The latest Edtech Posse podcast is up (thanks Rob). This was a conversation recorded last night with Dean Shareski, Richard Schwier, Rob Wall and myself (and a special, mystery presenter!) regarding my latest Flickr Perversion post, balancing openness, Wikipedia, milli-Dunbars, 2009/365, and building social networks. It was a fun conversation (as usual) and we hope you’ll have a listen.
Tag Archives: networks
What is a PLN? Or, PLE vs. PLN?
I am currently writing a chapter regarding open and networked learning. I have used the term Personal Learning Network (PLN) dozens of times over the last few years, and have seen it mentioned countless times in blog and microblog posts, and other forms of media. However, I cannot seem to find a solid reference or definition for the concept of PLN. I sent out several email messages asking people if knew of an existing article or reference for the PLN definition, and I have yet to receive a response. About the best lead I could find was a post from Stephen Downes that mentioned “Dave Warlick has taken the concept of the Personal Learning Environment, renamed it (to Personal Learning Network).”
I thought it was appropriate to ask the question to my PLN (or what I perceive as my PLN) via Twitter. I asked if anyone had a definition for a PLN, or if they knew the difference between a personal learning network and personal learning environment (PLE). I received varied responses, and the majority of these are pasted below. To make more sense of this conversation, read these from the very bottom to the top as they are in reverse chronological order.
There were a number of interesting perceptions revealed regarding PLNs and PLEs. Participants of this conversation seem passionate about these topics, and there are some very interesting research questions that begin to emerge. If anyone has suggestions for existing academic research that relates to PLNs and PLEs, please let me know.
And this conversation itself seem to have sparked some creativity around these questions. For instance, @bookjewel posted this conversation to Plurk, where @catspyjamasnz (Joyce) developed and shared this diagram (below) that describes her current understanding of the differences between the PLE and PLN.
I also received a Twitter direct message from @BlancheMaynard who shared this important distinction:
PLN is organic; PLE is mechanic. You can use ‘tools’ like Twitter within your PLE to access your network, but the tool isn’t the network.
And, I received a very thoughtful email from @jrichardson30 (Jeff) that helped to give me insight into PLNs and this very conversation. I have included only a small piece of this message as I am hoping Jeff posts his thoughts in their entirety in his own space.
I have a PLN but really haven’t tried to describe it. I have talked about PLN’s with the teachers at my schools but I really haven’t defined it in any certain terms…much less in 140 characters (actually, 132 characters by the time I added in the @courosa to respond on Twitter). So I distilled out what I thought was a somewhat thoughtful response and tweeted it. Well, just like any good steward of Twitter, Dr. Couros quickly responded to my answer. But his response was another question! Isn’t that what good teachers do…use good questioning techniques to get students thinking on higher levels? Of course it is. And he must be a good teacher because his question led me to closely examine what a PLN really is…to discover what it means to me personally. It’s not that defining a PLN has been a pressing issue for me or something that I have lost sleep over. It’s the fact that I entered into a conversation, shared my thoughts and then the conversation didn’t just end. It was been furthered by another person’s response and question…a true conversation.
This conversation has become a learning opportunity for me, my chance to create meaning and gain a better understanding for myself…a meaning and understanding that I can then share with others in my PLN. Maybe I can further this conversation or enter into a new one, but the difference will be that I have something NEW to bring to the community because of my personal discovery as a result having a PLN. Isn’t that our goal for our students…for them to authentically engage in the learning process so as to create/discover meaning that is useful to them personally and then hopefully to contribute to the larger society? Isn’t that what a good citizen does? I believe that is what a PLN is all about…To act as a source AND catalyst for this sort of thought-provoking conversation and authentic experience mentioned above that leads us to a point where are required to engage, to reflect, and ultimately to contribute instead of just consuming.
From a simple question on Twitter, I received dozens of twitter replies, direct messages, and email responses. While I am still having trouble defining exactly what this is, I know that what I observe to be my PLN has dramatically changed the way I view teaching, communities, and the negotiation and formation of knowledge.
So let’s keep the conversation going. What are your thoughts?
The Personal in PLNs
I will teaching two open online courses next semester, and I have been brainstorming a number of ways to do things a bit differently. In both courses, students will go through the process of forming their own personal learning networking. “Their own” is key here and is something I have been struggling with. In the past, I have just given students a list of people from within my network, but I am beginning to think that this practice may be problematic. First, is this not a bit contrived? Or is it? Is this an accurate way of representing how learning networks form? Maybe. I am not sure. Second, does this not just lead to replicating well-formed, existing networks? Or, does this contribute to the dreaded “echo chamber” effect?
Sure, I know that if I give a short list of network contacts to my students, they are not by any means going to form the same exact network that I have, but I would bet these would be very similar. And I am not by any means trying to criticize the members of my own PLN. In fact, I wouldn’t be connected to you if I did not feel that it was a positive connection. But I am curious of what I am missing. I want to understand personal learning networks not only by the connections that form, but also by those that are absent.
So, help me out here. What if I gave each of my students a single point on the the network, a single individual (probably via a blog address), and made all attempts to keep these points as unrelated as possible (yes, quite difficult in our x degrees of separation world). What networks would students form? How similar would these PLNs be? And what could we learn about how educational PLNs form?
Most importantly, if I used this approach with my students, would this in any way disadvantage their learning opportunities?
As always, I would love to hear your thoughts.
It appears that some Canadian voters are using Facebook and other websites to swap votes, also known as vote pairing.
Vote pairing (also known as vote swapping) happens when a voter in one riding agrees to vote tactically for a less-preferred candidate or party who has a greater chance of winning in their riding, in exchange for a voter from another district voting tactically for the candidate the first voter prefers, because that candidate has a greater possibility of winning in that riding.
The CBC and the Star are reporting that Elections Canada officials are watching these groups closely and trying to determine the legality of these arrangements. Vote pairing appears to go back to the American election of 2000, and has proven to be legal under the American legal system.
It will be interesting to see if vote swapping will have any effect on the coming election. In any case, its mere possibility is an interesting commentary on the potential of social networks and self-organizing groups on important matters of politics and governance. It also demonstrate that our current electoral system is badly in need of reform.
To see how vote pairing works, go to www.votepair.ca.
Thanks to Marc for the story, who is my idea man without a blog.
Yammer: Organizational Microblogging
I ran across Yammer tonight. From the demo video found on the home page, Yammer looks much like Twitter but your potential network is defined by your organization’s domain (like Google Sites). I see later that Yammer is billed as “Twitter for Enterprise“.
So I signed up using my uregina.ca domain. Looks like I’m the first and only one there. One is a lonely number when you are dealing with social networks. :-(
I really like the concept of Yammer, and am already thinking about how I could use it as a communications tool in my next class, or actually use it with my colleagues. Wow, that could be really useful!
Check it out.
The Making Of …
I wrote a brief post on the possibilities for Flowgram a few days ago. Jen Jones just posted her use of the Flowgram tool, a reflection of how she used her network to prepare for a presentation. Click on Jen’s Flowgram below:
Jen has provided us with a good example of how one would use Flowgram. More importantly, Jen highlights the processes she uses for learning from and being creative with her social network.
There has been some important discussion as of late about renegotiating relationships and our ties with social network tools and online spaces. For those of you still finding your way, here’s a cute video that may help.
This is part of a viral advertising campaign from meetup.com. The company’s strategy tagline is “use the Internet to get off the Internet.” Check out the “get your friends unplugged” page, where you can send your friends a reminder to get offline. Yes, it’s viral marketing so as always, carefully critique the sender and the message.
iLeonardo – A Social Network for Research
iLeonardo looks like a promising social research tool. The “about” page describes iLeonardo as “a Social Utility for connecting to people and their collections of relevant information on the web.” Using a bookmarklet, you can find and clip text, image links, and URLs, and store them in “notebooks”. Or you can find other people who have created similar notebooks and browse and copy from theirs, or collaborate. The tool seems like a cross between Delicious and Google Notebook.
This video may give you a better idea of how it works:
The service is seems to be in a closed beta right now. You can request an account, or let me know and it seems that I can send you an invite.
What Does the Network Mean to You?
I’m presenting to my colleagues at the Faculty of Education, University of Regina this coming Wednesday on the potential for networked learning in teacher education, K-12 and higher education. Inspired by a very recent initiative by Robin Ellis, I’ve decided to put up a Voicethread slide and ask for feedback from people on their experiences with networked/social learning.
I would very much appreciate your feedback and would love to have faculty members hear your thoughts throughout the presentation. Thanks much in advance!
Click here for the full size view of this Voicethread.
Danah Boyd on Social Networks
Discover Magazine recently interviewed Danah Boyd, a well known PhD candidate who has been studying social networks. The interview is described as “a look at how kids use technology, where mobile phones are going, and the Facebook vs. Myspace smackdown.” Click the photo to watch the interview.
For many, there will not be much new information on social networks here. However, for those who have missed the piece on the beginnings of formalized social network services and how kids are connecting online, there are some interesting points made here.
Peter Rock has asked some fair questions about Twitter on his blog.
I already use a blog and an RSS aggregator. Is adding Twitter as a tool to post and receive information going to enhance or burden my learning experience? Is it that I need to follow only those who use Twitter effectively to enhance my learning opportunities? If so, what is “effective” twittering and how does it differ from effective blogging? Is the energy required to add Twitter to my toolbox and follow Twitterers worth the payoff? Are really good ideas and resources found often enough on Twitter that never surface in blogs?
I sent a link to his post via Twitter and asked people to respond. Within a couple of hours, he received 23 posts, many of them very insightful.
Check it out and contribute to the conversation. What are your thoughts on Twitter?
Networks vs. Tools
I’ve been wanting to talk about the importance of helping teacher embrace and participate in rich, learning networks vs. bombarding them with the tools. However, Kelly Christopherson has done this for me.
Showing other teachers all the tools isn’t what is needed. Helping them develop relationships and make connections is. We can show and demonstrate, rave and mandate; it will not bring others to question, grow and adopt. We have many examples of educators who are beginning to delve into using these tools. Overwhelming them with the possibilities just pushes them away. Helping them to build their own networks, seeking out teachers who, like themselves, are testing the water and encouraging them to continue in their own lifelong learning will empower them to develop even more. Not all of them will see the benefits of all the tools they encounter but the relationships they develop during this process will go further, I believe, to bringing about powerful change than any tech person can hope to do by themselves.
This is one of the important ideas that I am trying to extend in my Grad course. Read the rest of this excellent post here.