I have mixed feelings and thoughts about the PLN requirement. I am about halfway through the program. I have taken classes horribly out of sequence. So, my introduction to the PLN was through Owen Guthrie’s Online Pedagogy course. Accordingly, despite Owen’s efforts it still felt contextually weird, and somewhat artificial. Nonetheless, I also appreciated having a name for something that I had been developing organically for most of my life.
So, despite how old fashioned they are, libraries are still central in my PLN. As a small child, 4-5 we lived within walking distance, I was allowed to check out as many books, at a time, as I was years old. I gamed that rule by making several trips per day and exchanging books I was finished with for new ones. Once school started in earnest, the library became the place where I was in control of my learning in a way that I was not in school. Google was a couple of sets of encyclopedias. As well, San Diego has a rich set of museums in Balboa Park, and the Scripps Research Institute and Zoo are valuable aspects of my PLN. I recall a moment when I was ten years old reflecting on my book smarts but practical ignorance. Therefore, making, and tinkering became important to me. In this way, I also connected with my Grandfather, and so my PLN suddenly included the craft of the hand and eye and people (mainly old-timers but not, my school teachers). I hated school, elementary, middle and high school all. It is a wonder, actually because of a car accident putting me out of work that I went to college. College was great stuff and graduate school even better. Accordingly, I have taken classes almost continuously throughout my adult life. I have stayed in contact with professors for years following their classes. John Schumacher until his death is one example. Bob Whitcomb is another. We are fast friends and talk regularly working on each other’s’ challenges, work, life, whatever.
I share all of this because it feels like it is missing from the ONID PLN assignment (and here I am referring to the thematic reoccurring PLN assignment that occurs across ONID courses). The PLN is mostly focused on online tools and resources, and that almost seems to negate a lifetime of learning. I think the assignment would be better if it built on what we are already good at, and instructors helped us plug into online resources that amplified that.
I am not a huge fan of Twitter though over the last year and a half I have found ways to use it to good professional effect. Not so much in creating a web presence but in keeping informed of relevant online content. I had heard the librarians, at my previous job, talking about Diigo. One, in particular, I hold in high regard, used it and so I was willing to be patient with it. However, it was not until Skip’s presentation this semester that the penny dropped for me. That said, bookmarks, spreadsheets, bibliographies are all still good ways to manage web resources, though not necessarily “socially.”
All of that acknowledged I hate having a quota of retweets to make and all the required tags are annoying, and finally I just had to rebel. I see myself participating in the spirit of the assignment but the letter of the law – just felt to school for me.
I am visible and moderately active on LinkedIn, and that is a great source of work-related articles, videos, blogs, podcasts along with too much drek and rubbish. It is unclear to me why it is not a priority in the PLN assignment. G+ is an interesting tool used in the way this program does.
Unfortunately, I do not hear enough in the PLN assignment about attending workshops and trainings and networking. One door that may open at those events is an opportunity to get involved with professional organizations. I attended an EDUCAUSE leadership training and was roped into working on the NERCOMP conference selection committee for the library track at the annual event. That was a great bad experience, and I opted to leave it alone. However, I also have not thrown the baby out with the bathwater other opportunities like that will allow me to build quickly a reputation in Alaska. Moreover, I would urge an early or mid-career person to do it sooner than later. Conference presentations are a tremendous way to grow a network quickly, as well. The little I did immediately opened doors for additional presentations and consulting. My previous boss dragged me kicking and screaming into that, and he was right.
In the end, I would not encourage killing the PLN assignment. Rather, make more of it, and let learners, at least, sketch out the parameters of their network then add gasoline to their fire by suggesting online resources and tools that amplify the learners’ native activities. Right now it feels half-conceived, awkward, too much about a rubric and too much about the internet.