David Warlick wrote a post the other day about being able to zip up or turn off your Personal Learning Network (PLN). I too have been thinking about how one goes about starting a PLN, how do you monitor it, and how do you learn to shut it off. We all continue to push teachers to start PLNs if they haven’t already. Learning from the collective knowledge of educators around the world.
I have noticed an emerging trend of what one goes through when adopting a PLN for the first time. I myself continue to look at the stages I am going through in adopting this new way of learning, interacting, and teaching in a collaborative, connected world.
As I’ve helped others start their PLNs I have found that many of them go through these same stages. I am still trying to wrap my head around this but for now here’s what I see as emerging stages of PLN adoption.
Stages of Personal Learning Networks Adoption
Stage 1 Immersion: Immerse yourself into networks. Create any and all networks you can find where there are people and ideas to connect to. Collaboration and connections take off.
Stage 2 Evaluation: Evaluate your networks and start to focus in on which networks you really want to focus your time on. You begin feeling a sense of urgency and try to figure out a way to “Know it all.”
Stage 3 Know it all: Find that you are spending many hours trying to learn everything you can. Realize there is much you do not know and feel like you can’t disconnect. This usually comes with spending every waking minutes trying to be connected to the point that you give up sleep and contact with others around you to be connected to your networks of knowledge.
Stage 4 Perspective: Start to put your life into perspective. Usually comes when you are forced to leave the network for awhile and spend time with family and friends who are not connected (a vacation to a hotel that does not offer a wireless connection, or visiting friends or family who do not have an Internet connection).
Stage 5 Balance: Try and find that balance between learning and living. Understanding that you can not know it all, and begin to understand that you can rely on your network to learn and store knowledge for you. A sense of calm begins as you understand that you can learn when you need to learn and you do not need to know it all right now.
Personally I continue to struggle with balance in my life between being connected and being here in person. I force myself to put down the computer and pick up the guitar. I force myself to take Screen Free Week off and reflect (I write blog posts on paper…a very strange experience) and I almost enjoy going on vacation with no Internet access and being “there”. PLNs are very powerful, but they are not all there is to life…and I’m just glad I have a wife who reminds me of that from time to time. 🙂
I’ve created this image as a way to show what I’m thinking. I believe there is also a correlation here with learning. As you immerse yourself into the network your learning increases, the more you learn, the more you want to learn, the more immersed you become within the network. Until you reach a point that you understand the fundamentals of Web 2.0, the direction of Education, or whatever it is that interests you and you have in your PLN to begin with.
I also do not believe you have to go through all these stages. Some people jump from stage 2 to stage 5 or do not become so immersed into their PLN that they ever reach stage 3, that sense of having to “know it all.”
If nothing else I hope this helps to frame some thoughts in your head around your own PLN. I’m just throwing this out there as a starting point…what are you thinking?