Thursday, 25 April 2013

Activity 16 Examining a definition of Personal Learning Network #h817open

I define a personal learning network, PLN, as:

A loose but evolving collection of people connected by cloud apps on the Internet and whose views and information on topics of interest to me, both personal and professional, I find are of benefit to my daily activities, in other words my continual lifelong learning.

My first disagreement with the Wikipedia definition of PLN is that I regard my own PLN as both formal and informal. Over the last 8 years or so with blogging, Facebook and then Twitter my PLN was been used largely for professional purposes where information provided to me or elicited by question has been used for learning to better at my profession - university teaching. In turn I have responded in kind with all the people in my PLN.

Certainly the composition of the people in my PLN is informal and can change on a regular basis as my professional and personal interests change. Social media apps make the maintenance of the people group straightforward.

From Education Technology Guy
educationaltechnologyguy.blogspot.com
Much of the literature tends to emphasise the communication technologies and tools used to create and maintain a PLN. Diagrams like those on the left list huge lists of web sites and cloud apps, in other words the tools that can be used to communicate synchronously and asynchronously with people in your PLN usually social networks of some kind.  Other apps are included that provide the personal publishing mechanisms that allow each person to be creative and easily share their work with others.

These tools are vital of course to the operation of you PLN in my view are not the main focus of how your PLN facilitates you learning. Of necessity many of the tools come and go over sometimes very short period of months or a year or two. It is therefore vital for each individual to use a variety of tools and test them on the basis of how many useful people employ the same tool and hence can join your PLN. Trying out new tools should become second nature but only continue with a new tool if the community it supports yields benefits and the tool itself is compatible with the usual set of tools.

From Kegg Apoptosis
http://www.flickr.com/photos/sjcockell/
Of primary importance always is the people network that is at the heart of your PLN. If your tools provide a connected network report it should be used regularly to check the effectiveness and reach of your PLN. It is the people and the links to their artifacts that form the core of your learning.

Usually the amount of information generated by your PLN is excessive and a strategy for winnowing out the gems is needed with the help of yet more curation tools, another category of tool that must be investigated.