Just a few short months ago I had trouble remembering the acronym PLN let alone understanding the concept. I had absolutely no appreciation of how a PLN could benefit me nor how I could contribute to that of another. Interestingly, my lack of knowledge ensured that I had absolutely no expectations.
So what have I gained?
Well … ‘friendship’ comes to mind. It has been wonderful meeting so many people and linking up with some on an occasional basis and others on a more regular basis. It feels a bit like being a member of a secret club where only us members have the warm fuzzy feeling of belonging to the group.
There’s also been lots of ‘sharing’. To have others to share the highs and lows of new discoveries, newly acquired knowledge, new achievements and successes has been both reassuring and warmly satisfying. I certainly never imagined that I would find a group of people with whom I could ‘share’ my ever spiralling growth. Being able to give each other a pat on the back for milestones passed and goals achieved is certainly very worthy after the hours we’ve spent in the creation.
And how about ‘problem solving’?! I’ve lost track of the number of confusing or sticky situations I’ve gotten myself into over the last few months. Playing and learning certainly has resulted in some entirely confusing and seemingly insurmountable problems. Unravelling the knots with the patient assistance of my PLN buddies and feeling their support along the way has been great!
Wow – who would believe it?! I’m thrilled that I have connected up with so many amazing people! My PLN is now established and as I start to link up with others further afield, I feel privileged to be in such a great learning, sharing and supporting group.
It’s a strange experience though, for bar just a couple, my ever growing PLN is made up of ‘virtual’ people most of whom at the moment are defined in my mind by their avatar. My PLN buddies are out ‘there’ wandering through cyberspace. Every now and then we bump into each other. Some drop into that safe and traditional spot – my email inbox. Others appear at the bottom of my blog post. And yet others call out to me from the warm fuzzy confines of Ning or the vast ocean of the Twitterverse.
The logical part of my brain says I want to band you all together and give out an instruction: “Let’s meet at such and such a spot on such and such a day so we can talk, chat, share, play, learn and explore together.” But that same part of my brain queries whether this is the right way to go?
The PLN seems kind of nebulous. It has no structure. There is nothing definite about it. It just kind of “is”. And here I find myself making yet another new discovery, another new lesson learned. The undefined structure of a PLN is indeed another of its features – albeit a hidden feature – which reveals itself more clearly as time goes by.
Although in broad terms there is a commonality of experience, the reality is that each of us has, does and will travel a different path. While we all travelled the same path that was thrown down for us, some have gone along the straight and narrow while others have zigzagged along the way. No two paths are exactly the same. The common experience of learning and growing is what binds us all to be part of each other’s PLN. Our individual differences make up the strength of our group, or, as commonly attributed to Aristotle and also deriving from Gestalt Psychology: “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
At this stage, I’ve not read up much about PLNs. I know there is heaps out there ’cause I keep finding links and stashing them in my ever growing Diigo bundle. The titles of some of these sites are so startling that I stop and read them immediately. Springing to mind is a post written by Australian Educator – Peter Kent – who as a guest blogger on The Innovative Educator blogsite writes: “Want to be a great educator? Don’t go to PD.” It incorporates a powerful video Escalator Problems which shows two people getting stuck on an escalator who wait and wait for someone to tell them what to do. Underlining the waste of attendance at PDs, I found this to be a powerful visual. – Thanks Penny for helping me find this when I couldn’t remember where I’d seen it! Ah the power of Twitter!! – Goodness … I wonder if the hours and hours accured at PDs over the years, let alone the volume of money spent on attendance has indeed been a waste. But … I guess ….. that was then … and this is now. Life after all is one long journey.
Obviously I’ve only recently discovered the power of PLNs. Others before me have already explored these waters. A research project presented by Dodie Ainslie seems to sum up my experience. Meantime I look forward to this continuing chapter in my life! And as I do, now seems like a good time to change the title of my blog. Either continue or join me as I wander along my journey.
NOTE: This blog post was subsequently published in both FYI, the journal of the School Library Association of Victoria (November 2010) and in info@alsaNSW: The Newsletter of the Australian School Library Association of New South Wales (Winter 2011)