Making Knowledge Work

November 24, 2016

Personal Learning Networks

Filed under: Knowledge Networking, LIKE — virginiahenry @ 3:00 pm


We sit by the banks of a limitless stream of information.  At any moment, you or I can dip our virtual hands in and grasp insights and learning we never dreamt we’d have access to.
If you don’t know what you’re doing, of course, you can repeatedly retrieve fistfuls of weed and dross – so some guidance on how to fish and filter is useful.

Our panel for #LIKE69 at The Green in Clerkenwell helped us navigate the channels of Personal Learning Networks:  we wanted to learn from their experiences of creating and maintaining learning networks and pick up some tips on selecting sources of trusted information.

Elizabeth Charles,  our host for the evening, is in charge of e-Services and Systems at Birkbeck, University of London.  She’s hooked on lifelong learning and found the discussion forums attached to the various MOOCs  she’s completed to be rich sources of personal learning.  In common with the panel members, she’s a big fan of Twitter as a Personal Learning Network resource.

Her colleague, and Birkbeck’s resident Learning Technologist, Leo Havemann,   relies heavily on Twitter and follows a range of people who are his filters of useful information.  He advised us to be smart in our use of Twitter – for example by making use of hashtags to filter and find what’s useful.

Kate Arnold, Information Services Development Manager at The Francis Crick Institute, has been nurturing Professional Learning Networks for decades.  She started by subscribing to professional Listserv services and, when she was at the BBC, making exchange visits with fellow media librarians at The Times, CNN and other organisations to learn about their ways of working.  As well as professional networks and associations (such as LIKE and SLA ), she learns from others on Twitter.  She told us it takes discipline and perseverance to create Personal Learning Networks.  Her advice was to schedule time during the day to “indulge” in personal learning – Kate uses the journeys to and from work, and her lunchtime breaks to check in with her Personal Learning Network.  And, she said, follow people from outside of your sector as well as those with similar interests.

Adjoa Boateng,  Head of Reference Services at The British Library, is another active Twitter user – one of her friends described her as a “professional lurker” – as she determinedly focuses on specific topics, follows and learns from proponents on Twitter and uses the gained knowledge as a springboard for further learning.
She’s also active in person-to-person learning networks and started developing them when she first graduated and kept in touch with a small group of fellow graduates so they could continue to support one another.  Adjoa draws on the practical advice of a Leadership Foundation  learning set and casts her net even wider to pursue knowledge.  Even when she can’t attend conferences, she’ll check out the programmes to glean what she can and, as a member of IFLA she took herself off to a conference in Puerto Rica where she learned about the networks of people she met and tapped in to an even wider Personal Learning Network.

Adjoa reminded us of the importance of generosity – that to maintain successful learning networks you need to give as well as seek information.  And, like Kate, she said it was essential to follow Twitter users from other sectors.  She also advised us to follow some people we don’t agree with:  you can learn a lot from discordant perspectives.

Sarah Parry   had been listening closely to the panel of speakers and told us that much of what they’d described aligned with the practice defined by John Stepper as Working Out Loud.

In his Tedx talk, John Stepper described the evolution of STEMettes,  an inspiring social enterprise that started with a straightforward ambition: to help combat the lack of women in STEM.  It’s a great success story, and illustrates how much can be achieved when you put an idea into action that engages others.

LIKE was just an idea a few years ago, and now it’s one of my most valued Personal Learning Networks.  It’s a lot of fun too!


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