PLC or PLN… is there a difference?

Overflowing dam

Does your twitter feed make you feel like this?

Calm waters

Or like this..

A learning community is a group of people who are brought together to share and generate knowledge in a mutually supportive and reciprocal manner (Misanchuk et al, 1997)

So how is a Professional Learning Community (PLC) different from a Professional Learning Network (PLN)?

This is the question that popped in to my head after this week’s Edtech521 lesson and various online activities.  I’m a MASSIVE fan of PLNs and I realised that a PLC is almost the same thing with perhaps with a little more “forced” or “required” interaction from its users because it is more than like not a self organising system.

As Sugata Mitra says

“Education is a self organising system, where learning is an emergent phenomenon.”

And herein lies the difference, in my opinion, a PLN is a self organising system.  A network of like-minded individuals who are connected and organised through various networked systems, like Twitter and LinkedIn, that provide constant learning.  Learning is certainly the emergent phenomenon I have been getting ever since joining “groups” within LinkedIn and following thought-leaders and experts in the field of Education and Edtech on Twitter.

Initially it is an overwhelming experience, your inbox is bombarded with discussion posts from LinkedIn and the Twitter feed just gushes by like the overflow from a dam. However pretty quickly you realise that you don’t need to keep up, you live in a digital world, it’s not going away. It will still be there, those posts will still be there… and suddenly it dawns on you, these connections are not going away, they are your new peers, colleagues, mentors, experts and possibly even future friends.  Once you make that realisation then you start to share and give back to the network / community and so it goes…


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