Entering into this class, I was certainly aware of the term Personal Learning Network. I had been through a professional development ‘workshop’ on web 2.0 and it’s potential uses in education. I had embraced Facebook as a way to connect socially, Twitter as a way to see what others are doing and various Ning Communities as a way to converse while still be distant. If anyone asked, I would have said that I had a PLN. Looking back, I am not so sure. I had connections, for sure. I lurked in the background and cherry-picked the good stuff. I read blogs posts here and there, but never commented. I tweeted experimentally, but with little of substance to add.[gigya src=” http://media.spicynodes.org/display.swf?id=a5c45c8257abfa64abca0e952767e4d8&nodemapID=395959″ quality=”high” width=”550″ height=”315 ]
So what has changed. In some ways, not a great deal. I am still more lurker than contributor…but I am working on that. More importantly, I have come to gain a better appreciation of the fact that the PLN is simply a portion of the Personal Learning Environment (PLE). When push comes to shove, this is about my own learning. For that to happen, I need to have a variety of ways to obtain and process information. The tools for finding information vary from Google to Twitter to Facebook. (For the sake of this assignment, I am limiting myself to the online communities, but understand the role of my offline interactions as well.) From there, learning becomes an interactive process. I reflect in a blog or comment on someone else’s blog. The dialogue begins and I build on a base of understanding. From there the cycle builds and grows over time. Interestingly, I used to feel like I could “master” a topic. I may not have known everything, but I knew everything that was reasonable to know. Now, it seems there really isn’t such a limit (or achievement?). With so much to know and so many potential teachers, all PLE supported, the sky is the limit.
One thing became apparent as I viewed some classmates’ own PLE diagrams- mine showed less distinction about what each tool/community is for. That is not to say that mine is better. Truth is I really don’t know. Distinctions about personal vs. professional seem like they should be distinguished. But, for me, as I view my own learning, they all blend together. This class brought my social world, Facebook, into my professional world. One of my students follows me on Twitter, which I use for Professional Development. We chat about golf. So many of the tools could be placed in every category. Even in my depiction this was true, but I went with what I use it for most. Heading forward, this is both a challenge and an opportunity. I have to be aware that my audience is very diverse. It includes my colleagues, my boss, my students and even my mother. However, it also brings the opportunity to catch things that might pass by otherwise and to get input on professional topics (or personal ones) from unlikely sources.
I’ll be interested to do this again in a few years.