Personal Learning Networks: Start where you are
What a relief.
“Start where you are.”
The advice came at the perfect time. “You can feel overwhelmed.”
Ain’t that the truth. This week I dove headlong into Twitter, which led me into rabbit holes of web content, unfollowers, hashtags, links, and lists. Enthusiastic plans exploded in my brain. “I will build a learning empire,” some Roman-like voice intoned in my head, looking skyward to possibilities. “And it will be magnificent!”
Many of us have these aspirations, and I can see how we may enthusiastically plan to create a learning community – only to find that we’re exhausted by the upkeep after two weeks.
Personal Learning Networks require reciprocity. Until recently, I was a one-way street of information. Everything was about output rather than communication. Although I hope that I generated some useful output, I did not interact with members of my community – or even really know who they were. But the worldwideweb is a teeming sea of information, and now I see that the tides need to move both ways. We need to have dialogues, not monologues.
I appreciated the advice to cultivate the depth and breadth of network that works for me. Such sweet freedom! Skimming is okay. Missing twitter responses is okay. Taking a day of rest is okay. Remembering that “personal ” is the first word in “personal learning network” gives us permission to work at our own pace and within our own scope. Personal Learning Networks start from our own needs. It’s important to ask: what am I hoping to gain, give, achieve by embarking on this project?
Tools are sexy. They’re exciting. They have fun little icons. Twitter, Diigo, Pinterest, Facebook…each provides the opportunity to connect with billions of people in slightly different ways. But remember:
“The tools are not the journey.”
Tools can help you get there, but they’re they are the vehicle, not the destination. For example, in my Twitter-gorge this week, I became slightly obsessed by it as a medium. Stepping back, it’s important for me to remember why I’m using it in the first place. According to Florida State University professor Vanessa Dennen (the leader of my current course), these tools serve four functions:
- presentation and sharing content
Also, using these tools socially has a different feeling from using them for learning. Although the identity overlap of these worlds is now commonplace (social me and learning me communicate via the same fora). Some tools we can use:
- you name it.
But whoa there, fella. Don’t go signing up for all these at once. Instead, pause, take a deep breath. Consider, with whom do I want to connect? Where are my people most likely to be? Becoming clear about the goals for our PLN will help us to streamline our resources (our time and energy) by selecting the tools that really serve us and connect us to our greater community in the wide, online world.