CONNECTION - Personal Learning Networks & Discipleship

A desktop with a laptop, camera, wallet and iPad on it

Last week i wrote about Personal Learning Environments (PLE's). Part of a personal learning environment is a Personal Learning Network (PLN).

A Personal Learning Network is exactly how it sounds. It is a network of people around you that help you to learn. It is developed primarily through the use of web2.0 tools.
A Personal Learning Network has several important functions:

Mitchell Kapor once wrote "Getting information off the internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant", so vast is it's reserves of information.

There is a lot of mis-information on the internet, and a lot of bad advice. Sometimes it can be hard to tell what is true, what is useful; and what is untrue, what is unhelpful.

A Personal Learning Network acts as a filter for the mass information of the internet.

Essentially you have a group of people interested in similar things to you, who are reading content and only sharing the parts that they find useful and valuable.

In turn - you then share the content that you find useful and valuable.

This network then, acts as a filter, ensuring that the whole network receives quality content.

As an example lets look at how this works on twitter. You follow people within your chosen interest(s). They share quality content, if they don't share quality content then they are un-followed. This acts as a natural check on the content shared.

As well as filtering, personal learning networks act as a soundboard.

We can share ideas and thoughts that we have to our Personal Learning Network. We can receive feedback on those thoughts and ideas, shaping and shifting them in a collaborative environment. It helps us to think about things in a way we would not have been able to previously.

For example, I have written this blog-post. I share this blog post on places that I consider to be a network of people who have something in common with me. Somebody may read this blog post and provide comments and criticisms of this idea, essentially helping me to see things in a new perspective. 

I don't blog as someone who has all the answers, I blog as someone who just wants to join in the discussion.

It is also worth noting at this point the dreaded filter bubble

A Filter Bubble

The filter bubble is a phenomenon whereby the content that we see on the internet is determined by the algorithms used by the applications that we engage with. 

This is all based on our history on the internet as well as our location and various other factors; but the filter bubble can also arise in our personal learning networks as well. 

There is a tendency to remove / unfollow those people in our network that we disagree with, whilst only keeping the people that we do agree with, thereby creating a filter bubble of the information that we see. 

This can be avoided by asking ourselves why we disagree with the content that is being shared. Is it because it is offensive / vulgar / disrespectful, or is it just a different point of view? if it is the former, get rid, if not, think about what it might help you to learn (even if it is just how other people think).

So what does this have to do with discipleship

In many ways the church is a large Personal Learning Network. 

An entire network of people with a common aim dedicated to the enrichment and growth of the lives of others in the community. 

If we add to this the possibility that Web2.0 tools give us to expand the networks to global proportions, connecting us with our brothers and sisters around the globe then the benefits of PLN's for discipleship should become clear.

May we see the value of others opinions, may we see ourselves in this interconnected web of learning, and may we learn from each other about how to do this things we call life better.

If you would like to learn more about developing your own Personal Learning Network I recommend this great post and also this great post.

The image of the filter bubble is from ELI Pariser


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