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Friday, January 7, 2011

A PLN Blueprint in 5 parts

The 2011 MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) season is upon us. This time I'm enrolled in two in addition to Multitliteracies, aka #evomlit, at EVO (Electronic Village Online, Tesol's annual pre-conference). Evomlit is not a MOOC (in massive sense) but is both open and online. They are all also free and self-paced.
With these courses comes PLN-OCD. Following (or actively participating in) MOOCs (aka "mooking about") is saturated with PLNs. The the activities seem inextricably intertwined. Workshops still spend time defining and describing PLNs, differentiating them from PLE's. Something "meta" is definitely meta going on here. 

Tom Whitby blogs on PLNs, clarifying what should have been clearer from the outset, 
This was one of my early posts explaining how I became involved in Social Media and the idea of a Personal Learning Network.It seems to be a topic that needs to be continually explained because of the growing number of educators who continue to enter the world of social media for educators. 
Part 1
One of today’s educational buzzwords, or fad terms is the PLN.  For my purposes it stands for Personal Learning Network. Others call it a Professional Learning Network or Community or even Environment. That would be PLN, PLN, PLC, or PLE. Many educators today are involved understanding and developing their own PLN’s. Everyone has one, and each is different and as unique as a fingerprint. Some employ technology, and others dwell in faculty rooms across the country and around the world.
The history of my PLN began back in the late 70’s. It was formed not through the technology of the computer, but rather about the technology of a 27 foot sailing vessel. It was merely a sailboat, but in my mind, being my first boat, it was truly a vessel.
I live on Long Island in New York. It is a place where boating thrives for about five to six months a year, beginning in June and ending in October. As I grew up, I always went on others’ boats, but never owned my own. Working in a school district of a community on the shore of an island, I found many of my faculty friends were avid boaters. More specifically they were sail boaters , or more accurately, sailors. It was at this time of my life that I made a big decision to become a boat owner. I purchased a brand new 27 foot O’Day sailboat. There was only one small drawback to this major purchase and commitment, I had no idea how to sail. 
I took a Coast Guard Course and read a bunch of books. I ordered several catalogues and every sailing Magazine subscription I could get delivered. As my purchase was being readied for delivery, I determined that my preparation might be lacking. That is when I developed a plan out of desperation. This was to be my first organized development of a Personal Learning Network. 
The plan was simple and bordered on genius. It was based on knowing that sailors are a breed of boaters who love to sail at every opportunity. I informed the Yacht dealer that I wanted to take delivery of my vessel in the water and ready to sail in April. This was unheard of, since boating season did not really get going until June. That, however, was the genius part. I had two months before all of the sailors that I knew would have their own boats in the water. I on the other hand had a spanking-new Sailing vessel at their “Beck and call”. They only needed to take the owner along for the sail. I had about ten experienced sailors teaching me all that they knew in my Personal Learning Network. I was golden. 
I also recognized that I stumbled upon a real plan for personal learning. I did not want to make any other major purchases to test my assumptions, but I did pay close attention to what I had accomplished and how I did it. I took note of what I needed to know and how I gather those who knew it around me. With the advent of the Internet I have expanded my reach for those who know what I need to know. I have developed a PLN beyond the faculty room and to Educational experts literally around the world.


Possibly the best description of the Personal Learning Network and how it works. Thinking just in terms of technology is misleading. I remember my first PLN: I was 14 and certainly didn't call it that. I was just trying to learn about something new on my own.

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