preparation can be done in an interesting new way. And the after-school discussion can help students internalize their knowledge and develop new ideas on the study.

  28. Thank you for your wonderful sharing! Well, my answer to the second question is definitely Yes! I think PLN can do me a great favor when I become a teacher.

    As a teacher, it’s important to know how to communicate with their students. But sometimes green hands may have difficulty in tackling this problem. So the function of communicating with other educators by following their blogs etc. can be very helpful. This function also attracts me most when being a teacher. By following some experienced teachers, we can learn different kinds of methods, ideas and other specific knowledge from their sharing.Then PLN can be a steady and continuous source of teacher’ professional learning and we can enrich ourselves by this way.

  29. I’ve tried to take a French course online but it was not a very good experience, then I just quitted doing so. I prefer to take a course with the teacher face to face or some online courses with teachers. Then if I have questions, I have someone to turn to. But your introduction of PLN really changes my mind a little bit. At least, I would like to give it one more chance. HAHA

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