I’ve been developing a personal learning network (PLN) through Twitter and online forums for the past few years. I found my initial forays into social media to be a bit disorienting. The flow of information was overwhelming. It was difficult to get my bearings. But, I stuck with it — dipping in, then stepping away, and then returning. I found it to be a process — at first I mainly “lurked”, viewing the contributions of others, then gradually I began to share and engage with others.
Through this process, I have discovered what Lyn Hilt (@L_Hilt) has referred to as “Effort In = Reward Out.” Along the way, I have benefited in real ways from the ideas, practices and insights shared by the amazing and thoughtful educators who are part of my PLN. Engaging with the work of others has nudged me to take risks, pushed me to think more deeply, and opened up new ideas for empowering students in their learning.
In the (tongue-in-cheek) words of George Siemens, these powerful learning experiences led me to conclude that “My Personal Learning Network is the most awesomest thing ever!” Siemens’s piece challenged my thinking about PLN’s, in general, and helped me to think differently about the importance of my network and my place within it.
Let me explain. I must admit I have tended to see the value of my PLN in terms of “what it does for me.” Through network connections, I have been able to access new ideas and practices that I’ve been able to use in my work. However, this understanding of the importance of PLNs, as Siemens points out, is not sufficient:
Creation, collaboration, and sharing are the true value points of a PLN. It’s not what it does for me, but rather what I am now able to do with and for others…What’s important with a PLN is not ‘what it does for me’ but rather how I can use it to change things in education, society, or the world. Learning networks give us potential for action.
It is not seeking knowledge for my own benefit, but creating and sharing with others to work toward a larger purpose that matters.
Siemens’s post resonated with the argument that Dean Shareski lays out in this short video of his 2010 keynote presentation for the K-12 Online Conference, “Sharing: A Moral Imperative.”* In his talk, Shareski argues that sharing our learning regularly with others is an ethical obligation, one rooted in our responsibility to educate all students, not just the ones within our schools and districts, but also those in the wider global community.
Siemens and Shareski both make the case that sharing is not just a “nice thing to do,” but it is essential in building a sharing culture that is ultimately grounded in our moral purpose to educate children. Taken together, these two educators helped me to develop a deeper understanding of our ethical obligation to put our learning into action and, most importantly, to share and refine our learning along the way as a contribution to the greater good for students within our schools and beyond.
What do you think of Siemens and Shareski’s perspectives? As always, I’d love to hear your comments, questions and ideas.
* You can access the full video of Dean Shareski’s keynote presentation here.