13 October 2012

Creating an online personal learning network (PLN)

Map of my personal learning network:

After reading Jeff Utecht’s Stages of PLN adoption, I see myself in a fairly constant dialectic between the “know it all” stage – where I “give up sleep and contact with others” in order to stay plugged in to my “networks of knowledge”, and the “perspective” stage where (usually through conscious choice), I spend time just reading a novel, or when pressed, some emergency (podcast) meditation.  This appears to grow in cycles – the incoming information steadily becomes more constant and diverse.  My ability to take it all in reaches a peak then drops off completely for a few days – the “perspective” stage takes over briefly.

I am yet to reach the “balance” stage “between learning and living” and this often affects my ability to focus.  Only in the last few months have I given up on reading back to the last tweet I read the day before – it’s just not sustainable.  Now I am more likely to scan an interesting link and ‘favourite’ it for later, or send it to my gmail to make sure I can come back to it more reliably. 

What I find is happening while I am immersed in learning and more engaged with the bigger picture at work, is that maintaining my literacy as a musician becomes more and more intermittent, and this is a real concern.  Encouraged by Norman Doidge’s The brain that changes itself, neural plasticity theory convinces me that practising a little every few days can keep those neural pathways, and hence abilities, strong.  This feeds back into the rest of my learning - regular immersive learning via my PLN is more effective than constant scanning.  

There are gaps in the way I use and organise my PLN. One concern is information siloing, where the more like-minded people with similar work, political and social interests I follow, the less likely I am to be challenged by opposing, or enlightening, viewpoints.  To counteract this, it can be valuable to follow others with a range of views on my industry, and other topics. 

The biggest area in which I can develop my PLN is in learning to more effectively organise it in ways which inform my learning in a constructive and active manner.  The key to this, it seems, is in the adoption of effective location and retention habits, such as considered tagging and bookmarking, and deciding immediately if the item is relevant to my learning objectives.  The rest is not going to go away.

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