Plunked into PLENK: personal learning DIY

I’ve signed up for PLENK2010, an online course on Personal Learning Environments, Networks, and Knowledge.  The purpose of the course is to “clarify and substantiate” the concepts of personal learning environments (PLEs) and personal learning networks (PLNs).

  • Main link for course information is, which provides more description as well as links for registration, the course forum, and so on.
  • The instigators… I mean, facilitators, are Dave Cormier, Stephen Downes, George Siemens, and Rita Kop.

This is my first experience with a large online course, let alone one with a connectivist approach.  What that last part means:

In a connectivist course, course materials and course content are defined by participants as the course progresses, rather than prior to the course by instructors. Though the course outline defines a set of selected topics, these function as signposts for an iterative process of search, practice and reflection, as described here.

The “here” is How This Course Works, which envisions four main types of activity for…well, me, and a few hundred fellow travelers.

Aggregating means the facilitators collect and the participants receive a variety of items in “The Daily,” an electronic document offering potential content.  Yes, somebody’s doing the initial aggregation, but I expect more knowledge critters in the herd than I can fit into my cerebral corral, so I’ll be…

Re-aggregating. They call this “remixing,” but it comes to the same thing.  You go through items in the initial aggregation, figure out which ones to follow, decided which of those were worth following, and eventually keep some.  (I’ve already created a PLENK2010 tag in my Delicious account, and I’ll probably have a separate notebook in Evernote as well.

From a what-goes-on-in-your-brain point of view, those two activities are like taking in information.  Repurposing involves actively working with it–not simply repeating it, but transforming it somehow.  “This whole course will be about how to read or watch, understand, and work with the content other people create, and how to create your own new understanding and knowledge out of them.”

Feed forwarding as a term is a (slightly awkward) substitute for “share.”  The facilitators encourage public sharing, thinking out loud, a willingness to make mistakes in front of people.  That rarely feels as easy as it sounds, but I think it’s good advice.   So I’m testing a WordPress tag (#PLENK2010), and I’ll see if this post shows up in the course feed.  If it doesn’t, I’ll come back and create a WP category instead.  (The different between a tag and a category only matters to WordPress.)  So–look, Mom, I’m feed-forwarding!

So that’s where I am today.  I expect things to seem messy at first.  I know they’ll be confusing: I’m still wandering around the course Moodle like a transfer student trying to find PSYC 423, the parking permit office, and someplace with decent coffee.

One thing I’ve learned: don’t subscribe to email updates for the “introduce yourself” thread.  Or, if you do, set up a mail rule to channel all that stuff.

PLEs and PLNs come in a variety of colors.I don’t tend to think of the web of people and resources I learn from as a PLE or a PLN.  That’s mainly from a anti-jargon bias.  These are the people I learn things from, but I don’t think of them as having special status or membership cards.

I realize that most folks who do use PLE and PLN as terms don’t think that way, either; this is just freelance grousing.  Notice, I am in the course.

I wonder whether PLENK2010 will become a time sink: too many topics, too many potential activities, too many possible routes.  (I’m remembering Stephen Leacock’s line: “Lord Ronald said nothing; he flung himself from the room, flung himself upon his horse and rode madly off in all directions.”)

But that’s kind of the way that learning works.  Clearly, people can and do learn in highly structured environments; indeed, sometimes the structure can help focus attention and keep distraction at bay.  I think it’s likely, though, that especially as you get deeper into a topic or field, a high degree of structure has less and less to do with your learning.

And you always have control over what goes into your own time sink.

The plan calls for ten weeks, beginning September 13 and continuing into mid-November.  As soon as I figure out what the first week’s activities are, I’ll start on them, keep some notes, and see how things go.

CC-licensed image by ghemflor / Heather A.

6 thoughts on “Plunked into PLENK: personal learning DIY

  1. Be assured, I hear you “freelance grousing”. I’ll never refer to you as part of myPLN (yuk). What I have appreciated is the time that you’ve taken to converse. This is what I think that people are saying when they use the term PLN. It’s a term of an endearment. An appreciation of interest and availability of other people that take the time to share their thoughts and expertise personally with other people.

  2. Derek, as you saw, it wasn’t that serious a comment. As Barbara Fillip said in this post, it’s about the P. It’s personal.

    And any large-group dialog needs some terminology as shorthand. I’ve read a couple of extended musings on the nuances between PLE and PLN. For the most part they don’t interest me; I’m inclined to agree with Dave Cormier that it’s mainly a matter of semantics.

    I’ll add without hesitation that I’ve written more comments on more blogs so far this week — almost all of them related to #PLENK2010 — than I have in any of the last couple of months. So there’s definitely some kind of initial networking in some kind of environment.

  3. Thanks for the heads up on your PLENK2010 blog, Dave, and I have to agree that the differences in meaning between PLE and PLN also seem slightly redundant to me. After all, we are talking about learning, people, and the tools we use to mediate those two things. Tomayto, tomahto – who cares, it still tastes great in a sandwich!

  4. On the other hand, Nicky, there was in U.S. colonial times a belief that “love apples” (another pronunciation for “tomato”) were poisonous. According to legend, there was an attempt to assassinate George Washington by putting them in his food.

  5. “I expect things to seem messy at first. I know they’ll be confusing: I’m still wandering around the course Moodle like a transfer student trying to find PSYC 423, the parking permit office, and someplace with decent coffee.”

    I had such a great laugh at this because this is exactly how I feel!

    “I wonder whether PLENK2010 will become a time sink: too many topics, too many potential activities, too many possible routes.”

    Yes, most definitely! I just started my very first blog for this course and I think I might already be addicted even if I don’t have a single comment and don’t really think anyone other than myself has read my posts.

    Good luck – I think we are all going to need it. :)

  6. You’re wrong about nobody having read your posts.

    I might not have a blog at all were it not for Jay Cross’s unworkshop, some years back, and especially Harold Jarche’s blog. He saw it as the place where he thought out loud about things that mattered to him. He’s more than happy to have others chime in (as I am), but most of all it’s for him.

    I very much feel that way. I feel more myself when I’ve been posting as a way to reprocess what’s caught my attention, including stuff I can’t figure out.

    You don’t need money (except for access), it don’t take fame (clearly). Don’t (hardly) need no credit card to ride this train.

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