Benefits of PLN, Community and Professional Organizations

Today’s post comes to us from #chat2lrn crew member, Meg Bertapelle. Meg is a Senior Instructional Designer of Clinical and Product Education at Intuitive Surgical, a medical device company which makes the da Vinci Surgical System. You can find her on twitter at @megbertapelle


I just got back from attending the DevLearn conference and I’ve been struggling to pull together my “take-aways” for the last week (while also trying to catch up at work after being gone for a week). My gut was telling me that the best part was the people – but is that really OK? I mean, my company paid a lot of money to send me to this conference, and the best part was the people?

#chat2lrn pre-chat LIVE at #DevLearn 14

#chat2lrn pre-chat LIVE at #DevLearn 14
Thanks to @tomspiglanin for the picture via Twitter 🙂

 For me, it really is true. The sessions might have been the spark, but the conversations and connections with all of these great smart people really were the best part. I was able to connect with people in person that I normally only communicate with over the internet. While we have become great friends and I respected and trusted them all before I met them in person, the connection was much stronger, and our communication was more efficient, in person. We’ll leave THAT distinction for another chat (maybe talk to Helen Blunden), but my point is that meeting people in person (or seeing them again in person) this time has really brought home to me that I would not be anywhere NEAR as good an instructional designer, employee, problem solver – and even thinker – without my Personal Learning Network (PLN). Whoever first said “we are smarter than me” is SO right. (btw, apparently there’s a book – I haven’t read it, but I should put it on my list!)

 I have always captured some great information and ideas from attending a conference. In fact the first conference I went to was DevLearn in 2010. The sessions I went to and people I met (can’t possibly name them all) are the whole reason I am here today, part of the #chat2lrn crew, writing a blog for a Twitter chat where we can discuss and debate really interesting things with really smart people. The great ideas don’t wait for a conference though – people in the L+D community, in my PLN, come up with ideas, share interesting stuff and have wonderful debates and discussions on Twitter, or Skype, or LinkedIn, or Google+, and it’s happening ALL THE TIME. Without this community (that’s you!), I might still be creating really horrible training materials and calling them good! LOL

So thank you, all of you, for being the greatest benefit of all in my career. Thank you for allowing me to tag along – and possibly contribute in some small way – with your PLN. 

What about you? What have you found to be the benefits of having a PLN, or participating in a community or professional organization?

Let’s discuss during #chat2lrn on Nov. 13th, 8:00 PST/11:00 EST/16:00 GMT. Hope to see you there!


DO’s and DON’Ts for Building Your (Virtual) Personal Learning Network (PLN)

Building a virtual PLN, or Personal, Learning, Network has been talked about a lot, because a PLN has great power for improving your professional learning and career. In fields where there is SO much to keep up with (like ours), it is increasingly important to build and maintain a group of worldwide colleagues who you can call on because it is literally impossible to stay abreast of all of the different aspects of your field yourself. So it order to stay on top of things, most of us need a PLN!

Here’s a simple definition for a PLN that I truly like: n. – the entire collection of people with whom you engage and exchange information, usually online. ( Kate Klingensmith, the author of the blog that provided that definition, lists some of the most common tools for building your PLN, such as Twitter, which may be one of the most well-known tools for building your PLN.

Simply put, PLNs are about building relationships with people that can help you learn and grow. The idea is to share ideas, insights, practices, links, and resources, and gain trust so that over time you can share and perhaps collaborate. It is a way to greatly extend your learning in order to harness the knowledge and experiences of many people through your connections with others. If done via social media, however, this requires creating social connections through virtual means, and this requires some forethought and planning. Social media tools are not enough to create connection. Just because there’s a tool doesn’t mean you’re going to have a connection with other people. You have to DO something to make a connection happen. Another aspect that some people do not think much about with PLNs is reciprocity. Some people lurk only or ask for things only. The social contract says that when we take, we must also give.

If PLNs are a new idea, below are some starting links. Read and come ready to discuss some DOs and DON’Ts. We will likely have a mix of people with little and LOTS of experience so we expect a lively and perhaps very spirited discussion!

PLN: Your Personal Learning Network Made Easy

35 Ways To Build Your Personal Learning Network Online