Most people have several different networks, each with a unique purpose: a professional network, social network, spiritual network, sports, hobbies, neighborhood, parenting, etc. But what's in your personal learning network? If lifelong learning helps us live productive, healthy, fulfilling, deeply content lives, how do you build one of these?
When I was a student, my Aunt wrote to me and asked me to send her my syllabi from my professors. Even though she had graduated from the same college decades ago, she recognized the value in remaining a student. At University, there is a built-in learning network. But it's not necessarily customized to your interests because the goal is to be exposed to lots of different subjects. And while this is a good thing, in many respects, with all of the extracurricular activities and jobs to which many students commit their time, there isn't a lot of leftover attention given to supplementing one's education.
But to succeed in today's world of innovation and technology, learning doesn't end with the classroom. So what does that look like? How can students supplement their personal learning networks? How can professionals?
When my students are asked "What job do you want when you graduate?" the reaction is almost always the same: deer in the headlights. But when I ask them, "What do you want to learn next?" they are able to articulate an answer and share some ideas. A game plan begins to develop.
I think this is a useful way to think about our careers, even when we are in the midst of them. Few people can image what it is they want to do for the rest of their lives, but if you struggle to imagine what you want to learn next--you're in a real fix.
Right now, my PLN is a combination of resources that are both digital, physical, virtual and real. The biggest chunk of my PLN has always come in the form of travel. This is where I get out of my comfort zone and have new experiences. I am able to observe, compare, contemplate meaning, categorize or even become aware of new categories. Other things that make up my PLN is a steady, evolving stream of books, magazines, websites, apps, friends, students and colleagues. Admittedly, a lot of my PLN falls into the digital/virtual realm. But not surprisingly, the most powerful insights come from the physical/real interactions. If that is the case, how can we engage in more of the real and the physical? What would that look like and what positive influence could it have?