Twitter is Only One PLN-building Tool

One of my all-time favorite people is Marsha Ratzel, the mind behind the Reflections of a Techie blog.  Marsha and I have been TLN colleagues—and like minds—forever. 

In response to my recent post on the ways that Twitter can save you time, she wrote:

Maybe Im doing something wrong but Im having much more success in building a PLN through my FB friends and through the readers of my blog.

Maybe the point is that some people gravitate one way because of their style or because of those they find…maybe the point is that you should be out there trying all the forms and formats…finding which one works best for you and then using it to its maximum advantage.

Like most of what Marsha writes and thinks, she's spot on here, isn't she

I'll bet that there are literally dozens of educators who have struggled to build a PLN in Twitter.  Like most conversations about technology in schools, though, we've got to remember that the tool is secondary to the behavior. 

That's what I worked to explain in my response to Marsha.

Hope it resonates with you—especially if you're one of those folks who wants to learn online but hasn't had much success in the digital soup that I've fallen in love with. 


Hey Marsha,

Glad to see you here—and your comment is brilliant!

For a long while yesterday morning, I considered naming my post PLNs can SAVE You Time simply because you are right: Twitter didnt save me time yesterday—-my PLN did, and I just happened to build that PLN using Twitter.

If you're networking through Facebook successfully, or through the comment sections in blog entries, or through conversations in the faculty room, you are accomplishing the same goal that I am in Twitter.

In the end, I chose to focus on Twitter in my post simply because it seems to have a worse rap than other social media services yet it has been really successful for me.

A few more thoughts:

(1). Whenever someone is trying to build a PLN—regardless of the tool—I recommend that they bring friends with them. Friends are far more likely to read and respond to your questions than strangers.

That probably explains why you are more successful in Facebook right now than Twitter. I'd bet—and I don't know for sure—-that you are networked with more people that you have personal relationships already with there.

(2). I've had more success in Twitter, I think, because outside of my blog, it is the only social media service that I use. While I've got a Facebook page, I haven't even logged into it since June of last year.

There's a lesson in both of our stories, I think—and it's a lesson you articulate in your comment: Successfully building a PLN means finding a space you are comfortable with and sticking with it.

(3). If you are determined to use more than one space for networking, though, I'd recommend using a service like TweetDeck to make participation in both spaces possible from one place.

In TweetDeck, you can follow and participate in conversations in Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn all at once—and you can cross post messages in more than one place all at once.

That's a huge time-saver because you're not wasting time checking in to multiple places every day. It also multiplies the audience that your post gets in front of—which increases your chances of getting a reply.

Does any of this make sense?

Rock right on,

5 thoughts on “Twitter is Only One PLN-building Tool

  1. Daniel Lopez

    I love all the talk of PLNs! I’d like to point you over to Lessonsmith ( We’re a site that is trying to build the next level of PLN, and is looking for great teachers to give us feedback to help us make a truly useful product for all levels of teachers. Yes, this is self-interested (I’m on the team at Lessonsmith). But, if you have any interest in helping to shape a product designed for teachers to create PLNs from the ground up, check it out!

  2. MIchael Werner

    Good post, as always, Bill. Everyone has to figure out what’s right for them.
    Here’s what I do:
    1. Facebook. Strictly friends and family. I don’t especially want my colleagues knowing what daughter A said to daughter B and the like.
    2. Twitter. Pure PLN, strictly, in my case, about education. Primarily teachers and admins.
    3. LinkedIn. My business connections inside and outside of education… peers in other organizations and industries.
    4. Blog. Closely linked to the Twitter groups… this is where we share more details of things we tweet about in/for education.
    Happy to provide more details should anyone be interested.

  3. Bill Ferriter

    Kevin wrote:
    Trying to build this concept with principals, Bill. Although I am
    comparatively new to Twitter, Diigo and PLNs I truly believe it is the
    future what with all the PD cuts. It is THE process to stay on the edge
    for instructional tools and practices from the leading minds around the
    First, Kevin, thanks for stopping by! Its always great to see you in my Twitter feed and comment section. Its hard to believe that weve never met in person, considering how close we are. Well have to change that soon.
    Second, youre right in two very specific ways:
    (1). Building PLN awareness with principals is absolutely essential if were ever going to see PLN-building as a respected form of professional development. Because all yall are the leaders of our schools—and eventually of our systems—the more principals that understand the power of connected learning, the better our chances are of seeing our classrooms change from teacher-driven to student-driven learning environments. Instructional leadership depends on understanding the changing nature of learning in our always-connected world, and without first-hand experience in social learning spaces, principals just cant provide that leadership.
    Thats why Im always jazzed by the work that youre doing to lead here in our county and by the work that the Connected Principals are doing on a broader scale.
    (2). Our desperate budget times may just be the best thing to happen to education in a long, long while. Were going to have to turn to digital spaces for learning because theyre all free—-and in the process, were going to discover the beauty of customizing our own learning spaces. I honestly cant stand any traditional professional development any more simply because it never fits my needs—-and knowing that with just a few clicks, I can connect to an always on stream of learning that IS customized to my needs, I always feel ripped off—-as a teacher and a taxpayer—by the sessions Im forced to sit through in person.
    That changes the way that I look at learning in my own room. If Im turned off by the inability to customize my learning in the schoolhouse, dont you reckon that my kids are equally turned off?
    My hope is that as more educators become comfortable with the potential in connected learning spaces that well see attitudes towards teaching and learning in classrooms change, too. And that could be the first reform that really has an impact on students that our nation has ever embraced.
    Anyway, thanks again for stopping by,

  4. Kevin Biles, Principal Pleasant Union Year-Round Elementary

    Trying to build this concept with principals, Bill. Although I am comparatively new to Twitter, Diigo and PLNs I truly believe it is the future what with all the PD cuts. It is THE process to stay on the edge for instructional tools and practices from the leading minds around the world. The ability to learn 24/7 is definitely an advantage. Folks have so many obligations these days that they can’t always connect with others at a set time. Google Reader and other such readers brings 21st Century thoughts to the learner without having to consume time going out and doing searches. Thanks for continuing to share. I continue to learn from you and the many other educators in my PLN.

  5. JudyArzt

    Hello Bill, I agree with you. As for PLN, we need to discover the tools and methods that work for us, as well as explore new opportunities. I prefer Twitter for PLN and Fb for other reasons, and do use Fb occassionally for PLN, but find more resources more quickly and a greater variety through Twitter. In a year or two, the online tools will change, so what works for us today, might not be so in the future. We just need to keep exploring. Appreciate your blog.

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