Caves, Communities of Practice, Connectivism and PLNs

This week’s assignment challenged me to research, assess, and evaluate Communities of Practice, Connectivism and Personal Learning Networks and ultimately create a non-linguistic expression of that knowledge. My productive struggle, among many personal this week, centered upon the non-linguistic portion of that assignment. Initially, I looked for ways to convey what I learned through visual art mediums and existing performance art as well. I thought I had a perfect plan using tubas (I play one), adding low brass and finally wind instruments. Then I listened to an exemplar. My metaphor did not sound original anymore and I did not like that. As the exemplars varied with use of printed text in self-created movies, I attempted to widen my scope. I taught an Internet Safety for Parents class to spouses of the 366th Medical Group early this week and used the term Digital Native to define most of their children. A participant asked, “Well, if our children are digital natives, what are we?” I replied, unfiltered as always, “digital cavemen.” What began as an ice-breaker moment changed and re-directed me to look backward while looking forward.

The notion of man’s desire to be connected and share his/her experience with others is not new by any means. The medium is. Primitive cave art seems to be early blogging representing a desire for all three of the context issues we are discussing in this unit. David Loertscher advocates opening your net, which we are capable of doing with the advent of the Internet and collaborative tools (2013). But sadly, cave art also reflects siloing, as Loertscher explains, a condition when your group is too small (2013). The only natives who saw the drawings had to be in the cave. That represents a small group. I used examples of cave art in the laptops in the video.

Chaos, addressed both by Downes and Siemens, prevails in our Internet world as we are bombarded with thousands of responses to a seemingly simple Google search or hundreds of online suggestions in Alberston’s Library website (Bastone, 2012). Primitive man was faced with sights and sounds that likely defied comprehension. It is hard to imagine since we have knowledge the primitive culture did not. Simply leaving the cave to get food meant one might be food for another creature. Survival meant learning daily and filtering noises to determine safety, food or fear. 21st Century tools allow us to filter and focus while gaining knowledge at a speed never imagined by our predecessors.

Ug (my character) wants to work with other hunters to find best practices and collaborate to gain new knowledge of better tools so he can reach the objective of caring for his family. Stephen Downes expresses that having a goal in mind is a crucial part of establishing your networks (Doitch, n.d.). Finding people who will elevate you and share with you is not always going to be the sage in your village (Byington, 2011). The Internet allows you to reach sages on the other side of our planet. I used the planet image and an image of the connected planet to underscore that concept.

Personal Learning Networks certainly need a common thread and for this class I grasp that need. Educause posted an interesting article shared in our first lesson this term addressing the need for variety in our PLNs (2009). Siemens and Downes underscore variety and dissonance in their respective videos and articles (Bastone, 2012). I have a small number of people in my private PLN. We share many common threads and yet disagree on others due to our different backgrounds and professional careers. Because I trust them, I am receptive to their thoughts and ideas in ways I might not from those on my peripheral, common professions notwithstanding. Ug shares that wider net in his PLN having a hunter, the delivery person from UPS and an orator (or chief).

I chose Bitter Sweet from the available background music because being connected to all can be just that, not too high and not too low. Being connected means sharing the productive struggle and offering truth to those in your online community. Sometimes I don’t get to hear what I want to hear; but so far, I receive what I need to hear. I filter, like George Siemens suggests, and I attempt to learn and grow. I felt the music complimented what was being presented while not taking focus from visual.

This was my first PowToons and though I had seen them before I was not motivated to attempt experimenting with the tool. I owe Sarah Baughman, a cohort in this class, credit because after viewing her presentation on the first assignment, I had the courage to try my own. She is not in my PLN as related directly to this assignment. If we had not connected through this class, I would likely not have tried to use this tool. Connectivism and Communities of Practice contributed to my new-found knowledge. That lesson is not lost on me here and now.


7 things you should know about personal learning environments. (2009). Educause Library Resources. Retrieved from

Bastone, S. (2012). Learning chaos – George Siemens and Stephen Downes connectivism mix. Toronto, Canada. Retrieved from

Byington, T. (2011). Communities of practice: Using blogs to increase collaboration. Intervention in School and Clinic, 46, 5, 280-291.

Doitch, N. (n.d.). Habits of effective connected learners with Stephen Downes. Retrieved from

Loertscher, D. V. (2013). Personal learning networks and your personal expertise. Teacher Librarian, 40, 3.)


About "B" Bernheim
“B”, his nickname, returns to the other side of the desk after many years. Graduating from UNC-Charlotte in 1983 with a BA in Education (K-12), he entered active service with the US Army. He began teaching high school upon completion of his tour of duty. B taught Language Arts and Social Studies for one year at the middle school level. English, Composition, Public Speaking, Theater, Forensics, and Technical Theater are among the subjects he has taught in public high school settings. Most recently, he was a Strategies of Instruction teacher, Assistant Dean of Students, dorm parent, girls’ hockey coach and rock climbing instructor at The Forman School in Litchfield, CT. The Forman School is a 9-12 boarding school specifically targeting students who learn differently.

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