Week 1 of PLENK2010 has my head spinning.  Our first task as I understood it was to start to define PLE and PLN which fits into the reasons I wanted to begin the course: to flesh out the differences between PLE/PLN and a community of learners as I know it.  Interestingly, between the readings, the conversations and the new readings from the links in the conversations – I am learning that there is no one definition for either PLE or PLN.  Instead, they seem to be evolving definitions and points of discussion.  (Which means – if I use them, I should define them to give a context to those I am working with!)

As I am slowly distilling it from the readings, a personal learning network (PLN) is just that – the people with whom you interact and learn.  What I am discovering in reading and reflecting upon my own practice is that this network might be “one way.”  That is – I might consider some people to be a part of my network ( I learn from them) but I never engage with them.  While network implies interconnectivity, if I simply follow people on Twitter and never engage with them (reply or even retweet) or they don’t follow me back, I may still consider them part of my network.  They inform my learning.

A personal learning environment (PLE) on the other hand seems to be use to define the tools that are used to build and enhance the PLN – to encourage interaction.  Most of the reading and links seem to indicate that this environment is mainly “virtual” – meaning that it is not face to face but done by any number of the web tools that are available to connect and collaborate.  Wendy McGrath created a list of PLE guiding principles and one really stood out to me: accessible from multiple touchpoints.  This makes a great deal of sense to me as I think about how I use Twitter, Facebook, blogs and Ning to connect, learn and interact.  I have many of the same “friends” in these arenas but I interact with them very differently depending upon the limitations of the touchpoint.

In reading the week 1 discussion, Josh Underwood suggested the term “personal learning ecology” to try and capture the dynamic nature of PLN/PLE. Jennie Swann added to that by citing Brent Davis’ work* in which he refers to ecologies as “webs of interactions within particular systems.”  I am leaning a bit toward this usage as it seems to me that it would expand beyond just the “virtual” connections that can be made when made refer to a PLE.

As an example, I meet with a small sub-group of Communities for Learning three times over the course of a year.  Once a year the larger group converges upon Connecticut and we meet together for an entire week.  I connect with many of these people face-to-face between meetings and with an even smaller subset of that group virtually.  This is not just one learning network for me – it is the hub.  However, much of my work within Communities for Learning is also informed by a different group of people with whom I interact online via any number of tools.  And yet more of my work is influenced by those I interact with face-to-face on a regular basis.  Therefore my ecology, my system of learning, combines both face-to-face and virtual interactions with a variety of people.

Davis, B. (2004). Inventions of teaching: A genealogy. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum.


kmoritz said...

I considered PLENK2010 for quite a while and decided not to participate. I'm delighted to see you sharing your thinking about it here and since you are someone I always read in my PLN and with whom I occasionally interact in my PLE, I get to learn too. Thank you!

Mrs. Tenkely said...

It is important to define what we are talking about and reflect on how that affects our learning and interactions. I always thought of a PLN as connected and conversing. After reading your post I realize that this is true for me but there are many for who it is a one way street. This has me rethinking my definitions and understandings.