Shawn McGirr and Troy Patterson over at the Middle School Matters podcast have posted an episode today that includes some discussion of my previous post about the PLN Backlash of 2010. That episode can be found here. I strongly encourage you to go and listen to the whole podcast (as these guys have wonderful thoughts and reflections on middle school, and some great discussion of sessions they attended at ISTE recently). What follows is a slightly modified version of the comment I posted related to pieces of their latest episode.
I think it gets a lot of attention from the people who are involved in it because they are involved in it…Yeah it might be tiresome in the echo chamber, the people who are doing the PLNs and are really involved in it…I wonder how many outside the “techie types” are really using PLNs, know what they are, how to develop them, know which tools to use to develop one…and I think that’s part of where the conversation is and should be.
Thanks for the discussion of my post. Though I feel the PLN piece may come across as more “half baked” than “well done.” A big piece of the conversation the other night was the “officialness” of THE PLN, as if there were only one that everyone was a node within. I think your comment that everyone’s PLN is different is a huge part of the key. The other byproduct of the “official marketing of the PLN” and Twitter Lists (or TweepML lists) is this feeling that you can develop an “instant PLN”. Sort of “just add water and watch it grow.” A PLN is something that requires time and effort on the part of the learner. You can’t just follow “X” people and suddenly “get” the “power of the network.” I think that sends the wrong message to those who are new to this venue for informal learning.
Troy and Shawn also mention Twitter being compared to a lunchroom conversation where you can tune out the noise and focus on 1 or 2 in the cafeteria, but not as easily on Twitter. Along the lines of the lunchroom conversation…imagine only hearing 2 out of 4 people involved in that lunchroom conversation. Twitter’s reversal of their practice of posting tweet replies to individuals you don’t follow makes it harder to see/read/hear all of the conversation. I believe part of that was going on, even for me, the other night during the PLN debate.
I feel that the MSMatters guys are right on that a PLN, or an Informal Learning Network, or a NIHCTTAR (Network I Have Come to Trust and Respect) is not about a single tool. I’m connected to many in my network via Twitter, Delicious, blogs, Nings, listservs, etc. There was an interesting question that came up near the end of the discussion the other night about the difference in a community and a network. I’m still struggling to differentiate between the two, though I feel at heart there IS a difference in them. Jon Becker pointed me toward this article on Imagining Twitter as an Imagined Community that I can hopefully tackle and digest within the next few days.
Near the end of the discussion, you mention Google’s Buzz as an alternative to Twitter. I’ve actually been exploring Plurk for the last week or so, and think it may offer a bit of the threaded discussion you’re suggesting related to Buzz. I still find Buzz overwhelming with the number of Google contacts I already have who are not part of my “PLN” (1.7.5). I’m not sure I want my family, friends, and informal learning network all powering through to me on Buzz…time will tell.
As I mentioned in the comments of the previous post, I’m still not sure that the tools we have available are fully capable of supporting the level and depth of conversation that need to be happening. But as a place to spark conversations, there value cannot be underestimated. The more I stew on it, the more I agree with your suggestion that the problem is within the “echo chamber” created by Twitter. We see the power of the PLN, want others to understand it as well, but tire quickly of hearing that over and over again from all sides.
Thanks for pushing my thinking Shawn and Troy!