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Jane Hart's Top 100 Tools for Learning: Looks Like Workplace Learning is Still Web 1.0

The Stages of Personal Learning Networks

I'm out the door, but wanted to share this.  Jeff Utecht has come up with a nice graphic depicting the stages of developing a personal learning network (PLN) that I think captures the different phases of using social media for learning. You can see the graphic here. (I'd share, but his Flickr license is All Rights Reserved.)

Jeff's stages are:

"Stage 1 Immersion: Immerse yourself into networks. Create any and all networks you can find where there are people and ideas to connect to. Collaboration and connections take off.

Stage 2 Evaluation: Evaluate your networks and start to focus in on which networks you really want to focus your time on. You begin feeling a sense of urgency and try to figure out a way to “Know it all.”

Stage 3 Know it all: Find that you are spending many hours trying to learn everything you can. Realize there is much you do not know and feel like you can’t disconnect. This usually comes with spending every waking minutes trying to be connected to the point that you give up sleep and contact with others around you to be connected to your networks of knowledge.

Stage 4 Perspective: Start to put your life into perspective. Usually comes when you are forced to leave the network for awhile and spend time with family and friends who are not connected (a vacation to a hotel that does not offer a wireless connection, or visiting friends or family who do not have an Internet connection).

Stage 5 Balance: Try and find that balance between learning and living. Understanding that you can not know it all, and begin to understand that you can rely on your network to learn and store knowledge for you. A sense of calm begins as you understand that you can learn when you need to learn and you do not need to know it all right now."

This has been my experience, although I'd reverse stages 2 and 3. I found that I first tried to learn it all before I began evaluating my participation and trying to decide on the right networks. And I agree with a few of Jeff's commenters that the stages might best be represented as a cycle that people move through several times.

Right now, I think I'm between Stages 4 and 5, still trying to find that ever-elusive balance. What about you? Where are you in this process?


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yes I can relate!
Some days I just ignore Twhirl, let my RSS feeds pile up and spend some time back in the land of real people and life without links!
A recent blackout for 12 hours helped.
Nice find.

I'd say that was a fairly good summary of where I 'm at and I agree with you about swapping the two stages around. I've been into web 2.0 since last august and think I'm coming to stage 4/5. Funnily enough, I am coming to appreciate my email groups the most out of all the areas I am into (apart from my blog). Twitter and the Ning communities I belong to are at the bottem of my list.

Hi Michelle,

I commented over on Jeff's blog yet I cannot help but add a little note here as well. A thought just occurred to me as I read your own. That curve may be repeated several times with differing skill/tool/network acquisitions during the evolution of the PLN. Each iteration of the curve would be shorter in view of the previously accessed skills.

Which stage am I at? My psychiatrist says I am stuck in stage 3 and that I seriously need to consider a bloggerdectomy and a twitterectomy. Seriously, though, I maintain my participation, interest and curiosity yet strive to maintain balance and this is always a feature at the introduction and close of all my presentations to teachers.

Jasmin, I'm with you--I've tried to carve out big chunks on my weekends to stay off-line because I've been burning out with 12 hour days during the week. Time was that I could do it all, but at some point, your brain needs a rest!

Sarah, I think it's interesting that you get the most value from an "old school" tool. I wonder if it's because of who is in those networks. Do you find that the people you relate to most are in your email groups or is it the same people?

And John, I think you're right that the iterations on the curve would probably be shorter as you develop new skills and can access those to help you on the next round, although I also find that it depends on the tool. My learning curve for Twitter has been longer than for things like blogging, not because the tool itself is difficult, but because of me trying to keep finding the best ways to use it. As we discussed in the podcast I did the other day on Twitter, it's been a tool with many more false starts than I've found with other tools.

Thanks for all the great comments!

wow! it's like jeff KNOWS me already!

yes, i am definitely at the stage that i am trying to learn it all and i have gained 6 pounds in the last 2 weeks to prove it!

thank you for this post... balance is a good thing!

Jen--maybe that should be added to the stages? Something about the physical changes? For example I would lack of sleep and waking up thinking about what to post or work on next to one or more of these stages. :-)

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