The power of personal learning networks (PLNs) is shown in these personal examples, Reflections on Edtech blog and SoMe My Social Media Story, whereby each had a question while preparing for an urgent presentation or research paper. They asked and to their surprise, the Twitter network of people responded to their questions. This is the first time I ‘see’ the power of the PLN. Compelling as it is, I am still uncomfortable about ‘asking’ a network of people I do not know. When I am on duty as a Twitter Ambassador for our department, I sometimes get followers I do not know and become nervous about who is following especially if it is not an organization such as ASCD, Blackboard, Google Apps, etc. Richardson and Mancabelli quoted “To me [Pam Moran], the most powerful aspect of what’s happening right now is this potential for learning that we haven’t even begun to appreciate yet…” in their 2011 book, PLNs: Using the Power of Connections to Transform Education. So what were the fundamental shifts in technology that fuelled this capacity to connect, interact, and learn with others in these new and different ways?
Richardson and Mancabelli cited from Wiley (2008) a summary of six significant shifts that support connection and network building: Analog to digital; Tethered to mobile; Isolated to (decidedly) connected; Generic to personal; Consumption (of information) to creation (of knowledge); and Closed to open systems. These shifts have huge implications for educators, and schools that were built on the assumption that knowledge and teachers are scarce. Bill Sterrett aptly responded “Moran and other tech savvy leaders believe it vital to help our students and staffs use technology effectively– not for technology’s sake but for learning’s sake.” Here is a blog article on 8 Steps of Leading Learning Forward: A Case Study of Pam Moran’s Educational Leadership.
What stood out to me in Danah Boyd’s blog is ‘public-ness’ and the “unexpected and invisible audiences,” as I recall in 2011 when Sunday School for elementary levels were reminded to be very careful if they were using Twitter. At that time there was a case (beyond our shores) whereby a young girl was “followed” by an adult guy from online to physical connection. That intro to social media left a very negative impression on me until my current job exposed me to the educational use of social media. One Singapore example “The lessons of tweeting; learning from social media” as it is used in a ‘future school’.
Cyber wellness is an issue that schools have to address for stakeholders to have a peace of mind in social-media based learning. One of the middle schools (320-strong cohort) in Singapore launched a program to help elementary school children handle online issues. There is also a Cyber Wellness Student Ambassador Programme which trains more than 1,400 students on using information and communications technology positively and responsibly.