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.)


Communities of Practice, Connectivism and PLNs

This week in the first part of Module 2 EdTech 543 was divided into two parts. Part I challenged us to create, find or locate a visual image that represented all three. I chose a tapestry created by my sister. It uses yarns of different densities/colors. For me it shows how collective whole represents the Communities of Practice is the commonality of all yarn. PLNs are the smaller areas of color as they are small groups of focused learning. They are different colors because PLNs are indeed those you trust. Connectivism is represents by each strand connected to the other and woven intricately throughout the whole.


Personal Artwork owned by David “B” Bernheim

Part II tasked us to research 10 resources for CoPs, Connectivism and PLNs. Additionally, we were to read and reflect on 5 posts by our cohorts. The class implemented new skills sharing on Diigo, Facebook and tweet which of our classmates’ posts in Twitter. Lastly, we were to actively seek partners to form a PLN for the the next part of the module.

Part of the initial work required us to find unique and new-to-the-group posts that were not part of instructor resources and if possible, new to the Diigo EdTech class site. I was successful for all but one. The one had been used by a cohort from another earlier semester. It was worth re-using because it resonated with me. Responses not only required reading the post; but a short, detailed analysis on Facebook; but also the Twitter aspect. Teaching us tasks in context made this lesson worthwhile for me as I am not a frequent Twitter user. I read posts my cohorts shared and though we were given the same task, I read articles I might have skipped otherwise. That aspect was not lost on me and reminded me to reach outside my box to learn and grow.

My 10 posts in Diigo:

1 – Habits of Effective Connected Learners with Stephen Downes – 0 views

  • There is an introduction you could possibly skip, though I learned some new things about Downes I did not previously know. If you are skipping, go to the 5:10 minute mark and start when Downes comes online. He addresses the Symantic Condition (where meaning comes from networks) and being a highly connected learner in context of Connectivism and for me seeing that correlation made an impact. He uses the group to whom he is presenting to get answers to questions he poses. He poses that a successful network is one that is dynamic and an unsuccessful network is a static, non-moving network.

2 – Learning Chaos – George Siemens Stephen Downes Connectivism Mix – 0 views

  • This is a mix of Stephen Downes, George Siemens and others discussing Chaos and how it relates to our learning and Connectivism as whole. Downes mentioned that in the last decade he has posted over 16,000 posts on learning. That is a stunning chaotic number for me to try and filter. Siemens uses working on a automobile engine and have bolts left over. Downes mentions that if a butterfly flaps it’s wings in Central America it causes a thunderstorm in Central Park. This cause and effect on our inter-connected universe gives me pause to think about my own information filtering and what I try to absorb.

3 – The Network Is The Learning – 1 views

  • First, I am struck that this seven year old video is still current in light of all that changes with knowledge. Second, Siemens explains Network, Node and their importance to Connectivism. He also addresses this need for us to remain current. He mentions that more important and quicker means of staying current is through our Networks. He further mentions the point that if we don’t keep up with what is going on in education we become obsolete. Lastly, he mentioned dropping links that direct you away from your knowledge quest.

4 – Networks vs Communities of Practice – 1 views

  • Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach explains the clear distinction between networks and Communities of Practice. She addressed that her Personal Learning Network has a lot of different non-educators from all walks of like helping to frame who she is and who she is not. The difference is in a Community of Practice, “we are all educators, we’re all shipbuilder, we’re all dry cleaner workers interested in improving over time.” She makes the point that members of a CoP are committed to each other and to growth. She also stresses Co-Created Content and Co-Created Community in a CoP.
  • I selected this article because I was looking for “newer” articles. Teresa Byington defined Communities of Practice in a way that resonated with me, addressing the disconnect that often exists between the special education and the content area teachers. Additionally, she underscores the benefits of collaboration between educators. The DCP explanation also resonated with me. The latter part ventures into “how to” and why for using blogging to create your CoP. Since I still do not care for blogging, I needed the extra explanation of the benefits.

6 – Personal Learning Networks and Your Personal Expertise – 0 views

  • I was reminded that Google tries to rank sites for me based upon what it thinks I want. David Loertscher addressed siloing, which means your information group is too small and possibly too like-minded. Loertscher advocates that one should open your net just a bit. He suggests seeking diverse experts to follow on the Internet and identifies some of his favorites to gain a variety of voices.

7 – Communities of Practice (CoPs) – 3 views

  • If one is exploring how to join Communities of Practice, University of Washington hosts an extensive grouping. The target appears to be those students/professors who either learn differently or teach those who learn differently. I could not find something similar on BSU’s website.

8 – Cultivating Communities of Practice: Making Them Grow – YouTube – 2 views

  • The video by Bruce Knox helped me to reacquaint myself with Communities of Practice. I like how he explains the parts to consider and if one already exists.

9 – Interview with George Siemens – 1 views

  • Dr. George Siemens offers his backstory on how he came to create the theory of Connectivism and how it really relates to learning. He articulates why Connectivism is different from Constructivism or any other previous theory.

10 – Connectivism – YouTube – 2 views

  • This is a short video that may help one grasp Connectivism and how it applies to students in the classroom.

My five responses to my cohorts:

1 – How Technology Helps Build a Personal Learning Network | CAREEREALISM – 1 views

  • This short article emphasizes how social networks can build your Personal Learning Network. One great advantage is that your PLN can be accessed 24/7 The article suggests the use of Twitter, blogging, and other Social sites to connect with other education professionals to collaborate and learn.
  • I appreciate learning in context. Seeing how the PLN functions through Facebook and Twitter certainly filled in more blanks for me. Even though I am not a great blogger, the articles focus on student, parent, teacher, administrator communication hammered the value home.

Twitter –

2 – Lisa Nielsen: The Innovative Educator: Teen explains the power of a student PLN – 0 views

  • This article is a guest post by a student who describes her PLN. It is an interesting self reflection about how this student realized she had a PLN without ever actively creating it. The article goes on to discuss how she developed her PLN and the major pieces that are in it.
  • Bryan, I really appreciate this article. Maybe because I can identify with Conner Wood’s journey into blogging and PLNs. His revelation of a group of people he can trust thousands of miles apart connected by the Internet and his desire to meet them resonates with me. Many times I have wanted to meet my own cohorts. Wood’s reflection on the quality of his selection of progressive educators is not lost on me either. His desire to opening your PLN to a variety of fields mirrors my own. “One can have a network of the top people in one’s own field, but if one cannot talk to those people about anything else, what is the point?” Pinging your PLN for the “personal” as well as “learning” seems a recurring theme.

Twitter –  ·  8h

Bryan found great article-Student reflects on PLNs

3 – 7 Things You Should Know About Personal Learning Environments – 4 views

  • This is a link to download a PDF that gives goes in depth about what a personal learning environment is, how it compares to a LMS, and even gives some downsides. I really like this document as it increased my knowledge of PLNs.
  • Sarah – I think you found a gem here. When I began to read the article, I felt that the writer was advocating a narrow focus – solely academic contributors to a PLN/PLE. As I read, the writer added the need to have a variety of contributors in a PLN. The writer addressed the need for members of a PLN to possess information fluency to distinguish a contributor speaking from a position of authority vs someone writing a narrative opinion. I hope (speaking with what little I know) to expand and grow a PLN that has both elements.

Twitter –  ·  3h

7 Things to Know About PLEs. Great find

4 – Connectivism: 21st Century Learning in Action – 0 views

  • This is a one-page graphic that describes the nuts and bolts to the connectivism theory. Produced by Western Education, it concludes that this theory was successful in a controlled study in which each student chose 10 modules to study from a longer list. With the use of a group to share ideas, each student became a vital cog in the experience, not just bystanders.
  • This graphic depiction of the Connectivist Theory gave me pause at first. I was not certain what I was going to gain. However, in the Conclusion portion I noted the group discovered Growth, Enrichment and Cognitive Dissonance. The conclusion found value in each group member and applied dissonance as part of the success through the study. It makes sense that if we all viewed things exactly as the other, or if we only kept to our specific content area, we would not see when the “Emperor is naked.” Thanks for finding this, Kyle.

Twitter –  ·  1h

You found a great article. Connectivism: 21st Century Learning in action.

5 – Community of Practice – 1 views

  • Summary:
    This is a site that provides a community of practice startup kit. This site walks through with detail the process of starting a community of practice. The visuals are great, and there is a ton of valuable resources provided. The page is a bit old, “2000” but much of the information is still pertinent today.
  • Todd – What an AWESOME find. I am just not sure just how current all the information is. Many times the article references the “Winding Down” of CoPs, mainly because this seems to be more of a corporate-type CoP model. As educators come and go from a CoP, I am not convinced it would wind down. Also, this article references the value of the telephone and Convergence since 2000 has increased the values of Podcasts, SKYPE, Google Hangouts, blogs, glogs, Facebook, Twitter, and online chat as nearly replacing the phone. The guidelines posted in the article have a great deal of value. The Venn diagram on page 9 and the indicators of a successful CoP on pp. 9-10 resonated with me. I will be interested to see how they mesh with our coursework.

Twitter –  ·  2h

Great find by Todd Svec Composition of CoPs

Twitter Screenshots

Twitter Screenshot

Screenshot of Tweets I

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Screenshot of Tweets II