Occupational Communities eat PLNs for beakfast

I have not been won over by the phrase “PLN” or “Personal Learning Network”. It merely decries the obvious way in which professionals used technology to communicate and doesn’t account for the narcessitic behaviour of some who farm their audience as a form on populist commercial self-gratification (are the estabishment, yet like to present themselves as counter-establishment). Nope, the PLN is at best ‘some teachers communicate using populist media’ and beyond that it holds no proven benefit to ‘teachers’ as a whole or students. However, it will get you into the $1000 plus Innovation Conference for a discount and people will bestow ego-warming praise on your innovative self.
Gamers on the the other hand have a much stronger connection with other players. The are an Occupational Community. As I’m going to set out, this isn’t the same as a PLN. OC’s communicate and reinforce the appropriate, required, and/or expected actions and interactions of group members. In this way, members are deemed to be part of the community through demonstrated behavioural enactment rather than through denotative labelling due to geographical proximity, shared employer, or shared occupational title or skill set (Van Maanen & Barley, 1984, p. 295). Three of the seven characteristics listed by Trice and Beyer (1993) map to the boundaries element: (1) members have esoteric knowledge and expertise; (2) work involves danger, extreme situations, or unusual demands; and (3) members are conscious of insiders and outsiders.
I argue that being in a PLN lacs (2) and probably (1) – however, you can’t play games or be in gaming community if you don’t demonstrate all three. So while some teachers ignorantly still claim Minecraft is Educational, they miss the point of what kids are learning. They are learning that OCs are productive and have shared social identity. They are not in the binary ebb and flow of the PLN (novice/master) and I’d argue that the longer the same people are allowed to shape and control the same media spaces (Twitter Hash) that no innovation is possible.
To me, Twitter is mainstream and part of the communication paraphernalia which promotes consumer-media. Why not encourage children to bathe in iridium – as people once thought that was good for them too. Obviously, on a pure and idyllic level, Twitter is a decent enough short-message platform, but it isn’t pure or idyllic. Its owned and farmed by corporations aided an abetted by some ‘teachers’ who have subscribed all to easily to the PLN fantasy, where in fact, they would benefit from looking into how OC’s function (be that gaming, music or other). No one seems to stop and wonder why Twitter is the ‘teachers choice’ – and that doctors, dentists, engineers, musicians etc., don’t attempt to use it for their OCs. I refer back to Trice and Beyer to suggest why.

2 thoughts on “Occupational Communities eat PLNs for beakfast

  1. I’m wondering if another attraction of Twitter based PLNs is the shortform nature of the platform which helps to portray the self-serving myth that teachers are so busy and so pressed for time that they couldn’t possibly participate in anything more long form or longer term. I know how busy educators can be but believing that they have a mortgage on being the only time poor profession is a huge fallacy. You are right – Twitter is hugely mainstream right now but for some reason, some educators think a hashtag chat puts them right on the bleeding edge. But what difference has any of it made to their day to day practice? I know it’s a question that I’ve wrestled with and come up with scraps.

  2. I always felt that the term PLN was coined by a certain group of people who liked the concept of the personal learning environment but wanted something to describe their existing popularity on social networks.

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