Professional Learning Networks

Since the beginning of the World Wide Web and the internet, users try to find the most efficient and effective way to use the connectivity that is afforded to us. Through Communication and supporting bodies of knowledge, we are all trying to learn the information that is out there. One of the ways to learn, is from other people. Connectivism has been a new way to gather information from the interconnected networks we are all weaving at all times.


I learned about #SAchat and #SAtech  while in graduate school working on my master’s degree. Once I discovered weekly chats via Twitter, I was hooked. It was so easy to participate and have my voice heard during the weekly #SAchat conversations that numerous colleagues around the world were having at the same time. I have been able to ask colleagues for programming models and resources that have helped me complete a better process for my students. I was able to contribute to problem solving and critical thinking about the profession I was entering into. I started to meet some celebrity #SAchat tweeters face-to-face at conferences and created connections IRL. I found mentors and created a foundation  of colleagues in the student affairs and higher education field that had the same interests as me: technology and success.

A professional learning network is just that, a network you can create online that adds value to your real-life, professional career. This network can be connecting with various pods of people to help fulfill your interests and curiosity, or it can be a network of support when there are major implications in your field that everyone most learn how to undertake. These professional learning networks will be ever-changing, non-stagnant pools of knowledge that each professional can create, develop, and manage for themselves.


“internet_marketing_strategies” by SEO on Flickr
CC by 2.0 license

I was challenged by multiple colleagues I had met on Twitter to start my own blog in graduate school. I was skeptic at first, but at some point got into creating my own body of knowledge and started to write guest blogs for collective sites: Student Affairs Collective, The Student Affairs Feature, and Women in Student Affairs for a national organization.  Through my own development of writing and reflection, I created a professional network that challenged me to stay fresh and up to date in higher education. I was pushed to think outside the box and was challenged in ways that will benefit me for time to come.

My challenge for each of you is to find a consistent professional learning network you can be a part of, contribute to, and keep up with. I found myself wavering the past few years, and I am glad that I have found my stride once more to continue on for my thirst of connections. After you feel consistent and grounded in numerous professional learning networks yourself, start helping your students find their pods of professionals that have similar interests to them. Teaching our students how to connect with others professionally is helping our students grow, learn and contribute to an adaptive and connected world.



  1. Colleen,
    I enjoyed reading and looking at the images you included in your blog this week. I couldn’t agree with you more in regards to the benefits of professional learning communities. Two semesters ago, I had a professor who stressed the importance of learning communities through the use of Twitter. I never took the opportunity to check it out until this semester when we were required to create a Twitter. I have thoroughly enjoyed all the information I have receive from Twitter thus far. The communication through this network is up to date and easily retrievable. However, I’m still working on the do’s and don’ts of Twitter. I think sometimes technology can be a little intimidating and some people are afraid of the unknown. I saw the hashtags you included in your blog. Do you have any other recommendations as to how I can get the best use out of Twitter?
    I have also heard a lot about LinkedIn. Have you ever tried utilizing this professional networking? I created an account a while ago, but I have not kept up with it. If you have, what are your thoughts on LinkedIn? Also, how do you balance your professional learning communities? Do you have specific days that you log on or are these something you check daily?

    • Colleen Smith

      Hi Bianca,
      Twitter and LinkedIn are my jam! I believe my advice would follow closely what Education World posted. It’s a great resource to have your voice heard and collaborate. So my best piece of advice is to be involved. You only get what you put into it!
      LinkedIn is fantastic… and basically a must for our students today. Take a look at my profile as an example, or Dr. Thompson’s profile. The more you add onto your profile to showcase, the more your profile will populate when future employers are looking for certain criteria. There are ways to publish your blogs via LinkedIn and ways to join PLNs depending on your professional career and interests. Keeping LinkedIn as up-to-date as possible is the biggest draw for me to revisit LinkedIn. Also, when I connect with colleagues, I congratulate them on work anniversaries or new positions. It helps me keep up with my professional/social network. Beyond keeping my profile up-to-date, I get emails that update me on my connections. If you’re job-searching, though, you should be on LinkedIn basically every day to speak up, interact with and create new connections. I hope this helps!

      • Bianca


        That’s great to hear! You gave me so much information on LinkedIn that I wasn’t aware of. I will definitely have to keep up with it more. Thank you for also sharing the Education World posting! I’m glad I have someone I can learn from in this course. 🙂


  2. Pingback: Digital Citizenship and Ethics | The Blog of Colleen Marquart

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: