Continuing with my exploration of connections, networks and communities…
Tonight’s EC&I 831 class feels like a “meet a celebrity night” for me. Our guest speaker is Shelly Terrell and she will be talking about Personal Learning Networks. I have been reading Shelly’s blog Teacher Reboot Camp since September 2009 when I started my position as a technology learning leader. Her perspectives, ideas and resources were a lifeline for me in a new role that was exciting, undefined and quite isolating. Her blog also connected me to many more blogs that I still follow today. (And without realizing it until now Shelly was a connection for me into a network). I have often wanted to meet the bloggers whose ideas have influenced and inspired my practice. Their blogs make me feel like I know them in some way, I feel connected to them and it is odd to think I have never “met” them nor in most cases will I. In many ways I still crave some form of the old school face-to-face connection, and I guess in the digital world what I mean by that is to have a synchronous connection. So tonight that wish will come true as Shelly will be presenting to us in our Blackboard Collaborate classroom. I am pumped and I know I will have much to share after tonight’s class.
I will still explore networks in this post to set a foundation for my thoughts and then use Shelly’s discussion on PLNs to delve further into the topic. I have been doing some reading about networks in order to explore how they may evolve from connections. I started with Nancy White and a short interview with her on YouTube (thank you again to EC&I 831 course resources). She defines a network as “a bunch of people with overlaying and intersecting interests”. I envision a network being born from connections. Perhaps this occurs when an energy develops around the reason for the connection or it sparks a need for action or it generates a force greater than the connection can house. Maybe this force stems from the involvement of many layers of connections. White indicates a network is driven from the individual which seems to reinforce the idea that a network is active, it is created by the joining of my connections to those of others, and it comes from self but leads to many.
Is a network an interconnection?
White reinforces that technology supports networks and this Common Craft video demonstrates how social networking shines a light on connections that are normally hidden in the real world.
I agree that when connections are more visible they become much more useful to us by “helping us get to our next destination”. A network can help me solve problems, grow, think in new ways and move forward. The power of a network comes from a multiplying effect-when I am connected with one person I am also linked to their connections and the web grows rapidly and in many directions.
A network can simply be defined as connections between entities. Computer networks, power grids, and social networks all function on the simple principle that people, groups, systems, nodes, entities can be connected to create an integrated whole. Alterations within the network have ripple effects on the whole.~George Siemens
The key word for me is whole. A network is a collection of connections that form a resource with great potential. I am excited to be experiencing this power more and more. My classmates and professors were my initial connections, and due to the variety and range of their connections I am now exposed to a growing network of support. I may use some arms of the network more frequently than others but the entirety of the network is available as needed. A web analogy works here by not only depicting the interlacing of connections but also by demonstrating the safety net of support found in a network.
One final point from Siemens’ quote is the integration and ripple effect within a network. I love the sense that there is a force the vibrates between the parts of a network, and its impact goes beyond any one person. This fits perfectly with White’s view that in a network the reciprocity is not one to one, “You don’t owe me a favour, you owe the network a favour”.