Facebook as a Professional Learning Network (PLN)

Connectivism, a learning theory for a digital age

Facebook as a PLN. I’ve been using my Facebook page as a PLN almost exclusively since I started using Facebook. I didn’t set out to do this, it just happened that way. Yet here I am, again, in media res. It seems I always start in the moment, in the middle of things. Well, this time it would be helpful if I gave you some background.

Marisa Constantinides asked the following on her Facebook page:

Marisa

Marisa: “Question to my teacher followers:

Has Facebook contributed to your Professional Development in any way? Please respond to this question as I will be talking on this subject tomorrow on the Reform Symposium and I would like to have some of your views on this.” (End of quote)

As I write these lines, Marisa has had 26 responses, some responding to her question, others responding to the responses already made.

That fact alone, 26 responses, from people all around the world, is enough to indicate that Facebook is a powerful PLN tool.

Wait a moment. I know that begs the question: What if the response is negative? If someone responds, “I’m not using Facebook as a PLN tool”, then isn’t that evidence that Facebook isn’t used for PLN purposes?

Yes, and No. Let me explain. First, the obvious.

No is negative. The individual who responds with a negative answer is not using Facebook for a PLN purpose. That’s pretty obvious. So how can I say that a negative response is positive? This isn’t Algebra where two negatives equals a positive. This is reality. :-)

OK. Let me ask you some questions, OK?

1. Does Marisa work with the 26 people who responded to her question?

Maybe a few, but the majority of respondents, “No”.

2. Did Marisa ask a professional question, or a personal, casual, small talk, how’s the weather, Happy Birthday, social-related question?

Answer: She asked a Professional, PLN question.

3. How many people responded?

26 people responded. She received PLN-related, honest, relevant information for her PLN purposes.

What is the point I’m driving at?

Just this: Even people who claim that they do not use Facebook themselves as a PLN, can be mobilized to participate on Facebook for the benefit of someone else whom they have established a mutually beneficial relationship with (a PLN) on Facebook, even if they themselves profess to not doing so themselves.

This appears to demonstrate “connectivism”, a model of learning which Stephen Downes and George Siemens have described. Let me quote George Siemens:

George Siemens

“Connectivism presents a model of learning that acknowledges the tectonic shifts in society where learning is no longer an internal, individualistic activity. How people work and function is altered when new tools are utilized. The field of education has been slow to recognize both the impact of new learning tools and the environmental changes in what it means to learn. Connectivism provides insight into learning skills and tasks needed for learners to flourish in a digital era.”

End of Quote – The whole article can be accessed here:

http://www.itdl.org/Journal/Jan_05/article01.htm

To conclude, I would say that 26 people, located at very distinct places on the planet, were mobilized through a connectivist model of learning, utilizing Facebook, to provide professional, PLN-related assistance to Marisa, even if they did not consider themselves to be doing so as they participated.

As always, I am interested in receiving your Feedback. Respond by including your Reply in the box below. Do you agree with my conclusion? Is my conclusion not quite right, in some way? Was there something that I missed? Would you like to add a different perspective, or extend my conclusion in some way?

I look forward to having a dialogue with you, dear reader. Have a great day!

Best Regards,
Tom

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About profesorbaker

Thomas Baker is the Past-President of TESOL Chile (2010-2011). He enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics. The source and inspiration for his writing comes from his family.
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10 Responses to Facebook as a Professional Learning Network (PLN)

  1. Dear Tom,

    Is this a PLN reaction or is this a PLN reaction?

    I think you should do my talk tomorrow.

    Thanks for this great response – just goes to show that the conversations can start and develop in many directions.

    If you don’t accept to do my talk, I hope you won’t mind me quoting this post.

    Marisa

    Like

    • Hi Marisa,

      I consider myself to be one of your teacher followers. I am very happy that you like what I’ve done here. Yes, by all means please quote this post, I think it makes a contribution to what your talk aims to achieve.

      Also, thanks for the dialogue on my blog page. For me, sustained blogging is possible only when the reader (you my friend) enters the “Leave A Reply” box and leaves something of yourself behind which lets me know how I impact you, which I truly hope, in the end, is positive.

      Have a great talk tomorrow Marisa,

      Best regards,
      Tom

      Like

  2. Not as a PLN, as I said in my twitter, I keep in touch with ex-students and that is really good. I’ve recently re-activated my interest in twitter, and because I can choose people by their profile, I am finding it a brilliant platform for PLN by clicking their links and learning more.

    Like

  3. Hi Glenda,

    Thanks for your reply. I think it is wonderful that you keep in touch with ex-students. Nowadays, we have the means to facilitate long-term, positive relationships with those who once looked to us for learning more than facts and figures, but how to be a positive member of society.

    I commend your use of Twitter for your PLN. I also find it a great tool, which incidentally, brought me to one of my favorite groups of people, the #ELTChat. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from just “sitting in” on their weekly meetings.

    Again, I thank you most kindly for your response, of which I am most appreciative. I encourage you to keep using Twitter to stay connected in the ways that you choose to be connected.

    Have a great day today and an even better day tomorrow!

    Best regards,
    Tom

    Like

  4. Paul Bevis says:

    Need to sift out the useful from the trivia (or if you prefer social comment) that is inevitably part of FB’s charms or irritations.

    I find following colleagues, interesting unknowns or intriguing education celebs more fuitful via Twitter and 140 characters produces incisive (often) brevity. Think that Twitter may be gateway to setting up more productive PLNs.

    Like

  5. fnekrep says:

    A small correction for the sentence “Yet here I am, again, in media res.” Correct form is “in medias res”.

    Like

  6. Jason West says:

    I think FB is not only great for educators to learn from each other but also for students to learn from networks of new friends that they specifically create to communicate with. We tell our students to actively meet friendly English speakers to then practice speaking with on Skype. Once they have a decent group, what I have started referring to as their PELN (Personal English Learning Network) they can have rough time zones and accents to get a 24/7 global English lab for free. They just need to be very careful with how they manage their English Speaking Friends and we give them guidance on that.

    Like

  7. Michael May says:

    Hello, we havbe just set up a specific network for TEFL and are trying to build up a smaller more specific community focusing directly on TEFL teaching. The initial idea was to make it easier to find people in your region when abroad but we have included forums and groups to allow people to help each other and share ideas. I guess it’s along similar lines to your post here, using social networking for learning, but it focuses more on the needs of a teacher.

    Like

  8. Kyle Mackie says:

    In my opinion, Facebook should not be used as a professional network. It shouldn’t be used as a professional ANYTHING. It’s a social network, that’s all. It can be quite dangerous to bring your professional life into Facebook, unless you take extreme precautions with your security settings. I’d avoid this.

    Like

  9. Paulo Freire wrote in his book, “Pedagogy of Freedom”, there is no learning without teaching and no teaching without learning. Teachers must lead the shift to transform classrooms into a community of learners by being a learner within a community.

    Like

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