Student @CGressmanTHS explains the power of her PLN

With or without the guidance and support of educators and parents, students across the globe are developing and building their personal learning networks. Knowing how to do so effectively is a key to successful learning independence.

Below you will hear from Courtney Gressman. A young lady in the midst of building a learning network to help open the eyes of educators to students feelings about school and learning. Read on to discover how this has impacted her as well as how both her teacher and mother supported this work.


Courtney Gressman @CGressmanTHS

Tarrant High School C/O 2015.

Varsity Cheerleader, Youth Leader

Future Psychologist/Business Manager.

Tarrant, Al.


Why did you build a PLN?

I built a personal learning network because I felt that there has been an obvious problem in schools that needed to be taken care of, and that to find a solution to this problem more people needed to get together and see how students feel about this.

How did you build your PLN

i.e. What platforms did you use and how?

I built my PLN by creating a video on YouTube. Just publishing on YouTube isn’t enough though. You have to find your audience. I did that by going to Twitter and using hashtags like #EducationReform and #Education to find educators that might be interested. I Tweeted my video to them, engaged in conversations, and started following them. One such educator partnered with me to share my work on her blog, The Innovative Educator (

How has your PLN helped you / what you care about grow

My PLN has given me more insight into how many educators are interested in what students think about how we are learning. I've also gained more knowledge about how to create a PLN.

Share a couple of the most powerful examples of how your PLN has been of value.

The most powerful examples of how my PLN has been of value is when I see educators outside of my district, and even my state, positively comment on the video I created saying that they agree and wish more students would speak their mind on this. It is also meaningful when the students in my school say that they want this to be fixed as well. It shows that this not only a problem locally, but also it is a problem nationwide and that I'm not the only one who wants to take a stand against it.

Did (or would you) meet members of your PLN face-to-face. If so, how was that / why might you want to? How did you know it was safe to do so?

I have spoken to a few educators and education reformers involved in my PLN. It was so much easier to speak freely with them and understand their ideas and goals on what they are involved in. It was a lot better than being on a 140 character limit. We knew these hangouts were safe because they were set up by our teacher who had known them for a while before we met them.

What is your advice for adults stuck in the mindset that you should never meet someone face-to-face that you've only met online?

I would tell them that though there are dangers, there are also ways to prevent bad things from happening. Being that student personal learning networks are student made, then ideally there is a teacher involved as well. This would mean that the student is supported by a teacher and would get his/her help before planning to meet with online connections.

Was your school involved in the development of your PLN? If so, how? If not, what could your school have done to support you?

My school was involved in the development of my PLN. This began as just a project for my social studies class (#SandersTHS) but then grew into something I truly cared about. My teacher (@MsSandersTHS on Twitter) guided me with the tools to plan and create the beginning of my PLN.

Have your parents been involved in the development of your PLN? If so, how? If not would you want their support and how might you want them to support you?

My mother has supported my PLN by sharing my video and twitter to some of her close friends on Facebook as well as showing a lot of people in person who later responded online. She has also given me her support and encouragement. She let me know that I was doing a wonderful job when I thought that the issue behind my PSA wasn't going to be that great and reminded me that I could do anything I wanted as long as I set my mind to it while I was building my PLN. This encouraged me to keep going and responding to as many people as possible.

What else do you feel is important in the area of student personal learning networks?

When students create PLNs it is preparing them for the future no matter what career they go into. It allows them to learn how to utilize their tools, speak their mind on something they really care about, and share/talk with others about it. This is something people use in all sorts of different careers whether it be education, business, etc. I believe that is the most important thing of all.

Lisa Nielsen writes for and speaks to audiences across the globe about learning innovatively and is frequently covered by local and national media for her views on “Passion (not data) Driven Learning,” "Thinking Outside the Ban" to harness the power of technology for learning, and using the power of social media to provide a voice to educators and students. Ms. Nielsen has worked for more than a decade in various capacities to support learning in real and innovative ways that will prepare students for success. In addition to her award-winning blog, The Innovative Educator, Ms. Nielsen’s writing is featured in places such as Huffington Post, Tech & Learning, ISTE Connects, ASCD Wholechild, MindShift, Leading & Learning, The Unplugged Mom, and is the author the book Teaching Generation Text.

Disclaimer: The information shared here is strictly that of the author and does not reflect the opinions or endorsement of her employer.

Lisa Nielsen (@InnovativeEdu) has worked as a public-school educator and administrator since 1997. She is a prolific writer best known for her award-winning blog, The Innovative Educator. Nielsen is the author of several books and her writing has been featured in media outlets such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Tech & Learning.  

Disclaimer: The information shared here is strictly that of the author and does not reflect the opinions or endorsement of her employer.