Since my blog is a personal reflection page, my personal experiences generally guide its content. My experience last evening took me to a conversation about the title of my Ning site The Educator’s PLN. It was a drawn-out discussion on the choice of the word “The” in the title of the name that I created for the site. It is based on that conversation that I feel a need to at least describe my thoughts and understanding on the topic of Personal Learning Networks that led me to choosing the Title of my Ning site. If you haven’t clicked off of this post yet, I am grateful, because I would have. I find it hard to believe that something this simple would get anyone upset, let alone me.
If my house were burning down and I yelled to a crowd of onlookers, “CALL 911” there are several things I would not want to hear coming back. “What’s the Magic word?” and “What do you mean by the word CALL?”are two questions that come to mind. Some people need to argue for the sake of argument and not in an effort to acquire a clearer understanding. This is a quality probably better suited for a lawyer than an educator, but that is an argument that I will not pursue.
The point that I believe that these individuals attempted to register with me, was that the word “THE” suggested that this was the only place one could go to be part of THE PLN. If anyone else has that feeling, then I really screwed up in my choice of Title. My personal understanding of what a PLN is, may best explain my choice of words.
The fact that this label of “PLN” is fairly new to some and also unknown to many educators lends to the confusion. That combined with the number of similar labels referring to the same or very similar concepts further confuses things. We start with Personal Learning Network and then Professional Learning Network. We have the Personal Learning Environment and the Personal Learning Community. There are a number of variations which interchange the words Professional and Personal.
To attempt to clear things up a little, let me explain my understanding of the concept and you may call it anything that suits your purpose. I clearly understood this concept from the time I left elementary school and learning became more complicated than it was in elementary school. I quickly adapted by surrounding myself with people who could explain things differently than they were presented in class. I personally selected the people I needed to help me along with my learning. I actually created a network of people I could go to for various things and they were not always academic. Since this network of people was constructed with my personal selections to help my personal needs for learning, I guess I could call this my personal learning network. It was unique to me and to my learning needs. It changed over the years as did my learning needs. This was not a personal learning network for other people. They needed to get their own. They could use some of my people for their network, but there was no exclusive ownership of sources. Now, with the advent of technology and the development of Social Media, I can extend my reach. I can grab sources globally. And even better there are several free Social media applications I can use for this purpose.
I used Email, Linkedin, FaceBook, MySpace, Twitter, Skype, and Delicious to connect with people and acquire sources. This network of people helped me learn by answering questions, passing along articles, websites, experts, podcasts, webcasts, online conferences. The best part is that it was all directed by my personal inquiries to meet my personal learning needs. This is also a flexible and adaptive network. It expands with new sources, information, concepts and tools. It works for me and that makes it personal. It will not work for every learner. The sources that I have chosen may not be the sources others would choose. They need to create their Personal Learning Network. There is NO “The PLN” if there were it would be “The LN”.
Now getting back to my Ning site, I had many questions from many individuals about sources. People wanted to create their Personal Learning Networks. They needed a little help getting started. They needed people to contact, how-to tutorials, groups of people with common interests. I knew how to do this, because that is how I learn. I created a site to help any educator who needed help developing his or her personal Learning Network. It gave them a means to do it. It is not the place to go for an instant PLN. It is a place for direction and sources. I needed to call it something, a name that would conveniently fit in a tweet. Hence, the name “The Educator’s PLN”, a singular educator and a singular personal network for learning. It neatly abbreviated to EDU PLN for tweeting purposes.
I want to be clear, I make no claim to ownership of anything about any PLN other than a Ning site that I created to help others develop their own Personal Learning Networks. I do take credit for my own PLN which consists of 2 Ning sites, 5 Linkedin Educational Groups, a Blog, a twitter account, a FaceBook account, a Skype account, a delicious account, an author stream account a Google reader account, Google mail, and probably a dozen other things as well. I am also the co-creator of #EDCHAT which has had a profound effect on my personal learning as an educator. That is my Personal Learning Network and not yours.
Now, I need to get back to my evening discussion. I imagine that a very good argument could be made to call The Old Man and The Sea, The Old Man and the Fish, but why? I named MY NING site The Educator’s PLN not because it is the place to end up, but one possible place to begin for those who do not know where to begin. If it is not for you, do not join. If you join and do not like it, follow the rule of two feet. Get up and leave. All I ask is that you let me call it what I called it.
If we keep arguing about the little stuff and not the ideas, it will take a long time to get from where we are to where we need to be in education. The idea of PLN’s is taking people from places of isolation to places of expanded thinking. We cannot keep saying no to everything without offering alternatives and expect things to change on their own. Rather than spend time arguing semantics, we need to address real issues. I promise to think more about Titles if I ever decide to create something that I believe will help others, because words are important.
The Educator’s PLN http://edupln.ning.com/
And now your comments, please.