False Starts – My Professional Learning Network History

One of the reasons why I’m finding LCN600 Connected Learning fascinating is the way that it encourages you to examine the value of a learning network. I’ve started thinking about a website of teaching resources, SlurpEnglish, that I created a few years ago. Although I eventually took the site down, you can still see it courtesy of the Internet Archive Way Back Machine. How very useful!

My aim at the time was to create a resources website for use by other English teachers. I enjoyed reaching out to content creators and finding ways to adapt their content to be suitable for English learners. At the time, I was interested in going beyond the unreal, created material often found in textbooks so that I could give students in my class something based in the real world.


The SlurpEnglish site in 2015

In the end, though, I ran out of steam. I was never quite sure what I wanted the site to be, and creating the content was time-consuming. However, I learned some useful web and content-creation skills along the way courtesy of YouTube and online forums. Nothing is ever wasted!

I now realise that I lost interest for a couple of reasons:

  1. The scope of the site was too broad – the whole of English Language Teaching (ELT)! Because my site could be about anything to do with ELT, it was very unfocused and it was difficult for me to think of my next steps.
  2. Lack of engagement. Even though I was networking with many people, they weren’t connected to my field. They were experts in other areas. I had zero engagement with other ELT teachers. I wasn’t creating a professional learning network (PLN).

This week, in our lecture, Dr Mandy Lupton, our course co-ordinator talked about three essential questions to ask yourself when considering a PLN:

  1. Who are the learners?
  2. What do they learn?
  3. What do they produce?

The learners, in this case, were the students of teachers who I assumed would read the blog. I was trying to create resources that teachers could use. However, I wasn’t actually reaching out to any teachers or promoting the blog. The blog was intended for teachers, but its voice spoke to English students. I wasn’t teaching the users of the site anything, and I wasn’t learning anything from all the millions of experienced teachers out there. There was no network. Nobody was learning anything and little was produced.

To be fair, I wasn’t knowingly trying to create a PLN, but I can see now how focusing on learners and what they will produce is key to this kind of project.

Onwards and upwards!


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