Watching Kay Odonne’s interesting lecture on Personal Learning Networks for this week’s topic, I wondered: How collaborative is my PLN? And, on a more basic level, what exactly does my PLN look like?

For the most part, I try to draw on many different sources of knowledge during day to day practices. I read the news, I scroll through Facebook (where I follow several news outlets). And I Google anything that I am unsure about. But I have not yet gotten into the habit of using social networks in a collaborative sense. That is, I do not engage in comments or ask questions online in the hope of trying to gain greater knowledge.

While there is no clear social connection then in my PLN, I thought that Etienne Wenger actually makes an important contribution to the understanding of what learning means within a social context. And reading the article made me reflect on whether it is ever really possible to learn outside of a social context.

According to Wenger, “meaningful learning in social contexts requires both participation and reification to be in interplay” (2010). Participation refers to the actions that we take part in such as conversations and the like, while reification refers to the production of “artifacts” such as words and concepts, etc (p. 1). This constant process of interplay between these different methods over time becomes a “history of learning” and eventually a “community of practice” (p. 2).

While I found these different distinctions difficult to follow at first, I began to see how they are important aspects to consider when one engages in collaborative learning. Indeed, it seems as though any learning context could arguably be understood as a collaborative one. Because is it actually possible to learn in a vacuum?

I would argue that “no” there is an ‘always already’ implication of reification. What a learner engages with has already been produced within a community of practice, so any learning context involves entering that community and, if one so chooses, becoming an active collaborator in the process.


Is my PLN a collaborative learning environment?