Similar to my feelings about the Twitter session yesterday, I really like the concept of this sort of session: it's neither about speaking to the choir nor about showing what cool stuff the speaker can do with tech, it's about teaching teachers how to actually use stuff to make connections on their own. And this session started up with a great question:
"How personal can a personal learning network be?" -- @mrplough07
Cory Plough introduced the session by discussing the fact that Twitter gave him something he didn't feel he had among his local colleagues: an ability to access solutions all the time in real time. This is really one of those things that separates where we are from where we were. And in school, it means we can spend more time on the questions "why" and "how" rather than "what" and "when".
Beth Still then described the ways that online colleagues becomes f2f friends; the PLN isn't a gimmick -- it's a real community. That community has the opportunity to meet at conferences like ISTE, but also via Skype and Google Chat and Facebook; these connections are different in "idea" and "form" from pre-socialmedia networks. It's necessary therefore to actively engage in understanding how the network works and explore avenues that make the most of the real-time aspects.
One of the first things most people come to realize is of course that the medium doesn't work so well for broadcasting; but it's beyond compare in its capacity to bring together folks of like interest together in a non-hierarchical discussion.
Many folks in the backchannel noted the amazement they have that they are learning from folks all over the world through their PLNs. That marks another shift: the ability to access knowledge and conversation where-ever it is.
Steven Anderson: "The 'Learning' part of PLN is the key". Steve also stresses the fact that this community is real. He also gets to the heart of it -- it's when your colleague asks where you got some info and you respond, "My PLN." and they say, "Your PLN-what?". It's essential therefore to bring people into the community and help them become an active part of the culture. We can't let the edu-twitterverse become exclusive; diversity of experience and opinion is key.
Because this is all part of a culture shift. It's about shifting hierarchies. It's about changing the way we think about geography and "place". It's about engaging in diversity (or it can be) in exponential ways. It's not just 'professional development' -- it's "personal learning".