Organizing your Personal / Professional Learning Network (PLN)

Symbaloo starting page courtesy of

As presented in my last post, Personal Learning Network Sources, a Personal Learning Network (PLN) can include numerous  resources           that assist communication, resource sharing and professional growth.  I have found that one of the most challenging aspects of PLNs is organizing the content for efficient retrieval.  As PLN resources are added or removed it becomes clear that arranging them is necessary to enable efficient access.   A single starting page, or PLN home page, is a solution that I have found provides effective access to my PLN.

A starting page is the first page of your PLN based on the chosen tool.   One example is using your Twitter account page, Twitter being the tool,  as Anna Bartosik details in her post, How to Connect the Right Way: Using your PLN on Twitter.  I use the tool Symbaloo as my starting page for my PLN. The Symbaloo organizer uses tabs, thumbnail icons and text to provide quick access to my PLN resources.

Below, I offer some PLN starting page options.  Each of these possibilities embody their own strengths and weaknesses.   As a language instructor, you may want to choose one of these options based on your experience with digital organizers, your personal technology skills and the quantity of resources in your PLN.

Three Starting Page Options:
Social media

For many of us social media is a distraction, even if we do not want admit it.  There are several familiar social media resources that can be leveraged to organize your PLN in a timely fashion.  Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn facilitate channeling of posts, tweets and updates to your handheld device or workstation. As social networks are supposed to be personal, it is a good idea to create a professional space that can be used for retrieval of posts and updates from experts, peers, companies and special interest groups.

If you feel comfortable with a social media service, you might set up a separate account for your professional requirements.  Updates will appear and automatically be archived by the resource.  It is a simple yet efficient way to organize your PLN.

Visual Bookmarking

Visual organizers may appeal to you more than text based hyperlinks.  There are several visual organizers on the Internet.  These are often referred to as start pages. One choice is Symbaloo, which is free, dependable and allows for a multiple tabbed screens to separate professional genres such as Professional Development, EFL, Education Technology, Administration and more.

Symbaloo is flexible as it allows users to add links and define them with colour, text and icons for efficient identification. Symbaloo can be used as an app or as a browser homepage.  It is a good solution for those with mature PLNs that are parsed into multiple categories. (A link to a quick explanation of Symbaloo is provided in the additional resources section below.)

Another visual bookmarking tool is Pinterest.  Pinterest facilitates the sharing of resources (videos, websites, images, ebooks) through “pins” to users’ own or others’ boards with a common theme. There are many TESOL Pinterest boards that can be used as a PLN starting page while building up a PLN.

Online Communities

Using an existing online community as the primary focus for a PLN is a good idea as one may benefit from the contributions of others in the professional field.   Examples of online communities are Classroom 2.0 and Tutela. These communities offer training in various formats (i.e., live, archived). They also facilitate communication between peers in special interest groups, curate news items, and host sharing of ideas, best practices, learning objects and more. Many contemporary social media offerings such as blogs, webinars, discussion boards, and online meeting facilities are also included in professional communities.

Online communities are also useful for those who are new to a profession and want to instantly start their PLN with a wealth of connections, materials and learning events.

Please check in next week for my next post, which will discuss three more PLN starting page options: curated content,  content aggregation, and DIY.

Additional resources referenced

Anna Bartosik’s blog post: Using your PLN on Twitter.

John Allan’s blog post:  Personal Learning Network Sources.

American TESOL

Classroom 2.0.





What is the Symbaloo? A Visual organizer.

ESL gallery at Symbaloo.


ESL at Pinterest

TESL Ontario at Pinterest






Hi—I'm John Allan. I am an educator who works in the technology enhanced language learning field. I create online learning opportunities and mentor instructors on the Avenue project. I have experience teaching ESL and EFL in Canada and the Middle East. I hold an MSC in Computer Assisted Language learning, a M.Ed. in Distance Education, TESL B. Ed., a B.Ed. (OCT), and a variety of TESL relevant certifications from TESL Canada, TESL Ontario and the Ontario Ministry of Education. For more articles, learning objects, projects and blog links see


5 thoughts on “Organizing your Personal / Professional Learning Network (PLN)”

  1. Thanks John. I think the organization tool is key for anyone curious about developing a PLN. Looking forward to the next instalment.

    1. Anna, thanks! I agree. I am hoping others post alternate means of organizing their PLNs.

  2. Nice blog post John. I was always in awe of your ability to organise the plethora (surfeit) of sites, apps and links. Your desktop – gorgeous! Your “cyber” cemetary – somber reminder of the fleeting nature of many websites, links, apps….:)

    Symbaloo – good suggestion for PLN organisation (as it is for other things)

    My real life clutter has migrated to Pinterest – digital scrapbooking aka cyberhoarding, I have 105 Boards (my Slurpy Soup – over 1,000 recipes). About half of the boards are for education and education technology.
    Surgeon General’s warning: It is addictive.

    1. Claudie, Pinterest is addictive. I use it when I want to mine for resource specific area. It is easy on the eye and there are so many great boards to explore in all fields.

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