One of the things I struggle with is helping other folks understand why I find the concept (and reality) of a Personal Learning Network so powerful. I think it’s difficult to sum up in a brief conversation what a PLN really is and what it can really do for you, and it’s really one of those things you have to experience for yourself before you begin to see the possibilities.
As I was thinking about this the other day for some reason an old phrase popped into my head.
It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.Now, I’ve never really liked that phrase because it seemed to elevate connections over competence, but I’ve also always realized that there has been some truth in it (whether I liked it or not). But for some reason my brain connected it with my musings about an “elevator pitch” for PLNs, and what came out was:
Who you know is what you know.Let me be clear, I’m not saying that there’s no need to know things – we all still need to know quite a few things, and how to do quite a few things. But I think that phrase is increasingly becoming true, that who you know – your PLN – more and more defines what you “know” and are able to do.
If you have a well-developed, well-nurtured learning network, and you have the access and the skills necessary to utilize it, then you “know” more than someone who does not. You truly have the ability for “just in time” learning. You can reach out to your PLN with a question, with something you want to know more about, and they can help you learn about it. Even if someone in your network isn’t an “expert” on the topic, more than likely someone in your network knows someone who is (not-completely-gratuitous Kevin Bacon reference here).
So, like I said in the beginning, this isn’t a completely developed idea yet, but I’m thinking that perhaps I will use this idea as a springboard for further conversation when talking with people about PLNs. I still think the only way to truly “get” PLNs is to experience it yourself, but my hope is that folks will be able to connect it with their background knowledge of the original phrase and perhaps be able to use that to help them segue into beginning to see the power and the promise of PLNs.