I recently started to learn new names for something I have long valued as important — my network of contacts. Last semester I was introduced to George Siemens and his theory of connectivism of which I was instantly a fan. From my fondness for chaos theory to my interest in Eastern thinking, connectivism fit me. Now, we’re talking about a Personal Learning Network, or PNL, that is the outward demonstration of what Siemens lists as one of the principles of connectivism — that nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
During a prolonged period of unemployment, I started in earnest to create my online presence, first by growing my connections on LinkedIn, as that seemed the most appropriate for my job search. At first I connected with the obvious people, i.e., former co-workers and bosses. But I also reached out to people with whom I had lesser ties (also called weak ties) and was surprised with their affirmative responses. I joined professional organizations and sought out their online spaces for more resources. I also started to explore social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Over the years, there has come to be a fair amount of overlap between my connections, such that I tend less and less to view them as distinct networks, but rather subsets of my overall network of contacts. And now, as I seek out ways to blend my academic pursuits with my desired career change, I’m looking for ways to integrate some of my digital tools, such as my blog that has been exclusively tied to school, with my broader network.
I am completely on board with Siemens’ assertion that “the ability to plug into sources to meet the requirements becomes a vital skill. As knowledge continues to grow and evolve, access to what is needed is more important than what the learner currently possesses.” Since one of the expectations for this class is that we will develop (or grow) our PLN, I wanted to put a stake in the ground here at the beginning of the semester so I can see how my PLN grows and changes during the next 16 weeks.
Post Script: At the end of the semester, I presented “My Personal Learning Network” with a Mural.ly graphic that depicted several different facets of my PLN that expanded, were added, were yet to be fully explored, or — in the case of my RSS feed — failed miserably during our 16 week exploration of digital media. My PLN remains a work in progress. I hope you’ll continue on this journey with me.