When I think about Personal Learning Networks (PLN), Communities of Practice (CoP), and connectivism I think about building a house. I have the ability to build any kind of house that I would like. It could be a bungalow, a ranch, even a castle. I can choose what building materials I would like to use whether it be concrete, wood, straw, brick, adobe, the possibilities are endless. The same goes for our PLNs. I have the ability to choose what knowledge I want to pursue and build my network accordingly. With the amount of content available at the tips of my fingers, it is easy to find a group of like-minded individuals who have the same interests and thirst for knowledge as you. When building a house it is important to thoroughly plan out every detail so that it fits your lifestyle. The same is true when it comes to a PLN. As Novak (2015) explains a highly structured and well thought out PLN allows members to learn and discover while making new connections which they can then bring back to expand the knowledge level of the group. To liken this to the house analogy, I have the ability to look through several homes and discover what I like and what wouldn’t work for me. I can then take what I like best and combine it into the best structure for myself. Then others can look at what I’ve created and use or improve upon it.
I would never try to build a house without a strong community of practitioners helping me along the way. I need plumbers, electricians, carpenters, framers, bricklayers, and on and on. Each of these tradespeople has their own communities of practice that they rely on. After all, there is no need for each of them to relearn all aspects of the trade from scratch. CoPs allow members to discover best practices and lessons learned from others. They also call for a certain way of doing things. I wouldn’t expect an electrician to wire my house after I’ve already put up the drywall. Bozarth (2017) highlights the fact that a quality of CoPs is the ability to transfer knowledge which might never be found out just by reading the manuals. To put it in context, I could learn a lot more spending a week working with a plumber than I could if I were to read a plumbing textbook for the same time period.
Once I have the house built, it is time to connect to the grid. How practical is it to live in a home today that has no electricity, no indoor plumbing, no WiFi? This is where connectivism comes into play. My house can no longer be a standalone structure. It is part of a greater collection and there need to be a means for me to participate. In the case of the house, it needs to be connected to the sewer system, to the electrical grid, to the cable and internet companies, there are the city’s garbage collection and recycling program. All manner of processes that I rarely think of that connects me to my neighbours. Wade (2012) puts it together by saying that it’s no longer enough to just know how and why. Today’s learner needs to know where as well. It is imperative to know where to look to find the information that you need. Just like the homeowner needs to know where to turn their services on and off so does the learner.
The three topics all have separate implications and yet are clearly interwoven together. It is clear to me that all will play a critical role in the education of the future.