Personal Learning Networks

A couple of recent posts by Miguel Guhlin -- see Vastness of You - Plurk Me No More and To PLN or Not -- and a comment on the latter by Paula Nagle, made me think about personal learning networks, or PLNs.

What IS a PLN?

A PLN can be great for supportClearly, it’s the group of people with whom one interacts, online in the first instance. I have to say I have a bit of an objection to the term, because it gives the impression of being rather self-centred, as though everyone in your learning network is there to help you learn. Help you learn. What about them?

We learn most when we’re discussing or teaching, and although that’s what goes on in PLNs, it’s not exactly explicit from the name. Perhaps Personal Interaction Network (PIN) would be better (which would no doubt lead some people to talk about their PIN numbers…).

Can your PLN be too large ?

I wonder if this term, “too large”, has any real meaning in an asynchronous world? I can put out a message on Twitter this morning, and have a response from someone over the other side of the world this evening. In that sense, is there such a thing as “too big”?

Can anyone join?

What is the qualification for becoming a member of someone’s PLN? For me, it’s having something useful and relevant to say. I don’t care if someone has been blogging for only five minutes: if their first few blog posts are interesting, I’ll follow them. I find it embarrassing, though obviously flattering, when people follow me by saying they really look forward to reading even more wisdom, or who, when I follow them in Twitter, express the hope that I’ll find it worth my while. We should try to get away from this sort of hero worship: it’s not healthy. It’s not even accurate: someone who has been active in the “edublogosphere” for five minutes can be just as “wise” as someone who has been here for years. Perhaps even more so, because they come to it all with fresh eyes. In fact, a member of your PLN could be the guy who runs the café down the road!

What other value of PLNs are there, apart from learning?

As Paula has pointed out (see post and comment referred to earlier), it’s wonderful when people in your PLN make themselves known to you – and vice versa – at conferences. A PLN can also be a great source of support, especially when the trolls are having a feeding frenzy.

So what are your thoughts on PLNs?