Back in 2002 in his book Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution Howard Rheingold predicted that, “The ‘killer apps’ of tomorrow’s mobile infocom industry won’t be hardware devices or software program but social practices. The most far reaching changes will come, as they often do, from the kinds of relationships, enterprises, communities, and markets that the infrastructure makes possible.”
The prediction, as we now know, was spot dead on. (Nothing new for Howard) The technology has transformed our relationships, how we are able to collaborate, how we now define communities, and what kinds of work we are able to do.
This get to the very heart of the Professional Networked Learning Collaborative (PNLC) No longer is the work of educational teams limited to face-to-face over the table collaboration. No longer is email viewed as the technology of choice for collaboration. No longer are teams limited by geography.
The true difference in the Professional Networked Learning Collaborative does not lie in the technology. First, the technology enables different types of relationships. Virtual relationships are now possible and have become commonplace outside of educational settings. Networks of all sorts (Facbebook, Ning, Twitter, etc.) webcams, etc. have changed the very definition of presence.
Second, technology has changed who is part of the team. Team members can now be virtual. Members no longer tied to geographic limitation can provide input, ideas, and collaborate in real-time for any location on the globe. The Professional Learning Community succeeded because it viewed its membership of the grade level/subject matter and the school. The Professional Networked Learning Collaborative enabled through technology expands the ring of membership to include specialist, consultants, district staff, etc as part of the team.
Further, each member of the PNLC will have his or her own developed Personal Learning Network from which to draw on. As each PNLC member’s PLN network overlaps with other team members it becomes much different from the local context of a community. It Overlapping Personal Learning Networks form a collaborative that is a normal functioning part of the Professional Networked Learning Collaborative. We have moved from face-to-face community of physical space to the technology enabled virtual and physical space collaborative.
Third, the very enterprise of the typical grade level or subject matter team will be different as technology enables networks to allows for new levels of data analysis, planning, lesson design, etc. The reality is that what grade levels or subject matter teams will be able to do compared with what they do right will not just more or better… it will be different.
Finally, the PNLC model it not going to be limited to the technology that currently exists for two reasons.
First, the Professional Networked Learning Collaborative is what I call a “Change is Normal Organization”(CiNO). It is designed to change and adapt. The values of the PNLC of ICE3:Imagination, Innovation, Inquiry, Collaboration, Creativity, Curiosity, Exploration, Experimentation, and Entrepreneurship ensure the PNLC will change.
Second, the technology that we now use to collaborate virtually or network on is going to change. But, the hardware we use to access these platforms is going to move off of the desktop or laptop on to our phones. I describe this as the 4th Way. As Howard Rheingold so presciently foretold in 2002, “These devices will help people coordinate actions with others around the world—and, perhaps more importantly, with people nearby. Groups of people using these tools will gain new forms of social power, new ways to organize their interactions and exchanges just in time and just in place.”
He asks, “How will human behavior shift when the appliances we hold in our hands, carry in our pockets, or wear in our clothing become supercomputers that talk to each other through a wireless mega-Internet?”
Howard provides an answer. He says, “They will enable people to act together in new ways and in situations where collective action was not possible before.”
The PNLC is not just better…it’s totally different. It's the "killer app."