How to start your PLN on Twitter


This morning I got an email that said that this person was following me on Twitter.  I noticed from the email that she had no followers and had posted no tweets.  Sometimes this can suggest suspicious behavior but I checked her out and saw that she was a legitimate colleague who is just getting started with Twitter, and I thought since she was going about it in the right way, she could help me prove a point. 

What’s she doing right?  She’s found the Twitter profiles of 11 colleagues and started following them.  These folks are:

·         Chris Betcher: (gave a presentation at the 2009 K-12 Online conference)

·         Mark Pegrum: (author of From Blogs to Bombs)

·         Michael Wesch: (social anthropologist creator of “The Web is Using US”)

·         Jennifer Verschoor: (one of my co-moderators in EVO Multiliteracies)

·         Hannaa Khamis: (posts with acumen on various EVO sessions)

·         Vicki Davis: (WoW Worldbridger and Cool Cat Teacher blogger)

·         Judy O’Connell: (blogs at Hey Jude)

·         Larry Ferlazzo: (prolific “best” teaching sites blogger)

·         David Warlick: (star education guru, presenter, and blogger)

·         Thomas Friedman: (author of The World is Flat – and subsequently crowded)

·         and Me: (how can she go wrong? ;-))

I’m sure she doesn’t know all of these people, but she’s started out in the right way.  She found a few twitterers she thought might have something to say, and now she has an 11 times chance of learning something interesting next time she logs on to the Internet.

And I’ve learned from her.  I thought she has impeccable taste, so I clicked on all the links above, and any that I wasn’t following already, I started following them.

So here is a small case-study of someone who has figured out the right way to develop a PLN, or Personal Learning Network.  I passed my cursor over Tom Friedman’s profile and took a screen shot, saved it to my computer, and then attached it to the email that I’m sending to post at my Posterous blog.  Now I’ll create a tweet directed @ytcaples welcoming her to Twitter and pointing her to this post.

Aren’t PLN’s F.U.N.?









About Vance Stevens
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3 Responses to How to start your PLN on Twitter

  1. Anonymous says:

    Well I feel completely honored to be the topic of this post. I feel like I am starting to get the hang of all this. Another person actually started to follow me today and so I actually just posted my first tweet and replied to yours! I’m so excited! I will detail more my action plan for developing my pln later this week. Thanks for all of your inspiration and guidance…the multiliteracies session has been such an incredible experience for me!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Well, I hesitate in adding people especially from students. These social networking is great but unless I have some knowledge of those who send out the networking requests, I don’t see how I can become friends instantly by adding them to my list.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the comments, first to Yvonne for this posting: and then to Lori for her comments on backchanneling in the classroom.In the post above I refer to Yvonne as a colleague. She is a peer teacher who was taking a course in Multiliteracies at the time. The PLN we were envisaging involves colleagues sharing information in a social network or community of practice. So we really weren’t talking about setting up PLN’s with students, but as Lori raises a very interesting issue, let’s address it!One of my ten paradigm shifts that educators must make as they move into facilitating learning in the 21st century, listed here,, is "Transfer [or] using technology and social media in one walk of life and then transferring those heuristics for learning into the classroom and other teaching situations. For example, people who frequently use Facebook or Twitter might tend not to use social networking or backchanneling in the classroom, because they don’t see how to transfer what they do in one part of their life to how they manage their more formal teaching and learning environment, because it’s not in the curriculum, etc."Educators backchannel through their PLNs but in fact we should all be doing this with students (see where 3 R’s meet 3 C’s we should be teaching as 21st century life skills: creativity, communication, collaboration – We should be modeling how we network in order to show students how they can do the same in order to become productive knowledge workers in those jobs in the future that haven’t been invented yet (see problem is where networks might collide, as when we mix our social networks on Facebook or Twitter with the very different worlds of our students, and risk distracting clutter in our professional networks if students are allowed into them, or suspicion of impropriety at worst.Twitter itself has just introduced a solution: LISTS. Now you can create a list for your students or separate classes of students and add them to the appropriate list without having to "follow" them. In this way, they don’t appear in your Twitter stream, but you can open a LIST and catch up with what they are up to that way.There are other means of backchanneling in classrooms. Edmodo is one which I have used with students. It works well if people in the class monitor it, but the problem is it isn’t ‘real’. We go to Twitter every day in the course of our normal workflow. You check Edmodo only when you think you ought to. Your students do the same. It lacks traction. But it is a backchannel tool similar to Twitter and safe for students.Another good backchannel tool is Etherpad. This tool was so good that Google bought it to use the technology in Wave. Consequently it is shutting down this month ( However its code has been released as opensource ( so it might live on in some other implementations, and at worst it can be used as part of Google Wave, which could serve as a model for backchanneling with students or on any kind of project in their productive lives in the future (though a tool that would be effective with students needs to be a lot simpler to use than Wave is right now).As to why we’d want to backchannel with students, I’ve found a couple of articles that explain the rationale and suggest some tools:This one is something of a classic: Here’s an excellent article that talks about 9 ways Twitter can be used in the classroom … NotetakingSharing ResourcesCommenting AmplifyingAsking QuestionsHelping One AnotherOffering SuggestionsBuilding CommunityOpening the ClassroomFor backchannel tools: introduced Chatzy, Todaysmeet, Edmodo,, and Google WaveI’ve got almost 200 bookmarks for Twitter here:, many of them mentioning ways Twitter can be used with studentsI guess this comment has become almost a post in its own right. I might just put it at

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