A PLN…We All Already Have One

I’ve spoken about PLNs before (Five points about PLNs, A PLN and Shifting Power Back to the Learner, Is it a PLN…, and PLNs aren’t built, but cultivated)  but again feel compelled to add to my current “definition”…

Whitby’s (2013) How do I get a PLN? characterizes the notion of a personal learning network (PLN) as if the individual constructs one out of nothing.  I don’t see it this way.

I do agree with Whitby, sort of, when he states (buzzwords emphasized):

We must remember that lifelong learning requires effort. We expect this commitment from students. We should accept no less from ourselves. Fortunately, with a little information (see the linked resources at the end of this post) and an openness to learn, anyone can begin to expand his or her knowledge by using a PLN.

Few would argue with buzzwords like lifelong learning, student commitment, openness to learn, expanding one’s knowledge, and PLN, but what do these terms really mean?  I’ll try to unpack what I mean by PLN by accepting the fact that how one defines the term will depend greatly on how one defines the aforementioned buzzwords (i.e., lifelong learning, etc.).

Each individual educator becomes a potential source of information.

In a PLN, ideas, materials (e.g., technologies), and social interactions collectively become a potential source of opportunity.  A PLN is not just about the individual and some potentiality of information.

PLNs develop thought leaders.

No, individuals (including leaders) impact PLNs (their own as well as others), the PLNs impact the individual(s), and the PLN itself can take on a life of its own.

Barriers to mass adoption

mass adoption…buzzword alert.  Their are no barriers to a PLN because there is no starting point when it comes to a concept that already exists for each person.  As a result, PLNs have already reached “mass adoption”.  If there are any barriers, its how a PLN currently hinders achieving one’s goals, objectives, etc…; this is different than thinking of technology separate from specific ideas and human relationships, as Whitby suggests when listing a PLN as a mindset, overwhelming others with techno-babble (?), and digital literacy.

…all these articles and ballyhoo about connectedness have manifested limited adoption by educators.

Again, connectiveness is inescapable.  “Connective adoption” does little to describe the potentiality of an individual´s PLN unless described as a matter of degree, relationships between human and non-human devices, and value in achieving goals.

PLNs are collaboration.

I would say, “PLNs are cooperation.”

What Can PLNs Do for You?

I get the impression that this means that once one has something (a PLN defined as being nonrelational), that it will enable one to do something else (access materials, etc.).  Having a Twitter account in and of itself does very little.  Having a Twitter account, following others, having followers, and interacting with ideas around some mutual relationship may (or may not) provide a degree of potential for impacting one’s professional/personal learning.

How to Build a PLN

Let’s shift metaphors … Individuals cultivate, grow, maintain, trim, and augment a PLN based on situational goals and objectives, both intentional and incidental.  There are no x amount of steps that each person can follow for achieving a PLN based on situational goals.  There is no magic number of technologies that one should use, no set number of minutes they should adhere to, etc.

You determine your needs and goals, and then acquire the sources that you need in order to attain them.

Again, a very deterministic point of view here.  It’s not difficult to image that goals and objectives might emerge as an effect of one’s PLN.  In others words, situational goals and PLNs are iterative, reciprocal, and mutual as both continue to morph and transition to something new.

Let’s share how PLNs help (or do not help) to achieve situational goals and objectives, both intentionally and incidentally (i.e., self-define a PLN) instead of depending on others (including me) to define the term as some abstract (and simplified) truth.