Monday, January 13, 2014

Why PLN?

I thought it time for a post on the fundamentals of why PLN? (Yes, in the evolving language of the Internet I think I will use PLN as a verb.)

I have been fishing around trying to define Personal Learning Networks – both on my own and with others – primarily my #xplrpln colleagues. A bit of fun was had with thinking how to explain PLNs to Mom   – all within the confines of a Tweet. The one thing that seems evident is that the definition boundaries are fuzzy and that the ‘personal’ part leads to PLNs meaning different things to different people. However (drum roll here) I have just come across a very straightforward, dare I say obvious, definition in a MUST READ article for those interested in PLNs. People in Personal Learning Networks: Analysing their Characteristics and Identifying Suitable Tools. The study indicates that Twitter is definitely the dominant platform for PLNs. 

A Personal Learning Network refers to the network of people a self-directed learner connects with for the specific purpose of supporting their learning. Rajagopal et. al (2012). 

We are all self-directed learners to a greater or lesser degree (think about how you learned your mother tongue!) but this statement helps me to help others think about PLNs.

Why put in the effort? What do you gain from having a PLN?  - or to extend the use of PLN as a verb - What do you get from PLNning? You get a group of people who:
·      provide you with different perspectives
·      challenge you and help you grow both personally & professionally
·      you can consult to answer questions or expand your understanding
·      help guide your learning
·      help you develop your skills
·      share information with you
·      point you to learning opportunities
·      give you the benefit of their own knowledge, experience and sense-making
·      are interested in the same topic
·      connect through a variety of media
·      are an audience for your learning products & processes
·      extend your expertise
·      provide a reality check for you
·      you can interact with as you learn and formulate your understandings and creative ideas
This list is somewhat redundant (think overlapping circles in a VENN diagram) and I am sure it is missing components as well. I welcome suggestions for additional bullets in the comment section.

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