Personal Learning Networks

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.

6 thoughts on “Personal Learning Networks

  1. Pingback: Week 7 Group 3 Learning Networks | Emerging Learning Technologies

  2. Karen Yarbrough Post author

    Thanks, Cheryl! That’s nice of you to say.
    When interacting in social learning situations, it seems like it’s important to think about the implications of our actions on others. I think that can get lost in online interactions sometimes. I’ve always compartmentalized my life *a lot*, keeping my social networks away from my learning networks, but over the past few years, I’ve started posting articles all the time on Facebook. I’ve become pretty well known for being a curator of sorts, and I guess that is how I get my educational jollies now that I’m not teaching at the moment. It’s funny; I guess I’m blurring the lines a little.

  3. Rachel H Tan

    In general you agree with Richardson and Mancabelli’s definition of learning networks as “the rich set of connections each of us can make to people, in both our online and offline worlds, who can help us with our learning pursuits..” They also made an interesting distinction between social networks, viz people we know and interact with in Facebook, and that of learning networks (e.g. Twitter) where connections are made with people we don’t already know, strangers we connect with for the main purpose of learning.

  4. Cheryl Burris

    Karen, I have really grown to enjoy your thoughts and look forward to what you have to share. You have a wonderful sense with words that I admire. When you stated in your post the personal learning networks that we have that are both virtual and f2f, I had a blinding flash of the obvious! Often the lack of anonymity in our f2f PLNs is what prevents it from becoming irresponsible. As such, your discussion on teaching personal accountability, responsibility, and ethical interaction is a key topic that should be discussed for all of the virtual and f2f PLNs you mentioned.

  5. cnb135

    Learning is social. Whether we are discussing with an expert, talking to a friend, or checking blogs online.
    Video is the same. When we can make a connection, via a video, to the content we are learning, we are more likely to remember it and apply it later. The real-life simulations that we read about this week create these applicable experiences for students. You are right, if we embrace the culture shift, we have so much that we can teach our students today!

  6. mlc400

    I am glad you talked about the idea of standardized testing in your post. I know that this is the first question I would be confronted with when looking at teaching without direct instruction per se but with more technology infused instruction. I think that it is an important point to discuss the point that technology allows us to differentiate our instruction to meet multiple needs of our students. Also, I agree that it will be challenging to teach our students who they can trust and communicate with when working collaboratively around the world. Teaching them how to respect others and gain respect themselves is imperative to their successful online learning experience. Thanks for sharing that point!

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