That is why I appreciated this week's assignment in my social media learning graduate class to create a non-linguistic, creative product to explain the benefits of personal learning networks, communities of practice, and the principles of connectivisim. Had I done a normal blog, vlog, or explanation video, I feel as though I would have fallen into the same trap of over explaining. It was a very cool process to create something more focused and creative to express my learning from this week.
This week, I really dove into the principles of both the connectivist and communities of practice (COPs) theories to deepen my understanding of the importance of personal learning networks (PLNs). When reviewing the Learning Theories website, I read that one of the main researchers of COPs, Etienne Wenger, described COPs as "groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly” (Communities, 2014). I learned that COPs, while often informal, still need a structure consisting of three components: Domain (shared interest/passion), Communities (places to share info and activities), and Practitioners (people not just interest, but actually engaged with the domain) (Communities, 2014). Furthermore, COPs are based off the belief that "that communities of practice are everywhere and that we are generally involved in a number of them – whether that is at work, school, home, or in our civic and leisure interests" (Smith, 2003, 2009). Wenger and Lave believed that in order to break the assumption that "learning has a beginning and an end; that it is best separated from the rest of our activities; and that it is the result of teaching" that we need COPs to created a more situated learning experience where "learning involved a process of engagement in a ‘community of practice"(Smith, 2003, 2009). With the evolution of technology thanks to the Internet, COPs tie closely with the Connectivism Theory which is "a learning theory that explains how Internet technologies have created new opportunities for people to learn and share information across the World Wide Web and among themselves" (Connectivism, 2015). The key feature of connectivism is that learning can happen across peer networks that happen online.
I created the above video to show my interpretation of my own PLN, which I think are direct products of both COPs and connectivism. As I researched and read more COPs and connectivism, I reflected about my own PLN ,which includes teachers I have taught with across the country as well as educators I connected with through Twitter, Facebook, technology conferences, and educational technology organizations. I realized as I reflected that what I appreciated most was the "reflection" I received from all the individuals in my PLN, which made me think of prisms and how they reflect light. I think of a prism as a theoretical tool to look at something differently with more perspective and "color". Whenever I am running with a new idea, I want to share it with my PLN to gain insight and perspective. So I truly feel like I am running it through a colorful prism of collaboration.
I have had so many beautiful interactions with my PLN and I am grateful for them everyday. I truly feel that all educators should continue to grow their PLNs. As Jordan Catapano wrote for TeachHub.com "There is an enormous difference between “connected” teachers who have established their own Personal Learning Networks and the instructors who subsist primarily on the antiquated, impersonalized modes of traditional development" (Catapano, 2015). I truly believe that educators should continue to challenge themselves to stay fresh and current in the educational landscape and "reflection" through their PLN prism is a colorful path they should consider taking.
Catapano, J. (2015). What is a PLN? Why do I need one? Retrieved from: http://www.teachhub.com/what-pln-why-do-i-need-one
(July 16, 2014). "Communities of Practice (Lave and Wenger)". Retrieved from: https://www.learning-theories.com/communities-of-practice-lave-and-wenger.html.
(June 1, 2015) "Connectivism (Siemens, Downes)," Retrieved from: https://www.learning-theories.com/connectivism-siemens-downes.html.
Smith, M. K. (2003, 2009) ‘Jean Lave, Etienne Wenger and communities of practice’, the encyclopedia of informal education, www.infed.org/biblio/communities_of_practice.htm.
Whitby, T. (October 6, 2014). "The Connected Educator: All About Connectedness". Retrieved from: https://www.edutopia.org/blog/connected-educator-all-about-connectedness-tom-whitby