Passive Learning Stinks

Photo Credit: Me (partial Twitter followers)
There has been a lot of talk over the last few years about Personal Learning Networks (PLN). You know, the group that you put together yourself to help you learn new things about a related topic. In my case, it is educational technology and education theory in general.

My PLN is pretty diverse. It ranges from close friends that I have eaten dinner/played golf with to new friends who I have met face to face to complete strangers overseas in countries I have never been to. Then, throw in a few folks that love to play devil’s advocate regardless of the topic and you have a nice, diverse group to help you grow some dendrites

Recently I had the opportunity to discuss PLN’s with a good friend who works outside the education community. He related several tips to building a strong PLN, but he calls it community:

1. Have the right idea about friendship. Know that true friends are honest regardless of whether they agree or disagree.  The important thing is that you realize the importance of a friend and not just looking for a “yes man/woman.”

2.  Be sure you see the reality of the process of a community. Get the true value out of it. Only you can make the decision to do that. Make sure the person you are adding is worth the effort. Be sure to factor in that the process will have valleys as well as mountains. You can learn and grow during both.

3. You have to move beyond the superficial. In other words, who cares who your friend is or what his/her title/ranking/popularity/Tweet ranking/etc really is. That does not grow knowledge and community. Moving deeper into the relationship is what helps build trust. It puts the conversation and expectation of input at a level that you both can grow from. Challenge yourself and your PLN for that deeper content or you’re both wasting time.

Also, be who you are and not who others want you to be. Seth Godin has a great, short piece on Walter Cronkite:

Here’s the thing about the life of Walter Cronkite:
At every turn, he acted as if he had a responsibility to his audience. He didn’t do the right thing because he thought it would help him get ahead and then one day he’d get his share. Instead, he always did the right thing because that’s who he was. No sellouts, no political consulting, no false transparency.
That’s the way it is.
Transparency works if it’s authentic.

So my friend’s overall key point is that the ability to experience and enjoy the friendship of the PLN you create is in direct proportion to the relationship you build. Throwing together a haphazard group just because you think you need one now is only going to disappoint both you and them.  Take your time.  Add and remove from your group. Revisit the group make-up as you go. Be honest with yourself about your own growth. Your PLN is for your benefit. You get out of it what you put into it. If you only plan to follow along and not participate, you will never expand your own learning, and others will find folks more willing to be a part of the process.

Passive learning stinks. Be an active part of the process.  Maybe this little bit of my friend’s advice will help you out.

PS: Once you realize the power of this in your own learning, imagine what it would do for your students.

6 thoughts on “Passive Learning Stinks

  1. I am first of all proud to be a member of your PLN, and I want to comment on how my own PLN has changed my life and the lives of my peer and my students. I have come a long way since the first time I sent an IM through AIM. All of the messenger systems could not feed my need to share my immediate thoughts because I had to wait for someone to actually appear and you, Scott Floyd, know how quickly my thoughts come and go. When you first introduced me to Twitter, I was skeptical and thought no one out there would be interested in what I had to say. (I had that same skepticism when I started our special education blog and now we have had visitors from 75 countries and have made contacts that enrich our classroom.) Consequently, I have discovered that I was wrong. It is a lot more than a 140 character posting that brings enrichment to my life. I have made some excellent connections who have shared invaluable tools which I use daily in my classroom, links to information I would have otherwise overlooked, motivation that gets me excited about the new year and the years to come, blogs that I follow faithfully and share with my peers, collaborative help when I encounter an issue I cannot solve alone, and much much more. Having a PLN has absolutely changed the direction of my life. I have also witnessed the changes these connections have had in the lives of other teachers and thus indirectly our students. Isn’t that our purpose? To shape and prepare the lives of our students. My PLN is an effective tool in bringing me closer to the accomplishment of that goal. Thank you for planting and taking the time to cultivate this fertile seed.

  2. Title caught my eye because today I tried to teach a group of passive learners. They could not grasp that I have conversations via so many different technologies throughout the day. It was good for me to be reminded that not everyone is fluent with multiple perspectives and learning through multiple modalities. I can’t imagine not having my PLN and the access to knowledge that they provide.

    Thanks for a great post!

  3. You are the Energizer Bunny of my PLN. Keep Starbucks in business and the teachers moving forward on your campus. You give me as much as I could ever give you. Thanks for being on the team. It can be tough sometimes.

  4. Thanks, Roxanne. It can be a tough deal teaching adults who refuse to engage. I have been there. I have done a lot of contract work over the years for the ESC, and many folks are there to just get the credit and move on. That is what makes my PLN so cool. None of them are there just to get the credit and move on. They want to grow and learn, as do I. They can step away for a bit, get refreshed, and return. Yet, while they needed a breather, they did not bring anyone down. I cannot say the same thing for those in F2F sessions. Bad attitudes can be infectious. Fortunately, I can unfollow virtually if I need to. In person, not so much.

    I hope to see you at TCEA this year. We are having an EduBloggerCon event on Tuesday the week of. Put it on the calendar.

    Thanks for the comment!

  5. I have been watching the conversation about EduBloggerCon at TCEA. Y’all are doing so much to make a difference in TX!

    I just cleaned up my Google reader and such, so I will be stopping by more often to comment.

    keep up the good work and the sharing,

  6. I appreciate the visits. The EBC conversation should be a good one. Please join in and let us know what direction you think we should be taking. An ESC/VC perspective would be a good one to add.

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