VicPLN list of online tools

As part of Unit 4 – Teaching and learning tools in the Victorian Personal Learning Network (PLN), our team has collated a list of online tools for participants to test drive and review.

The list has been collated  in a Google doc – Tools.

Tools are tagged using the following categories (with a few examples):

If you’re more of a visual type, we have also built a list in a Springpad notebook. You can sort by tags using the Filter option (this may not display properly in some browsers, so if it doesn’t just use the Google Document instead).

We will be posting regularly to #vicpln with links to people’s reviews and examples.

Image credit: Helmut Newton, (1953) Construction of 36-mile oil pipeline at Corio, State Library of Victoria Pictures Collection

Mapping your PLN

In 2010, I read David Warlick’s Gardener’s Approach to Learning: Cultivating Your Personal Learning Network and was inspired to map out my PLN (personal learning network). I’m glad I did because it gave me a different perspective of my learning landscape. I saw how I was connecting with colleagues and professionals, what places were most productive for me, and I was able to identify gaps worth exploring for future growth and weed out connections no longer meeting my needs. Growing my PLN became more purposeful.

Remapping my PLN a couple of years later, gave me further insight; I became aware of how the tools were shaping me, how they were shaping my online relationships and that I was growing from being a consumer towards being a collaborative, creative producer in my network. The activity was inspiring, rewarding and produced concrete evidence of professional growth. The map is a highly visual artefact that can be used in professional development plans and performance review conversations.

If you have never mapped your PLN before you may want to start simply with:

  • Face-to-face associations – eg. Teaching faculties, school/organisation learning teams, professional organisations you meet with in person.
  • Online associations – eg. nings, online organisations, Twitter hashtags you follow like #vicpln, groups on social media sites like Facebook
  • Access/aggregation – places you go to for learning and things you subscribe to eg. blogs, newsletters, curation tools like Diigo

Concentrate on your cohorts and the types of connections you have developed, don’t worry about naming individuals.

Once you are confident mapping your own PLN, why not take it a step further and have your students try mapping theirs? Most young people already have informal networks for learning, especially those involved in online gaming. Mapping then discussing as a group places they go to obtain information could help them to see connections between informal and academic learning. It might also be a great way of introducing them to a broader range of resources and ways that cultivating their PLN can help them achieve at school.

What it takes to be a DIY Learner

Maria Anderson on Free Range Learning

With so much educational content now online for free, many educators are turning to DIY or free-range learning to support their professional development. It’s a great idea, but having limitless information at your fingertips does not equal learning. And simply consuming content does not mean that skills or knowledge will develop.

In this illuminating TED Talk, “Recipe for Free Range Learning”, Maria Anderson takes the audience through conditions and elements vital for successful self-directed learning.  Participating in online programs such as the Personal Learning Network can help learners meet many of the conditions Maria speaks about in her TED Talk. You can check out details of the next PLN course here.

Maria also highlights some of the common pitfalls in managing one’s learning such as info-whelm, decision fatigue and optimism bias.

This video could also be well worth viewing and discussing with students, perhaps as a springboard for further talks on time management, learning habits or future pathways learning.

PLN registrations are now open

Registrations are now open for the next round of the Personal Learning Network, an online course run by the State Library of Victoria and SLAV. The course is the perfect introduction for teachers or school library staff looking to connect with other educators and discover some great free teaching & learning tools.
Computer Toddler
The PLN is delivered entirely online, meaning that participants can work through the course materials at any time. Over seven units you will explore tools to help you stay organised, discover useful resources, and explore issues like digital citizenship. You’ll also get started with blogging and learn about the range of free professional learning resources available online. Weekly webinars will also give you the chance to meet other participants and explore the themes of the course in more depth. The course is $115 ($105 for SLAV members) and commences on March 12. You can find more information or book online here.

The PLN is now in its fourth year, and this year marks a new and exciting time with the shortening of the PLN course and the introduction of several short courses. Alongside the PLN course there will also be an Advanced PLN running over four units in July, and the Research Toolkit will return in October 2013. We’ll keep you posted about these courses here on Bright Ideas, but if you’d like to register your interest in any of these courses then email

For details of how to stay up to date with all of the news from the course and to connect with the #vicpln community make sure you have a look at our PLN page. We look forward to seeing you in the course and online.

PLN short course builds your research toolkit

The next round of the Victorian Personal Learning Network has been announced, with the first ever Victorian PLN short course kicking off on November 12 and running for 4 units. The Research Toolkit course will explore reliable online resources, effective search techniques and tools for organisation and referencing.

The online course is self paced and will feature webinars with research experts. It’s a great way for teachers and library staff to brush up on their skills and keep up to date with new tools and techniques. Research Toolkit is also a good refresher for previous participants in the Victorian PLN course looking to reinforce and further develop many of their own research skills.

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State Library of Victoria Research Guides

Research Toolkit is a partnership between the State Library of Victoria and the School Library Association of Victoria. The course costs $85 per person, but group discounts are available for teams of six or more. For more information visit the State Library of Victoria website, or email

Victorian PLN webinar recordings

The current Victorian PLN course is now winding down as participants begin reflecting on their course through digital stories and catching up on any units that they may have missed during the term.

Over the 12 units of the course participants have discovered great web tools, written blogs, explored curly issues like digital citizenship and discovered the wonderful community of educators that exists online. You can connect with the participants and the wider VicPLN community at the Facebook group, which now has close to 200 members.

A major feature of the course were the regular web conferences which covered a range of topics. You can access the recordings below. The sessions were:

Getting started with your PLN and blogging

Organising information online (Twitter, Blogging, IGoogle)

Integrating technology into schools (featuring Tony Richards)

Online databases and search skills (featuring Andrew McConville from the State Library of Victoria)

Gaming in Education (featuring Paul Callaghan)

PLN wrap up and final reflection

All of the recordings will open in Blackboard Collaborate (or Elluminate). For help getting started with this web conferencing tool, have a look at the web conferencing guide on the Victorian PLN blog.

We love learning – feature blog

Classroom teacher Nicole McMahon at St Luke the Evangelist School in Blackburn has developed a blog for her Prep class.

It would be great to make connections with others through our blog. In the Prep Classroom, we have commenced a blog sharing our learning in the classroom.

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At the moment it is in its very beginning phase but the goal is to have children using this class blog as a tool to reflect on their learning – not quite an individual PLN but rather a class learning network to make connections with the outside world. Being that the children are 5 or 6 years old, the content of our blog reflects this in its colour and creativity.

Nicole has set up blogging guidelines for her students and parents to ensure safety and respect for every student and parent. What a great space Nicole has created for sharing the work and learning of students. A bright and inviting space that showcases and celebrates learning. Congratulations Nicole!

Edublogs awards 2010

Many of you will be pleased to know that the nominations are now open for the 2010 Edublogs awards.

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  • Nominations: Close Friday 3 December
  • Voting: Ends Tuesday 14 December
  • Award Ceremony: Wednesday 15 December

Categories are:

  • Best individual blog
  • Best individual tweeter
  • Best group blog
  • Best new blog
  • Best class blog
  • Best student blog
  • Best resource sharing blog
  • Most influential blog post
  • Most influential tweet / series of tweets / tweet based discussion
  • Best teacher blog
  • Best librarian / library blog
  • Best school administrator blog
  • Best educational tech support blog
  • Best elearning / corporate education blog
  • Best educational use of audio
  • Best educational use of video / visual
  • Best educational wiki
  • Best educational podcast
  • Best educational webinar series
  • Best educational use of a social network
  • Best educational use of a virtual world
  • Best use of a PLN
  • Lifetime achievement

The Edublogs staff explain on their blog how the process works.

This blog was fortunate enough to receive “First runner up” in the best librarian/library blog section and it was very exciting. So act now and nominate your colleagues, friends and sites that you find inspiring (however, you cannot nominate your own sites.)

Penny Bentley’s blog

Penny Bentley began blogging earlier this year. Like a duck taking to water, Penny has found blogging an excellent way of sharing, learning and reflecting. She explains the process:

Earlier this year I signed up for a 12 week, online professional development program. As a teacher of secondary maths and science I have an interest in finding new ways to engage and motivate students. Well, the VicPLN program was eye opening, challenging and arguably the best PD I have ever done.

I used to consider social media, like Facebook, to be a waste of time. Something my kids use instead of doing more important things, like homework. Well, things have changed. I am a blogger, I use twitter, Facebook and many other applications on the web. My blog, CLOUD9 started out as an online record of my journey through the VicPLN program. I blogged about my reading, new discoveries, frustrations and thoughts about classroom applications. I was able to display media such as images, slide shows, video and audio. CLOUD 9 started to feel like my personal place on the web.

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One of the best features of blogging is the authentic audience. Every time I made a post there was feedback, support and encouragement. I started to develop confidence in my ability to use technology, to create amazing things and to put myself out there in cyberspace. By the end of the program I was hooked, I could see the enormous potential for student engagement.

So, my desire to blog didn’t end with the PD. For a while the web felt like a lonely place, I missed my daily feedback and interaction.  There was a need to rethink the purpose of CLOUD9. It was important for me to enjoy blogging, to provide information that is educational and useful to teachers, to make smaller but more frequent posts and to have feedback. I decided to continue blogging about useful web tools, games, virtual excursions and any other application that may be useful in the classroom. CLOUD9 will provide bite sized professional development for teachers, with a taste of maths and science.

An unexpected outcome of blogging is that now I have a record of my 2010 professional development. I am beginning to view my blog as a digital portfolio of skills and achievements; it’s like an alternative to the dusty filing cabinet.

If you’ve been thinking about starting your own blog, Penny is an excellent example to follow. Well done Penny!

Feature blog – Bev Novak’s NovaNews

Former Head of Library at The King David School, Bev Novak has been developing an interesting blog. Bev uses her blog as a forum for writing about, processing and sharing her learning with other educators. Bev generously shares her learning journey on her blog and here, for readers of Bright Ideas. I recently read that a tweet that said that “all teachers should blog”. Bev’s blog shows what can be achieved in a short amount of time and if you have not yet started your own blog, Bev’s newly found enthusiasm for blogging may well set you on your way!

Just on six months ago, I had absolutely no idea what a blog was, had never read one and certainly had no idea how to create one.  Life changed dramatically though  when I decided to enrol in the VicPLN program being run by SLAV in conjunction with SLV.  That first evening of peeking at the program content is forever seared into my memory.  The list of tasks to be completed was daunting to say the least!  But my heart froze when I realized that the very first task involved creating a blog.   “A what?!” I thought!!  A blog, I calmly said to myself.  Skimming down the tasks posed for that first week, I realized I had no choice.  Every task listed for the week involved writing a response on my blog.   “Ugh!!!  What have I gotten myself into?!”  was the next thought that passed through my mind.


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Deciding that the best advice I could follow was that which I always give to nervous looking kids about to sit a test or exam, I took three deep breaths and began following the instructions set down.   It was, I recollect, a very long Saturday night!


But I did it! That feeling of seeing my words floating out into cyberspace really was fantastic.  An incredible sense of achievement and success, unlike any I had experienced in a long time, flooded through me!  While I admit that the early stages of creating the blog were akin to writing on a wall in Chinese without knowing if the paper was upside down or inside out, a certain familiarity soon set in.  The ‘dashboard’ and I soon became friends.   Because I was working in the warm comfy environs of the VicPLN, I often experienced the warm fuzzy feelings of others lending a hand, helping me figure out the seemingly impossible.   And of course, the warm guidance and encouragement of our wonderful mentor – Judith Way – was there, every step of the way.


It has only been at the completion of the VicPLN that I started to look back and consider the process I had worked through.  It was indeed a journey, a journey that had a recognizable path in which my blog moved from being a spot to record what I had read, played with and discovered over the previous week, to that of a personal storage spot for links and information I had gathered.   Along the way, as I recognized I had an audience, I accepted that I could also use my blog as a place to showcase my own achievements using a range of presentation tools to which I had been exposed through the program. The final stage of my journey has been understanding that blogging is a dynamic process, one in which readers can comment on the content of a blog or indeed on the comments posted by others, a process which, by its very nature, enables the interaction of people with similar interests to connect and share with each other.  In turn, for me, this has been a fantastic way to expland my Personal Learning Network.


Today, I am totally hooked on blogging.  Reading the blogs of others which incorporate thoughts, ideas and knowledge, has become an addictive occupation for me.  So too has the writing my own blog.  Feedback received in the form of comments on my blog or email or Twitter exchanges received over the week, feed my enthusiasm.   Sharing insights gleaned from various readings, experiences and knowledge acquired from a vast range of sources is currently the thrust of my blog.   Where it may head in the future however, I do not yet know.  But to know that I contribute to the growth of others in the same way that others contribute to my growth leaves me with a warm afterglow.  To those of you out there who’ve not yet discovered the blogosphere, I encourage you to spend the time exploring.  Come join the amazing journey.  While you have much to contribute you also have a great deal to learn.  And, after all, aren’t we all lifelong learners?

Thanks Bev for your unbridled enthusiasm for blogging and learning and for spreading the word via Bright Ideas!