Much has been written about personal learning networks (PLNs) and meanings abound. Does one create one or grow one? Is it an informal network, formal network, or some combination of both? Is it social, cognitive, physiological, and/or material?
This month, I engaged in my own PLN via Twitter by receiving an invitation from Michael Griffin (@michaelegriffin) to write a guest post on the topic of eportfolios, which was published today. After a few exchanges via Twitter, I drafted the piece in a Word online document that was later shared with Michael. He made a few changes to the draft, added some text as an introduction, then posted it to his blog.
The next step now is to reach out to colleagues to see if there is any interest in having a public, online chat about eportfolios by using Twitter, this website (an eportfolio), facebook, email, and also by simply engaging in face-to-face interactions.
The second and third paragraph above may seem a bit underwhelming in terms of how people choose to engage with each other, but it is one (simple) example of an informal network that is an aggregate of social, cognitive, physiological, and material nodes coming together for particular purposes. A PLN is nothing without a joint relationship between these four types of nodes. These relationships manifest themselves from oftentimes multiple purposes that co-exist (e.g., Michael wanting a guest post, me wanting to share an idea in his blog, etc.).
Does a PLN always look like this? No. Can a PLN exist in formal educational situations, like in schools? Yes. Does one create a PLN? No. Does everyone already have a PLN? Yes. Does everyone use the full potential of their PLN to their own advantage? No.
There are certain things that a PLN is and is not, but more importantly, it's placing judgment on its affectiveness in the past, realizing its current purpose at any given moment, and understanding its potential going forward.
Benjamin L. Stewart
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