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‘Developing a PLN…’ by Alec Couros’: some thoughts…

Reading this article, I reflect on my own novice status as both an e-learner and a potential e-learning designer for my future students. The last three weeks have been a huge learning curve where I have gone from never having heard of PLE’s or PLN’s to identifying the first, and ‘being’ in another.

I am overwhelmed with the amount I need to ‘get’ before I can ‘do’ anything- produce any work. But then I remind myself it is a journey, and at this stage, mostly reflective for me. Hence the following thoughts.

Developing a Personal Learning Networks for Open and Social Learning

In this article by Alec Couros, he describes an earlier PLN -“Education, Curriculum, & Instruction (EC&I 831), where students ‘collaboratively explore, negotiate and develop authentic and sustainable knowledge networks’. The implication for this kind of learning is huge. It will change how we view knowledge: it will change how long knowledge is viewed as relevant. It will also change how we decide what is ‘valid’ and what is ‘reliablein terms of knowledge generation: how do we know that we know what we know ?

This may seem convoluted, but the implications for ‘massive open online course’ will be ‘massively open online collaborations’ and this as Cass Sunstein discusses in ‘ Infotopia’Infotopia: How Many Minds Produce Knowledge , brings up questions about the kind of knowledge generated.

For example, Sunstein describes how like minded people can produce ‘like views’ – they actually naturally reinforce their own positions. Thus, because the notion of ‘collaboration’ often seems to go hand in hand with the idea of finding ‘like minded people’ to collaborate with- the production of more of the same ‘like – minded’ ideas, is  a strong possibility.

Another thought is the idea that you can have a disparate group of people (to counter the like – like) but if the numbers in the group are unbalanced, the opinion of the few is often influenced by the bigger group.

In terms of an MOOC, the logical assumption is that because there are so many people participating, that this sort of sway and bias will not be able to operate. But then there is the question of whether or not all people participate – and share their ideas, opinions equally. What sort of bias exists within the forum or group if only some people participate?

Democratisation of Knowledge

Also, what about the effect of the varying  ability of members to participate? Some people are skilled, while others are developing, which will influence who produces the knowledge,  the type of ‘knowledge’ published, and how it is disseminated. Basil Bernstein describes these knowledges as ‘esoteric’ – knowledge that is vertical and can be extrapolated, conceptually expanded and abstractly applied: whilst ‘mundane knowledge’ is described as horizontal,  practical and restricted in scope.

Perhaps, sometimes ‘knowledge controlling structures‘ are simply the product of process rather than intent. By this I mean that until the ‘foundational’ structures are in place, (i.e. various literacies of the participant), there may be some inadvertent ‘control’. Perhaps we all reproduce this effect to  some degree, but without the purpose of control as the ultimate aim.

Validity and Reliability

Further, and regarding the whole process of  knowledge building and sharing: if the information ‘shared’ is not accurate, the result will be affected. For example; if the majority view shared within the group is taken as the premise upon which to build new knowledge, while there may be quorum the result will be flawed.


The need to ‘immerse’ oneself in ‘social media’ and the ‘formation of human networks’ is interesting from the point of view that it is a virtual network which actually removes you (quite easily ) from the 3rd dimension of the flesh variety of humanity.

Maybe a question might be – so how much do we really need each other in reality in order to learn or develop networks of knowledge?

Freedom to Learn

On the other hand, the  Web 2.0 and e-learning has given many access to  knowledge, ‘expert others’, disparate views,  and subsequently provided an educational gold mine of possibilities, and is redolent with Humanist, Liberal and Progressive philosophies:

As Couros point out:  “…social justice is an integral theme in our faculty…and open teaching supports similar philosophies and the need for more accessible learning in our communities and in our greater society’.

This is will be the true freedom I think.


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PLENK2010 – first Blog

This is my very first attempt at creating a blog with an RSS feed. Literally, PLE beginner – first steps on a fast learning curve.


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