The Professional Networked Learning Collaborative seeks to leverage the new reality of education.
Educators understood the value of collaboration, and so the Professional Learning Community arose.
The person is the portal to the network. The person is an autonomous communication and collaboration node.
As sociologist Barry Wellman said, “Each person operates his networks to obtain information, collaboration, orders, support, sociability, and a sense of belonging”
So, just at the individual educator has become networked, so too must the Professional Learning Community. And when a PLC becomes networked, it becomes something different. The PLC becomes the Professional Networked Learning Collaborative.
PNLC members will fluidly move between the physical and virtual networks to communicate, collaborate, and share ideas, data, strategies, and information. Each member being a portal or node to their individual network makes the PNLC exponentially stronger, knowledgeable, and wise.
PNLC are able to maximize individual members’ networks to the advantage of the whole.
Microsoft research sociologist Marc A. Smith put it this way. “Whenever a communication medium lowers the cost of solving collective action dilemmas, it becomes possible for more people to pool resources. And ‘more people pooling resources in new ways’ is the history of civilization in seven words.”
The Professional Networked Learning Collaborative allows educators to solve education problems, increase student achievement, share strategies, and analyze data, etc., with members who are physically present “at the table” and with educators who are virtually present from anywhere on the globe. The PNLC allows teams to leverage not only their knowledge, but also the knowledge of other educators, specialists, consultants, etc., from anywhere else virtually.
For example, if a team was discussing the needs of a student with special needs, they could network in specialists from the district office or the county office, or a college professor in another state.
If a team was analyzing data, they could collaborate virtually with data specialists who could offer their unique expertise virtually.
The essence of the PNLC is that the “who” of potential members and collaborators is increased exponentially because of individual members networking through collaborative technology platforms, the “what.”
Each member is a portal or node to his or her own network. Each member can potentially leverage not only their network, but also the network of those who are in their network. This principal is known as Metcalfe’ Law. The number of potential connections between nodes grows more quickly than the number of nodes. The total value of the network where each node can reach every other node in the network grows with the square of the number of nodes. In other words, when PNLC members connect their networks, it creates more value than the sum of networks independently.
As communication and collaboration technologies become more pervasive, they will fade into the background and PNLCs will focus on the work. Just as we don’t “see” or think about the electricity that is powering the lights in our classrooms and offices, powering our copy machines, etc. the computers that we run our communication and collaboration platforms on will disappear into the background and we will be free to focus on “what” and not the “how” of these technologies.
Networks have now become so much a part of our lives that physical presence is no longer necessary for a member to “present.” Howard Rheingold calls this “presence of those who are absent.” PNLCs can call on a district specialist, consultants, teachers, and staff who are in different physical locations (even different time zones) and who will be able to collaborate, contribute, cooperate, and share just as if they were present physically.
As anthropologist Mizuko Ito puts it, “As long as people participate in the shared communications of the group, they seem to be considered by others to be present.”
Virtual participation = presence = collaboration = results
The Professional Networked Learning Collaborative: “Educators working together in the ongoing purpose of increasing student learning while sharing physical space, virtual space, or both simultaneously. The Professional Networked Learning Collaborative operates according to the values of ICE3: Imagination, Innovation, Inquiry, Collaboration, Creativity, Curiosity, Exploration, Experimentation, and Entrepreneurship.” Rob Jacobs