The truth is that we all build personal learning networks all the time, but we don’t necessarily think about them in terms of formal education. We look up recipes online, we crowdsource ideas for what movies to go see, we search the most common hashtags on Twitter. Even in a traditional classroom setting, we often look around to see if other people look as confused as we feel. Learning is social, and the question becomes how we can find more formal uses for our informal learning solutions. On this week’s websites and podcasts, there are many examples of multimedia enhancing learning opportunities, sometimes as simply as just providing inspiration and motivation. The “A Vision of Students Today” video and the introductory video for the World Simulation Project clearly are meant to be thought-provoking and to get students to think differently about their assumptions about the world and, by extension, how they learn about the world and interact within its social constructs. “The networked society that we live in today may feel radically different, but many youth are struggling with the things they’ve always struggled with. They’re trying to figure out who they are and how they fit into the bigger world” (Boyd, 2012). They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, and that is never more true than when applying multimedia to learning situations. Connecting personal learning experiences with relevant media makes learning that much more memorable and powerful.
Part of the problem with trying to fit new learning models that fit more styles of learning into standardized testing regimens is that these new learning efforts are inherently non-standardized. “Learning networks are not a one size-fits-all solution that works for each school in the same way. Quite the contrary, one of the reasons these tools are so powerful is their ability to serve a variety of goals” (Richardson & Mancabelli, 2011, p.27). If we concern ourselves with Richardson and Mancabelli’s new literacies in order to embrace new technologies, then we have to find a way to think about bigger issues than just whether or not our students can connect with a global audience, for example. For me, the biggest question is teaching our students how to ethically interact with information and information sources, and in a PLN structure, one of those potential information sources is the people we encounter on the Internet. We have to be proactive about anonymity and the problems that a perceived lack of accountability can mean on personal interactions. If we are going to build PLNs, then there has to be a responsibility of honesty and respect throughout the network. There needs to be a cultural shift, and we need to be willing to ask hard questions about assumptions that we take for granted.