Beyond Twitter: Tools and Add-Ons to Enhance Your Online Personal Learning Network

Concurrent Session 1

Brief Abstract

With advances in social media services that provide opportunities develop one’s skillsets, personal learning networks are an essential step toward deepening abilities.  PLNs build informal relationships between individuals with shared interests and desire for growth.  In this session, participants will explore digital tools that enhance PLNs and curate resources efficiently.


Dr. Solis is a Senior Academic Consultant - Instructional Designer at Baylor University. He is also an occasional online adjunct instructor teaching undergraduate and graduate-level courses in instructional technology/design and introductory computing concepts. An accomplished educator in higher education and instructional designer practitioner, Dr. Solis focuses on the teaching and learning side of instructional technology in higher education, with an emphasis on instructional design for online learning, effective technology integration to support curriculum, engaging the adult learner (andragogy), and faculty professional development.

Extended Abstract

The development of a personal learning network (PLN) is one avenue for faculty and instructional designers to create and participate in personalized professional development opportunities.  More specifically, PLNs allow professionals to establish and expand informal relationships with others that have similar interests and resources with the desire to expand skillsets and knowledge based on individual needs (Attwell, 2007).  With a PLN, it’s the individual that determines the skills they want to focus on, when they want to learn/acquire those skills, and how (Goria and Konstantinidis, 2017; Perez et al., 2016).  Furthermore, PLNs can assist faculty and instructional design practitioners learn about emerging tools to integrate into any learning environment, learn new instructional strategies and models, and stay current on educational news and trends. 


Digital PLNs are primarily developed through social media services such as Twitter, Facebook, and a blog.  Twitter, in particular, has and continues to be a power tool for developing professional relationships electronically simply by being able to post articles, research, share trends in instructional design (ID) and teaching practices, share experiences, and/or other discoveries of interest.  As a connected professional by following others with similar interests, the practitioner becomes the recipient of these communications and access to resources that align to those interests or training/development needs.  The use of hashtags of Twitter postings, or tweets, provides a quick curation of related posts and resources.  How, then, can instructional design practitioners and faculty enhance current or even new digital PLNs to curate and share resources much more efficiently to other connected professionals?  The following topics discussed in this discovery session will provide attendees with a foundation and list of considerations for strengthening professional relationships and streamlining resource curation through digital PLNs:

  • Identify current, trending, and least commonly used social media and content curation tools that can enhance existing or new PLNs.
  • Discuss the importance of using a blog site to (a) centralize/manage PLN tools and (b) write reflection that track learning experiences.
  • Identify specific instructional designers, instructors, technology leaders, and other practitioners to connect with to begin building or expand one’s PLN.
  • Attendees will explore hands-on with social media and content curation tools such as Feedly,, Bloglovin’, and many more.
  • Attendees will discuss the significance of using a blog to centralize PLN tools and write reflections as a mechanism for tracking learning and professional development.
  • Attendees will identify instructional designers, higher education instructors, and other teaching/learning leaders, to consider following through their respective PLNs.
Effective Practice Criteria
  • Innovation:  This discovery session will introduce social media and content curation tools that can assist instructional designers, instructors, and higher education leaders to enhance digital personal learning networks while sharing resources, ideas, and insights effectively and efficiently.
  • Replicability:  All techniques and strategies presented in this session can be effectively and efficiently implemented at other universities for any practitioner interested in professional growth and networking with other practitioners.
  • Impact:  The tools and strategies presented in this session, along with additional ideas attendees identify, can assist with enhancing digital PLNs.  These tools and strategies can easily be adapted at any institution.
  • Supporting Evidence:  The presenter will provide a list of peer-reviewed sources that support the theoretical underpinnings discussed in this interactive discovery session.  Sample digital PLNs will also be highlighted.
  • Scope:  All digital tools and PLN connection strategies discussed will be applicable to all teaching and learning environments.
  • A laptop will be used to show examples of blog sites used to centralize digital PLNs and provide a hands-on experience with unique web-based social media and content curation/sharing tools that can be components of PLN. 
  • A handout will be provided categorizing a wide-range of social media and curation tools to enhance digital PLN.
Target Audience
  • Higher Education faculty, instructional designers, instructional technologists, and administrators will benefit from this discovery session.
  • All experience levels may benefit from this session.
Audience Active Engagement
  • Attendees will have an opportunity to interact with a live digital PLN blog showcasing a number of centralized social media and content curation tools.
  • Attendees will also have an opportunity to interact directly with social media and curation tools outside a centralized blog in order to identify benefits and challenges for building connections to professionals and sharing resources.
  • Participants will be asked to share their experiences, suggestions, and challenges with using digital PLNs and various tools.