Saturday, March 15, 2008

PLN or CLN - help me decide

Here is my latest attempt to change the world.

The new buzz word of the educational community is PLN ~ Personal Learning Network. Hey, I'm as guilty as the next gal of embracing the latest and greatest (in my opinion) and running with it, for awhile anyway. That brings me to these Personal Learning Networks. It used to be that in order to obtain professional development, teachers had to take college classes, or sign up for seminars, or sit in professional libraries and pretend to, er, I mean, read textbooks to earn credits. I'm not sure how much of that "learning" was because teachers really wanted to learn or because teachers really wanted to earn ~ Yearn to Learn v. Learn to Earn ~ (another subject, another post, another rant, another day).

But as students learning has evolved, so has their teachers'. Most of us, at least in my world, don't sit in college classes, read textbooks, do homework on paper, and turn in papers in shiny, slippery report covers anymore (ew!), do we? At least, unless we have no choice (see above..."learn to earn"). Instead, most of us are turning to what has come to be called our Personal Learning Networks (PLN). I've been curious about what these PLNs are to different people, so I've been taking a pulse around the blogosphere, Twittersphere, etc. and the consensus is pretty much the same.

PLNs are learning networks that are created by the individual, specific to the needs of the individual. They are ever changing and fluid. People belong to multiple PLNs, often without even realizing it. Here's an example of mine:

One of the things I'm interested in is engaging teachers in my school district in conversations that will encourage them to shift their ways of teaching today's students. I want to them understand how today's students learn and think and how they can teach to today's (and tomorrow's) learning styles. I want our teachers to HAVE CONFIDENCE! And I want them to question what they hear and not be limited by stuff (such as hardware and platform).

So, although I really never thought of it this way, my PLN consists of:
  1. My peers who I eat lunch with because, although we laugh and have a good time, we also spend a good deal of time solving the world's edtech's problems. They know who they are. They are reading this, but not commenting... what does that say about them, huh? :)
  2. The bloggers whose posts I read and I glean information from in a passive manner (they don't know who I am and we don't converse) but I do learn from them and I do talk AT them (by commenting sometimes). For example: 2centsworth and webblogged
  3. The bloggers whose posts I read and who converse with me by responding to my posts and, in some cases, I've even been able to meet and establish real-life human relationships with. For example: Fischbowl and Teach42 and TechThoughtsbyJen.
  4. My Discovery Educator Network. You think this group starts out as JUST a group of teachers who like to use DE streaming in the classroom, but what you soon realize is that the DEN is a full-fledged, robust PLN in itself. Every person, every personality, every level of knowledge is warmly welcomed and has something to share. A nice place to call home.
  5. My Twitter network. Sign on, send out a tweet, let your peeps know what you're doing. When I'm online, I'm usually doing something like I am right now... I'm blogging, reading a blog, surfing the Internet for educational resources, etc. My Twitter network tends to do the same things and we let each other know when we happen on something interesting. We also let each other know when our kids hit their first homerun or when we are suddenly snowed in. All work and no play makes all work and no play! I like to play.
  6. Professional organizations: ASCD, FACE, ISTE, etc. (not as much fun, but still lots to learn there)
  7. Can't think of others right now, but if you are member of my PLN, and you ARE if you are reading this, perhaps you can help me by commenting... hmmm?
If I create my own network, as I have, how much control do I have over it? I control what I contribute. I can control a lot actually, but still in all cases, my resources depend on the support of others. So, here is what I'm getting to. All of these aren't really PERSONAL Learning Networks, they are Collaborative Learning Networks. Go ahead and throw in the word Personal... if it makes it more uh, personal for you. But from hereon, I have no PLN. It is for me, a CLN. I have a Collaborative Learning Network! Won't you join me?


Developer said...

Lee, this is a response not only to this post, but to the question you Twitter'ed me just now, "Are personal learning networks really collaborative learning networks?"

I'm learning, as I continue to do sessions at conferences about PLNs, that it is a difficult thing to define, since it can look like so many different things, i.e. your lists. But to answer your question, they are entirely collaborative. Even subscribing to a tag in is collaborative, because you are connecting to somebody else's behaviors. Even Google is collaborative because of the way it does relevancy ranking.

But to characterize a PLN is difficult to impossible. It's something different to everyone.

So, why talk about them if we can't adequately describe them. That's the question.

Have have to knogin' that one! ;-)

Great luck to you!

Nadine N said...

When I was in classes to get me admin certification, the buzz word was "Professional Learning Communities"(Richard DuFour). That buzzword has been around alot longer than Web2.0. I think that no matter what term you use, it's all about collaborating with others who are interested in the same goals. I like your thoughts on your wish for teachers that you work with to "have confidence". That, I think is key. It's really gratifying when others gain confidence as a result of your actions, encouragement, and support. After all, we're all in it for the kids.

Lee Kolbert said...

I agree that it's curious that we tend to want to discuss that which we can't describe. It will be interesting to see how PLNs (oops, CLNs to me) evolve or if they just fizzle out in favor of the next interesting thing. Personally, I'm enjoying my job more than ever since my networks have become so ubiquitous. I know there's always support out there, if not in one form than another. I'm very interested in hearing from others about what their CLNs look like.

Anonymous said...

I find my PLN's are constantly changing. Depending on the knowledge that I need to gather for a project, whether it be personal or professional. Lately I tending to use PLN's more within my personal life than in my academic life. Does that mean I'm finally getting a life??? :)


Lee Kolbert said...

How true that CLNs (Get it right, now) do take on many forms. I also have one for personal, family, academic, professional, hobbies, etc. Didn't think of that. Does that mean you are getting a life? I think that means you have perhaps more of a life than some of us who limit ourselves to only our work. Congratulations for keeping life in perspective!

Anonymous said...

Hi Lee
I do like the term collaborative much more than personal -- good job on that one!!

My network is always feeding me, stretching me, humoring me (at times), engaging me, challenging me, inspiring me, and supporting me. (LOL, lots of me's there!)

But I do think that one of the reasons for that is because I believe I give back as much as I get. (probably a bit too much on the humor side!)

Without my network (MY CLN) I honestly don't know where I would be right now in regards to my tech ability and usage. They have opened doors I would not have even known existed.

Thanks for a nice post....

Karl Fisch said...

Hmmm, but doesn't "collaborative" imply that all those folks in your network chose to be in it and are working together? They didn't - they only chose to put themselves out there; and they aren't (necessarily) working together - often in parallel and even at cross-purposes at times. You "personally" chose them and put them together for your - dare I say - personal network.

Plus my PLN still includes one-way knowledge distribution - books, websites that don't allow conversation, etc. - so I think it would be hard to describe those pieces as being part of a CLN.

So methinks CLN has just as many - if not more - problems than PLN. So we might just be SOL on naming this . . .

Anonymous said...

It might just word games at this point, but I think I have to side with Karl's viewpoint PLN consists of so many different resources (as is yours) and not all of them are collaborative. I see David's point that you are connecting to others' behaviors, but I feel collaborative is active on the parts of both participants.

Maybe what we call our learning networks should be as unique as the ways we each learn? :-)

I think I'll call mine Sam--just for grins.

Thanks for a great post--I can't wait to share!

Anonymous said...

In response to Karl’s response. You mentioned at one point, “Plus my PLN still includes one-way knowledge distribution - books, websites that don't allow conversation, etc”. Does this not negate the word “Network?” If your knowledge is going one way then would it not be a resource and not part of the network? Just a thought.
I’d also dare to say that bloggers do “put themselves out there” as you said, but I add “with hopes to be heard.” How will they know they have been heard if there is no response to their posts? Therefore, because they do read your posts and support comments on their posts, are they not choosing to be a part of my network just as much as I chose to read their post and make them part of mine. They write I read, I write back they read = collaboration.
So on that thought, being that I responded to your response if you don’t read it will that mean we haven’t collaborated? Hum!