PLEs/PLNs…The Modern Day Charlotte’s Web

Courtesy of

So this past weekend was my annual vacation to visit my BFF in Minneapolis during the Twin Cities Pride Festival. Now, it’s about an 11 hour drive between Ypsilanti, where I live, and Minneapolis so I had lots of time to think and contemplate things as I drove, grooving to my country music. (Yes country music…the best genre in the world).

As I was driving, I thought about how one of the best things about the cohort I’m in is the collaboration in the learning experience. Each of us helping one another along as we learn, whether its in the classroom with the materials or practical experiences and thoughts on the field. Thinking about collaborative education led me to think about Personal Learning Environments and Personal Learning Networks. Now, I had never heard of these until they came up a few times in some of my classes over the past year. But, since then, I’ve found them intriguing and tremendously useful and while driving to and from Minneapolis, have decided to put in a conference proposal about this topic for graduate students and new professionals.

So, to start with I figured I’d share with you what Personal Learning Environments and Networks are, and let you, the readers, be my first group that I “present” to.

In a nutshell, a Personal Learning Environment (PLE) is the collection of interactive resources one builds and collects via online elements, in order to learn for professional or personal reasons. These can be anything from blogs, PowerPoints, social media pages, websites, etc. An inherent result of PLEs are the Personal Learning Networks (PLNs). These are the networks of relationships with individuals (some you may have never met before, i.e. bloggers, Twitter profiles, etc.) that you have created while building your PLE.

Think of it as a purposeful web of interactive online resources and people to learn with.

To give you an example, let me walk you through my own Personal Learning Environment (PLE) and Personal Learning Networks (PLNs).

My PLE consists of my own personal/professional reflective blog, several blogs that I follow (particularly about web 2.0 tools, student affairs, LGBT issues, and higher education), individual and professional social media profiles (primarily on Twitter and Facebook) as well as any papers and articles that I come across online (many from and In addition, I utilize and peruse the videos from their website on a weekly basis.

(Side Note: Throughout my PLE, I’ve decided to keep a more professional attitude and approach. I do have only one profile on each social media platform, and I am continually conscious of the content I post and that is posted by friends and colleagues however, I’ve decided to go this route in order that I may primarily have a professional presence with personality. I believe that maintaining two separate profiles can lack authenticity, honesty and the holistic attitude that we expect of our students.)

Now, between reading, writing and maintaining my PLE, I’ve created several PLNs, ranging from groups of friends and colleagues that I can confer with for advice in higher education, student affairs, social media, LGBT issues, to Tweeps (can anyone confirm that this is a shorthand term for Twitter Peeps?) from conferences etc that I have met who offer great perspectives on topics and issues in addition to advice.

For me, it’s become one of the best avenues for me to learn from. Now, maintaining it takes a bit, and in the next few weeks, I’ll share with you some of my best practices in how to maintain your PLE and PLNs.

To close, I thought that I’d point out (it’s my inner Communications degree coming out) that while PLEs and PLNs are fantastic, I encourage you to also balance your online networking with Tweet-ups, lunches, conferences, etc to interact with your network on a face-to-face basis as well.

Until next time!

Peace, Love and Pandas!

Published by Brian

I am currently the Assistant Director of Student Life for Registered Student Organizations and Late-Night Programming at Michigan State University. After earning my B.A. from the University of Michigan-Flint, I entered the Student Affairs profession. After a few years in the field, I returned to school and earned my M.A. in Educational Leadership-Higher Education Student Affairs from Eastern Michigan University. In my spare time I blog about my thoughts and musings on current issues in higher education, student affairs, digital worlds, identity development and general life inspirations and observations. I also volunteer a lot for my fraternity and multiple regional and national professional associations.

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 )

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: