Thursday, April 8, 2010

PLN: Fix a Point

In the book The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge, Don Juan tries to help Carlos get his bearings in this new, strange world of the Yaqui shaman that Carlos is exploring, having left the familiar security and terrain of the university. In some ways, then, Carlos Castaneda is like those of us who leave the familiar learning environment of the university for the unfamiliar environment of the Internet. And like Carlos, we often cannot quite figure out where we are or how to proceed. Don Juan gives Carlos some advice that may help us as well.

First, fix a point on the Net. Don Juan says to Carlos, "Go first to your old plant." To my mind, this is key, and so I want to explore fixing a point for yourself and creating an identity as one of the early steps to building a personal learning network, or PLN.

We always build our personal learning networks from the center, from where we are and what we are; thus, defining ourselves is a key early element in constructing a PLN. Constructing the self is a lesson far outside what I want to discuss here, but we are all familiar with the task. Perhaps the first practical question for us to ask is, "Do I want a public, professional self or a private, personal self?" If you want to create a public, professional self, then perhaps gravitate toward a blog, such as Google's Blogger. If you want to create a private, personal self, then perhaps gravitate toward a social network such as Facebook. Or do both. Or build a professional self on Facebook and a personal self on Blogger. You can easily have multiple selves on the Net, but for the rest of this discussion, I want to talk about building a professional self, fixing a professional point.

In general, we should decide what we are about on the Net, and we should be authentic. We must ask what we are truly interested in learning more about and talking with others about. Being authentic is as much practical advice as moralistic. Building a PLN is hard work, and most of us will grow tired of cultivating a false interest and identity. For instance, I want to explore and talk about how the emerging world network is affecting the way we live, think, and communicate. This blog is the center point of my online professional identity. It is ground zero of my professional PLN. It is where I synthesize the information I glean from the Net and where I create new and hopefully valuable insight into how networks (or what I'm now calling rhizomes) are changing humanity, especially education, though I feel free to wander along any crevice like Carlos Castaneda to follow any asignifying rupture into whatever looks promising to me at the moment.

This blog gives me a known reference point from which I can branch out to other places and people on the Net. With it, I don't feel quite so lost, as I know how to get back to here, but this blog does more than just provide a reference point for me: it also provides a reference point for others on the Net. This blog is a beacon that signals my interest in social networks, personal learning networks, rhizomes, Deleuze and Guattari, education, writing, and so forth and that demonstrates whatever competence or expertise I have in these fields, assuming any. Others can readily enough decide if they want to stop here for a moment, testing the site before they decide whether or not to connect to it and to me. If they like the content here, if they find an interesting voice, if they find some value for their own PLNs, then they will connect, and both their and my PLNs will grow. If they don't find some value, then they will move on. No offense implied, none taken. In a PLN, no one is ever stuck in a boring class that adds no value to their education.
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