Introducing PLNs

The concept of technology-fueled Personal Learning Networks (PLN) has been around at least since the late 1990s and shares some common ground with ideas such as personal knowledge management. More recently PLNs have gained traction among educators — teachers seeking new approaches for professional development. PLNs are also gaining recognition as a beneficial outcome for anyone who uses the web to become an effective, digital networked learner.

For the purposes of this seminar we’ll treat the “personal” in PLN to mean that the network is centered on you. “Personal” in this case does not mean the network is exclusively about hobbies or personal interests outside of your professional world. Your PLN may include connections with people or resources who feed your personal interest in photography or cooking as well as your professional development. The point is that the PLN focuses on your learning.

Kimberly and Jeff have had great conversations about the blurry lines between “professional” and “personal” learning networks. Is it a meaningful distinction? The network that you’ve been plugging into for learning about photography or cooking may not seem to have anything to do with your professional development. But on second thought, why wouldn’t it? Network diversity is a powerful thing. The people you know through your interest in photography may in fact help connect you with others in your professional field. Developing networks related to personal interests also exercises your digital networking muscles – and that translates into capability professionally, as well. Finally, the most valued network relationships are built on a foundation of trust. Online relationships (like all others) involve getting to know people as people – their personal interests, likes and dislikes, what  sends them off on a rant or makes then laugh. When we have a conversation with people in our workplaces we don’t always just focus on work tasks. Why should it be different online?

PLNs then are subnetworks of our total professional and personal connections and information sources. They are subnetworks focused on helping us learn how to answer the questions that motivate our professional development or personal interests.

Our PLNs also should span boundaries by incorporating connections inside and outside of our workplaces. PLNs are the result of an individual being a connected and effective digital, networked learner. They are by definition personal – developed, maintained and used for our own personal and professional value, with no boundaries limiting their scope.

Recommended Reading for Week 1

[Readings will be posted at a later date]