Personal Learning Networks

Wordle of Communities of Practice Article
Wordle of Mark K. Smith article ‘Communities of Practice’, in the encyclopedia of informal education

If one of our goals as educators is to help our students engage effectively and meaningfully in global communities of practice, then we, as facilitators of learning experiences, must be able to do so as well. We began our semester together with a discussion about social networking and how a communities of practice framework would guide our work. In our final session together we’ll reflect on our experiences learning and teaching in communities of practice that extend beyond the time and space constraints of traditional course environments.

Based on your experiences thus far, how could and will sharing and collaborating in these online environments shape our and our students’ learning environments?

What will we all gain?

What do we stand to lose?

Where will you go from here?

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you all for enriching my communities of practice and for helping me to grow as a learner and educator. I hope we continue to learn with and from each other!


16 Responses to “Personal Learning Networks”

  1. edadedebas Says:

    I am so Totally Digitally Close to You is an article written by Clive Thompson and it is published in New York Times. In the article, Clive Thompson discusses how the social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter affect the way we interact and socialize with other people. He describes and compares the situation of Facebook before and after the News Feed option. Although people seemed to react the News Feed option at the beginning, they liked it afterwards. They wanted to be connected with their friends and stay socially in touch. The concept of microblogging, status updates or sending tweets, used by Facebook and Twitter became an addictive phenomenon. Users admitted that microblogging and following their friends’ or followers’ updates make them catch up easily. For instance, if they see that a friend checked in to a place, they can easily join them if it is nearby. Thompson refers to an anthropologist Robin Dunbar and his theory of language and socialization. According to Dunbar, human beings use language primarily to socialize and they need grooming for socialization. Nowadays, Facebook and Twitter provide this social grooming environment. Social networking sites create what Thompson calls the parasocial relationships. A use of Facebook or Twitter is not necessarily close to every follower or friend. They have “strong ties” and “weak ties”. Their strong ties are 20 people on average; however they have a larger group of weak ties. According to the research done by University of Maryland, people seem to solve their problems by using their weak ties. They ask for advice, they state a condition of illness, ask for a recipe etc and they usually get immediate response from their weak ties. At the end of the article, Thompson questions how people really set up their identity keeping in mind that they are constantly followed by other people. I do believe in the position impacts of social networking sites and I am using Facebook as my classroom project this semester. It easily connects us as a class and students respond more quickly than regular e-mail. However, I am also aware of its drawbacks too. (Right now, it does not affect our class since I refuse to be friends with any of my students in class). Maybe, this week, we can discuss about the voluntary violation of our private lives. Any suggestions on using Twitter or Facebook?

    • loisramirez Says:

      Like you I also refuse to have my students as friend on Facebook or Twitter. This might be because I do not treat either one of these as a professional forum. In both of these interfaces I post who I am outside of the professional and academic atmosphere, and like you I feel that it might be too much information given to the students about my personal life. I am aware that I can put filters for certain people, but then again I feel that I am living a double life online and this is just not for me. One solution to is to create a fan page or a group on facebook, you students do not necessarily have to see your profile and your other personal information, but they can have contact through this page and you may use it to discuss topics that have not been fully clarified in class or have them post in the target language. With twitter you may open an account that you use for educational purposes and probably connect it to facebook, and/or tumblr, creating a small posting chain reaction. Post on tumblr (video, quote, picture)–>gets posted on twitter–>facebook page is updated with the link. I think this is the easiest and less intrusive way to gain access to 3 different platforms and make it educational.

      • edadedebas Says:

        Thanks for the information. I have actually created a group page on Facebook for the course I am currently teaching. I refuse to add them as my friends. They have been contributing a lot exceeding my expectations. I guess they would not have contributed that much if I have told them to do the same thing on Husky CT. They get some extra credit but they even contribute on the activities that they will not earn extra credit. I am divided: Personally, I would not prefer to use Facebook or Twitter. I would not want them to know that I am on Facebook. But it created more attraction and attention than I had aimed at the beginning of this project.

  2. loisramirez Says:

    The keynote presentation by Dean Shareski titled, Sharing: The Moral Imperative talks about the importance of sharing in the educational world. He points that teaching is sharing and sharing is educating, which shows the importance of establishing a sharing community because this promotes collective learning. According Shareski we are at the early stages of a sharing revolution, for some people it might be too much and for others it is not enough. He points out that one of the easiest and fastest ways of sharing is by using social bookmarking (such as what we do with our Diigo group). Before the internet, sharing was mostly done with the students in the classroom and this is where the practice would stop, since it was harder and costly to find and communicate with other teachers/students. A great example of educational sharing is the project started by Dan Meyer, a math teacher from California. He decided to make a series of videos related to math, and instead of profiting from them he decided to make them available for download through his website at no cost. He mentions that within the first few weeks he has over 6000 people downloading his videos. A teacher from Scotland attested to the efficacy of the videos and said it was a great tool, as his student where able to learn and understand the material in a fraction of the time compare to the usual learning time by using a standard book. Educational sharing can go beyond sharing class materials, as shown in the video some people can start modeling projects from other schools and adapt them to their curriculum. As Shareski says, educational sharing goes beyond state lines and country borders “sharing should not be done for the money but for the love of it”. It allows for teachers and students to find different ways of learning and teaching a topic and even allowing them to create new ones. Sharing is now part of how we get information and how we contribute with new ideas, as Shareski says, as educators it is our ethical responsibility to share what we know in order to become part of the collective knowledge and expand the learning community.

    • Barbara Says:

      What concerns could educators have about freely sharing their work?
      —Would it make a difference if they currently held a paid position or not?
      —If they were tenured already?
      —How their employer viewed sharing via open access publications?

      Is the sharing Dean Shareski talks about any different from the ways in which you, as educators, share your work now?

      • loisramirez Says:

        I think that one of the concerns that educators may have when sharing information, os how this information will be used, and also if the proper credit will be given to them. Having this in mind and with the amount of information being shared freely, it might be possible that some companies may take advantage of all this information available and gain profit from it.
        In regards to their income, if the contributor is being paid to post this information, this might change the overall point of the information, since the information being shared is under a for profit “umbrella”.
        I think that the information being shared by a someone with a tenured position might be different from one that is seeking tenure. In both cases (depending on the contributor’s purpose) the information may be skewed to what the candidate wants to demonstrate as their abilities.
        I think public schools might be more open minded when it comes to sharing information. I think that private schools, and universities due to their competitive manner might be a bit more hesitant to having their faculty share too much information.

        • rosariopollicino Says:

          I strongly believe that the problem here is not sharing itself but whether give or receive (depending on the site) of the resource credit. Lois has just mentioned it too most of the time i think this is the real problem what worries everyone. Personally sharing is great and we all studied this concepts at the beginning of the semester but the source is important and this is why even on internet we have copyright and a certain kind of authorization is needed simply to use a photo. Because also a simple photo from Flikr for example is something created by someone and the creator can be more than happy in sharing it if the source is mentioned. I am definitely with this concept so sharing with source mentioned what you all think ?

  3. marineuconn Says:

    Questioning the Future of the Open Student (Vicky Davis, Educause)

    Could learners of all types and high-school graduates that cannot afford to go to college be allowed to use Web-based Open Content and obtain a College degree?

    This question rises further questions:

    – how to evaluate the value of open content?
    – how to validate learning through open content?
    – how can colleges and universities receive compensatory payback for their contribution?
    – can learners succeed in this type of setting?
    – should learners get credits? How?
    – “As “the Net” becomes more closely connected with the human neural net, will rote learning and knowledge become less important than the understanding of process and problem solving?”

    Also, open education has several disadvantages:

    – it is not participatory
    – potential learners need first to know how to use such tools as RSS readers and e-books, as well as keeping up with the advancing technology.
    – they need to know how to collaborate in a Wiki for examples.
    – they need to know about the copyrights.
    -they need to speak English as much of the open content is in English.
    – etc.
    No doubt that learning through open content is a difficult task to achieve on its own and that is all the more difficult for students with disabilities.

    One thing is clear though: there is a need for a true model of open education.

    In my opinion, the existence of MIT Open Course Ware and equivalents is great news because it enables MIT’s students and professors to share learning and teaching with potentially anybody. However, it is clearly not a solution for the high cost of universities. Those need to become more accessible for students from all backgrounds and independently of their highschool/ SAT results. Each student deserves a right to a real post-secondary education.

    • edadedebas Says:

      Marine, thanks for sharing the summary. The article seems to be very interesting because it lists the advantages and disadvantages of open education. In line with your arguments, I would suggest a combination of both. There could be one or two face-to-face meetings before the beginning of open education. I know that it defeats the purpose of online education but it is important that the participants/learners know that they are all on the same page. Some of the disadvantages you have listed could be eliminated through a face-to-face meeting at the beginning. I agree with your personal comment at the end. On the surface level, open education seems to level differences and applies equal treatment. However, deep down, we ask the question whether it is really true. Does everyone have access to open education? To what extent is it really open?

    • Barbara Says:

      How does the ‘typical open student’ Vicki Davis describe engage in participatory learning experiences? How much of this work do you think would be recognized and validated right now by current prospective institutions of higher education? Could you envision a college-level program where most of the ‘traditional’ readings, class discussions, papers and presentations will be replaced by these kinds of activities? Would that be an improvement over the current teaching/learning paradigm?

  4. soledadre Says:

    My Personal Learning Network in Action is a reflection by Karl Fisch on his blog The Fischbowl. Fisch is a teacher concerned with the significance of Personal Learning Networks (PLN). He stands that in this age of information abundance we really need to learn how to deal with all this “information in order to understand and solve complex problems”. At the end of this blog post, Fisch quotes part of Howard Rheingold’s article related to this abundance “problem”. It says that democratizing publishing creates a quality problem and for this reason it is essential to develop critical thinking: “the ability to analyze, investigate, and argue about what we read, see, and hear is an essential survival skill”.
    All this available information can help us to create effective PLNs. The truth is that learning networks have, in a way or another, always being there. However, now their characteristics have changed since new technologies make everything global and interconnected. Karl Fish shows in this article how his personal learning network helped him to evolve in the very same conception of PLN. In relation to students, he was concerned with publishing students’ works on the web since he was afraid of the quality of the publications. After reading many sources from his PLN, he realized that this exposure to authentic audiences was something to do with students. Students need to learn about, and create their own PLN. The conclusion was that we all need to have an updated, “powerful, meaningful and effective” PLN.
    I agree with Karl Fish, we need to have a Learning Network. We really need to be aware of the sources at hand and have an easy access to them. Neither teaching nor learning are static ideas, but dynamic activities that evolve so we need to keep in touch with the new changes arising around us everyday.

    • edadedebas Says:


      Thanks for the summary. I agree with Fisch, too. I am sometimes skeptical about the quality of the work being created through new technologies. As we have been discussing since the beginning of the semester, the roles of the expert instructor and the apprentice learner have to changed. Perhaps, we can start teaching our students how to create e-portfolio and what to put in them. Most students do not have the necessary tools to differentiate between a good scholarly work and a less scholarly one. This is where our roles as the educators start. We might strengthen our own PLN as well as teaching the tools to create better PLN for the students.

      • soledadre Says:

        Yes, those fears about information quality and trustfulness are the reasons for really trying to develop in our students a critical thinking. This huge exposure to new data almost in a permanent basis show us and them that we need to filter the information and be aware of what we are reading and from whom we are reading. Being critic with others’ works will help them to be critic with their own works and create better projects.

  5. rosariopollicino Says:

    This first video is titled “Myths and Oportunities Technology in the Classroom” by Alan November and I have to say it is beautiful and interesting so you really have to watch it. It is not long and, beside fantastic views of a nice town in MA, talks about the main concept of how school could change in better thanks to technology.
    First of all Alan November points that today school uses Internet mostly to get information. Beside this, it is a great toolto communicate and school should encourage students to use it in this way too. The author remarks the fact that we constantly learn from each other by texting, emailing, talking over the computer, etc. But this kind of mentality in school (any kind and level) is hard to change because it (this mentality) still looks at technology like tools to have fun rather than to learn. Students could engage with other students all around the world and learn any kind of skills.It would promote a way of thinking which definitely goes beyond the usual idea of simply learning a foreign language. On the same line, we organize the school with the teacher as a kind of boss since the teacher usually acts like the one telling students what when and how doing something without giving students the chance to really express themselves about the way they find easier to learn or to put in practice an activity. Another important concept is, in fact, that everybody should contribute to the task they are doing while, actually, taking part on it. Yes, as students, we should all learn while contributing and sharing. We should all be leaders in turns because this is the best way of learning not only the studied subject but every kind of other skills which are involved in.
    The point is that teachers can be trained easily how to use technology in class. However, there is the mentality of not having the teacher as a boss and then having people to accept and feel comfortably with this idea. That is hard to realize so, you guys as educator how would you all look at that?

    The second video talks about another technology tool Screener and in particular is a very short video in which they show how to combine many different tools. Some of those tools have been visited by us during the course, other might be new. However this video titled How I use Twitter, search, Diigo Delicious, DEVONthink, Scrivener to find, refine, organize information –>knowledge is extremely short only 5 minutes and gives a practical example of using this tool together, Do you think this second video is linked somehow to the first? I do because beside all this different tools we studied during the course I did not consider to combine them and was looking at them a kind of different. This is once again a kind of mentality which must be, I believe, changed also on the learner’s point of view in order to use technology in the classroom!

    • soledadre Says:

      Yes, we really need not to look at all of the existing resources in isolation, but as tools that can be very helpful all together. Choosing one as our “star” tool does not mean to have to put the others aside. I also consider that it is important to learn about them and their usefulness within the classroom. Last year, I really felt that fear you wrote about in teachers and the school system in general. People still look at new technologies as the enemy, as fun things that will distract students, but what if the learn while being distracted? Learning while do not even noticing that you are doing so is a great way of learning, don’t you think? But it is true that for properly using technologies within the classroom, teachers need to be trained and get self-confident in their use. In this way, that fear to the unknown will not be there anymore and they will really be able to lead the students in their learning through new technologies.

  6. rosariopollicino Says:

    Hi Sole,
    I agree with you, we need to start using tools together and not to choose, although natural, one preferred we specialize on missing all the other. On this prospective I feel that this course was just a start and our looking into technology and classroom must go on for two essential reasons: 1st that we always need to improve the quality of our lesson by engaging our students in a more involving way, 2nd we can explore these new methodology of learning and teaching also from the student point of view and maybe, as the article above I reported says, we could be the guide for this changes according to what the professor says.

    let’s keep learning, at the end of the day it is why we are all here!

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