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Thursday, August 8, 2013

PLNs aren't built, but cultivated

Inspired by Building your PLN Twitter Chat, I felt the need to respond (and to disagree):
Amanda K. claims that a "PLN is an acronym for Personal Learning Network – a powerful collection of people, ideas, and personas that fuel your passion for teaching and learning" (para. 1).
Not sure where this definition came from, but it's a bit thin to leave out technologies - what's a carpenter without a hammer, or worse, a carpenter who knows what one is, but not know how to use it.  Also, not sure what the difference is between "a ... collection of people" and "personas..." 

At any rate, think of what a PLN would be without technologies.  Sure, people would still connect, and ideas shared, etc., but it sure would look quite differently given the materials (technologies) we have today to communicate and interact, which weren't possible in the past.

A PLN is a material semiotic of ideas (opinions, beliefs, etc.), materials (objects, technologies, etc.), and social relationships (diverse interaction, communities, groups, teams, strangers meeting for the first time, author-reader, speaker-audience, friends, enemies, etc.).

A PLN doesn't start from zero, but is like intelligences, wisdom, knowledge, etc. in that it already exists...it is inescapable.  The question is not how to create one, but rather how to cultivate one in a way that is purposeful for the individual and for others.  It's been my belief (and experience) that if my PLN helps someone else first, that I ultimately end up benefiting much more than I sacrificed.  Understanding one's PLN means realizing that although the individual may be in control (to a degree), the individual still is just a single node that is being influenced and impacted and affected by the numerous (ideational, material, and social) nodes that form a more holistic network.  It's a network that is not only influenced by it's individual nodes, but also takes on a life of its own.

Can an individual be a carpenter without knowing how to use a hammer and nails?
Are we at a point yet where we should be asking, "Can an individual teach someone else (or coach someone else to learn) without knowing how to use technology?

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