Disney picture of Avatar flying a Mountain Banshee

The Nature of Learning

Time to reflect on the semester and how my PLE/PLN has evolved over the past few months.  

This is not the blog post I thought I’d write at this point in the journey…..Life on the home front was challenging this semester.  In many ways, the best of intentions remained just that – intentions.  And yet, despite the demands and the privilege of being fully present for loved ones, there were glimmers of learning among the chaos.  Snatching at nuggets during stolen moments, wondering if I was being selfish to continue my quest in completing the Masters, and then confirming my desire to continue in my studies since it nurtures my soul.  Discarding ideas, and then revisiting them once I saw how they might work (Thank you, PlayPosit).  This was the time of creating time so that I could continue my explorations.  After all, organization is one of my superpowers so I had the ability to carve out at least some microcosms of time and space just for me.  

I count these experiences as well as these courses as a key part of my Personal Learning Environment (PLE).  As a lifelong learner, I appreciate the structure that taking a class gives me.  The ideas push me outside my boundaries and always introduce me to something new – a new resource, a new application, a new way of thinking.  I am aware that reading by itself doesn’t always push my boundaries in the way that writing does – it really needs to be a concurrent effort for me to have any hope of integrating the learnings.  I enjoyed the article by Haas et al (2020) in that it showed the connection between the use of PLNs and various learning theories as well as suggesting some tools to build one’s PLN and acknowledging the advantage of weak links in the network. 

A smidgen of what I learned from my Personal Learning Environment (PLN) this semester:

  • Melissa introduced me to the concept of Effect Size and Social-Emotional Learning.  This inspired me to learn more about Effect Size and the premise of evaluating impact beyond the statistics.  
  • Morgan introduced me to the concept of a performance-based school. This inspired me to think more about how I evaluate my students and what I could help them personalize their learning process. 
  • Sean made working with new tools easy.  He provided breadcrumbs that could lead to a variety of different paths.  And he has convinced me that Twitter is a viable PLN tool that I will consider using in the future. (See article by Sie et al (2013)).  I think the way to make this work for me is to make my Twitter feed ONLY about education until I have time to expand the offerings without feeling so overwhelmed.

In my initial blog post, I laid out a Personal Learning Environment (PLE) framework of Collect, Connect, Reflect, and Share.  I am thinking that the time I spend in each of these domains is different depending on where I am on the journey.  And a journey it is.  So do I feel that my picture from the first PLN post is still relevant?  

Rain Vortex indoor waterfall at Singapore's Jewel Changi international airport.

Absolutely.  That picture supports my continued thinking that in designing my life, I design my PLE, which I referred to earlier as a garden. I have weeded away various inputs and commitments this year in order to create the space that I needed to learn and build new things – such as providing videos in Kaltura for my class, taking a course in Coursera, exploring gamification as a pedagogy. In my professional life, I moved to an organization that includes education as one of its core deliverables.  The things I removed were the plants that had died or weeds that had taken up residence where they were not wanted.  The new plantings were just seedlings – of ideas of skills of products yet to be.  An all of this sustained by the air, the water, the light – sustaining both the garden and the gardener along the way.  I made a few more entries on each of the four categories, but for the most part, the ideas remained the same.  In some ways, the garden analogy works in other areas of my life.  This year, we had our second rain garden installed at our home – creating more food sources for pollinators and birds as well as providing better surface water engineering around the house foundation. Gardens provide different food for different audiences at different times of the season. In my temperate deciduous forest biome (Thank you, Morgan), there is a time to rest and regenerate before starting to grow again. 

Perhaps I could have used the picture of the Avatar mountain banshee above?  Or a diagram of the water cycle, but then gardens and water are inherently interwoven – one could not exist without the other.  Integration is a key element for any PLE and PLN.

So I reflect on what I want to do next.  I want to continue to explore my previous post’s thought about DNA and making more creations to enhance my students’ learning.  I want to learn how to be more comfortable when I speak to my subject and perhaps develop podcasts instead of videos – it would be a great way to work on my storytelling skills although the article by Stonkienė et al (2020) suggest that podcasts do not support building a network in the way that other tools might.  The elevated enrollment in my next semester’s class will challenge me to learn more about teaching at scale.  I want to increase my knowledge of making courses more accessible and expanding my understanding of literacy.   I want to build new courses and build my blog and continue to play and experiment and learn.  I found a desire to focus more on what student-based learning and evaluation would mean in my courses.  I find the privilege of teaching affords me the opportunity to continue to create and as I create, I learn.   

I leave this semester with lots of ideas to inform the next steps of my journey. After 60 years around the sun, I continue to remain optimistic that the world is moving forward towards something better and that despite the various hiccups that life throws at me, I can continue to grow my PLN.  It may not always be at my desired speed and concentration, but the only thing that matters is that I continue moving forward.  This despite the ever-present cacophony of dealing with COVID-19 fatigue.  I see strength and resiliency in so many.  That doesn’t mean that people aren’t feeling the loss of community or connectedness or loved ones or security, but this has been an incredible opportunity to explore change management on a global scale.  It leaves me with questions as to why on-line learning was not more fully embraced – was it due to user resistance to change or was it a reflection of the failure of the tools to meet the need of the customer.  It will be interesting to see how our roles as educators continue to evolve. 


Haas, M. R., Haley, K., Nagappan, B. S., Ankel, F., Swaminathan, A., & Santen, S. A. (2020). The connected educator: personal learning networks. Clinical Teacher, 4, 373. https://doi.org/10.1111/tct.13146

Marija Stonkienė, & Erika Janiūnienė. (2020). Podcasts for Nonformal Learning: Using Social Media for Creating Personal Learning Environments, Personal Learning Networks. Informacijos Mokslai, 88. https://doi.org/10.15388/Im.2020.88.31 (abstract only)

Moreillon, J. (2016). Building Your Personal Learning Network (PLN): 21st-Century School Librarians Seek Self-Regulated Professional Development Online. Knowledge Quest, 44(3), 64–69.

Oddone, K., Hughes, H., & Lupton, M. (2019). Teachers as Connected Professionals: A Model to Support Professional Learning Through Personal Learning Networks. International Review of Research in Open & Distance Learning, 20(3), 102–120. https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v20i4.4082

Sie, R. L. L., Pataraia, N., Boursinou, E., Rajagopal, K., Margaryan, A., Falconer, I., Bitter-Rijpkema, M., Littlejohn, A., & Sloep, P. B. (2013). Goals, Motivation for, and Outcomes of Personal Learning through Networks: Results of a Tweetstorm. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 16(3), 59–75.

One thought on “The Nature of Learning

  1. It’s very neat to see specific examples of benefits you took from those in your PLE in this class. I also appreciate your insight into the structure of a class being needed. The importance of that kind of structure is different for everyone.

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