How important is networked knowledge? Why should you learn about personal learning networks? You’re doing just fine as you are, why is it important?
As information communication technology expands, the amount of documentation, reports, papers and internet content an organisation generates also expands. This plays out in the atomised chatter of emails that it generates in the organisation.
We talk about information overload – but the process of creating information seems to create more information communication. A 1000 word report realistically means you will read 5×1000 words and get 50 emails.
Comparatively ‘web-enabled’ common interest groups that share a common goal are able to solve problems, often with hundreds of people involved who never meet face to face.
Organising your organisation can be a crippling task. The odds of 30 people reaching a consensus, based on face to face discussion, is low. Conversely ‘web’ groups intrinsically understand participation and collaboration. They generate self-regulating organisations to solve problems (or try to) so don’t concern themselves with hierarchy or worry about failure – if enough people participate, even once, it will succeed. This is the story of Wikipedia.
Think about that. The process of trying to ‘get organised’ inhibits performance and marginalises people in the organisational process. If you don’t agree with the direction – you have to convince a critical mass to change. You are all in the one organisation, so you can’t leave and at the same time can’t progress. It’s the tragedy of the commons played out in meetings around the world every day.
I think that getting 50 people working to solve a common problem is actually quite easy. I only know it is easy because I’ve learned how to do it. We do this inside groups on Facebook, Ning and Twitter. Its amazing how much you learn in 140 characters that you can’t from 100,000 word publication.
Academics and corporations are talking about this is as ‘cloud networking’. The goal is achieved through the people in the network. We succeed by learning how to succeed (I know, it’s bizarre).
This has a direct impact on the organisation that you work in. You have access to networked knowledge and can do more than you could without it.
What is a Personal Learning Network (PLN)
Say you are in a meeting with 10 people, all trying to figure out a problem. No one knows (or agrees on) the answer. You orbit the problem for an hour, and agree to meet again after you go and read up on it.
What if you were in the same meeting, with the same problem, and 5 of those people had access to networked knowledge instantly via the internet. 5 people ask 5000 the same question. The odds of getting traction on your problem are massively increased – as the people who reply have already read up on it, and they are not stuck in your meeting for 2 hours, more like 2 minutes.
The chances of failure are reduced as your network grows. You don’t need to know all the answers, you just need to know how to connect the question to the right networks. As a whole network, then it can take on governments. That was obvious in the Obama Election Campaign.
You have to put back into the network, but that time is offset by the amount of time you save.
The reply I give to the ‘I’m too busy, I don’t know how you find the time’ statement is “It’s easy, I don’t have to know it all, I know where and who to go to and create new knowledge from what they have.”
I don’t need to re-invent the wheel over and over. I will get help more often than I strike out . This to me is the critical thinking and network literacy skills I want my own kids to have – and I hope that they will have teachers who understand that.
It’s an almost ‘Borg’ like scenario, and I can appreciate why it seems so un-imaginable to people on the outside. “I don’t get Twitter! – What do I do?” – It’s not Twitter you don’t get, it’s the value of instant connectedness that you don’t get. Why would you?
Personal Learning Networks are cyclic. As you learn more, you build a capacity to share and do more – and there’s always someone new to help. You are not a time-lord, but it can feel like it – as there are moments where you see a problem and get an instant solution, saving your hours of ‘research’ or ‘trial an error’.
The groundswell that is seeing massive growth in educational ‘activism’ has the ability to tackle governments can also solve your ‘how do I convert a jpg file to a gif’ file questions.
PLNs don’t care about FAQs, because they can deal with CAQs (constantly asked questions). They don’t care about how they are organised because they don’t need to have anything more than and IP address to act as powerful learning nodes.
The knowledge is the network and that belongs to all of us – it’s there if you want it. Just ask.