I started developing a personal learning network (PLN) before I knew it was called a PLN. As someone who wanted to learn more about instructional design, I started reading books and then commenting on blogs and then started following others in the L&D space on twitter. One thing lead to another and I find my PLN keeps growing! In my last blog post I shared a lot of people who I would classify as being part of my personal learning network (PLN). The list isn’t exhaustive but everyone on it has contributed in some way to my development and helped me learn more.
Originally I thought a PLN was a new term for a Community of Practice (CoP) but a blog post by Lisa Chamberlin has helped to clarify the difference between the terms for me.
Jeff Merrell put a great blog post together that provides resources for more info into PLNs. I’ve also enrolled in Jeff’s online seminar called Exploring PLNs: Practical Issues for Organisations on the 7th of October. It will explore the question “How might it be possible for organizations and individuals alike to benefit if individuals develop personal learning networks within and outside the enterprise–namely, their employers?” Sounds really interesting and it will also be a way help grow my own PLN via interaction with other partcipants.
What makes a PLN?
Personal: It means something to you. You choose who is part of it. You choose your level of participation and involvement.
Learning: Some form of learning takes place. It could be via a sharing information or in response to a question or from an alternate point of view or from a discussion or from working towards a common goal/interest. You could even provide the learning for someone else.
Network: A group of interconnected people spread out all over the world. Having this kind of network is much different to ‘networking’ and I think it’s because of the personal nature of it. Networking tends to have connotations of connecting with people because you might want to do business with them in the future. PLNs are more about learning and sharing.
I’ve blogged before about self-determination theory and motivation. Here’s how I think PLN’s satisfy our basic psychological needs:
Autonomy: I can engage with anyone as much as I want, whenever I want. You choose who to surround yourself with. It’s your network to create.
Competence: your PLN can develop your competence by being involved with them, by learning from the experience others or from providing feedback to you if you put something out there.
Relatedness: you are interacting and connecting with people from all over the world who work in the same industry/area as you.
Maybe that’s why PLNs help contribute towards our motivation for learning?
It’s also possible that you may not have met ‘members’ of your PLN in person. I read a recent blog post by Helen Blunden who was able to meet people in her PLN. That’s something I’d like to do over time. So far, I’ve been able to meet a couple (Ryan and Con) and it was really cool to chat with them and get to know them a little on a personal level.
A great benefit of a PLN is that it makes you feel part of something and this quote sums it up nicely:
Image quote by Kathy Kaldenburg