That famous line from the English poet John Donne (1572-1631) that starts with “No Man is an Island” would be certainly hard to disprove in today’s ever connected world. Above is a brief depiction of my own network connectivity. If given more time, I would suspect that I could treble the number of nodes, connections and links which envelope me and connect me with so many co-workers, colleagues, family and friends but for the sake of brevity and clarity I focused on my personal learning network’s node structure.
How much is revealed by my network connections mind map? For instance, could someone accurately discern my profession, hobbies, interests or previous careers from a brief analysis of the mind map? Even if the node and link tags were removed, does a certain type of nodal structure imply indications of one’s educational level, economic status or social level? Will our network connections mind map become another thumbprint identifier, and what are the implications in regards to personal privacy and corporate targeted marketing?
So when did this online link and node structure start for me? My first encounter with the Lexus search engines in the mid-1990s, I believe it was Lycos, was almost an epiphany and I probably spent three days learning how to navigate and use this new and powerful tool and during this time I bookmarked useful and informative sites for future reference. Today, search engines are still an indispensable component of my profession when it comes to finding answers or doing research, but my content aggregators and feeds along with personalized homepage and social network deliveries of tailored content has greatly reduced the time I spend on search engines. Still, the search engine remains an essential tool that allows me to pinpoint key information and ideally allows me to download content in a form that is convenient for me to review at the office or off a mobile device.
The distributed nature of online content for me is its greatest feature. The data or information conveniently comes to me instead of vice versa. Finding or being lead to new online nodes or online communities of interest where I can find relevant information for my career or do discovery learning is also a pleasurable and often worthy pursuit. I also like to believe that I have developed my online search skills to a high level, but I am not sure if that is true and even if it was, how would this be objectively measured? Maybe there is an online scavenger hunt test that one could take?
The principles of connectivism such as learning is a process of connecting information nodes, and recognizing that understanding the connections between nodes, ideas and concepts apply to my every evolving knowledge and learning matrix. Each new node or connection online provides a potential place where I can through self-directed learning create my own Lev Vygotsky’s ‘zone of proximal development’ (ZPD) experience using online mentor and tutors to expand my comprehension.
The downside of this is that I am all too easily and frequently distracted and have to use a lot of self-discipline to focus on the matter at hand. This tendency to wander aimlessly through web-surfing is a habit I can do without on most occasions. At its basic level information is the true “coin of the realm” and one of George Siemens tenets of connectivism which states, “Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.” captures the criticality of having the skill to discern and decide how to construct and critically review one’s own personal learning network.