People like me

Educators are into talking about the importance of their PLN. Their personal learning network (PLN) is the folks they interact with to learn new things, share ideas, etc. I get the value of ed jargon – it makes common folks wonder what you are up to, but an obscure label applied to your group does not by itself accomplish much.

I think PLNs are self-forming and as a consequence are typically actually PLMs. A PLM is my clever take on the PLN but in grabe-speak stands for People Like Me. If your group is really a PLM, you are likely having a good time, but not really changing much about how you think about your profession.

Groups with a common perspective tend to move toward a more extreme view of that perspective. This is social psych conclusion of what happens when groups consist of people like me rather than a mix of people with different knowledge and assumptions. Two groups made up of individuals with internally consistent, but externally inconsistent beliefs grow further apart rather than find ways to integrate what is good about their initial positions. This how a group bias generates extremism. To be heard within a group with common beliefs, you have to argue for a more extreme position of the existing belief systems. Sorry for getting all science of group behavior on you, but this is the way things work.

Piaget, that champion of constructivists everywhere, might explain it this way. A PLN that is a PLM is for assimilation. Real change comes from accommodation – challenges that cause you to change your core models of the world and not just add more to an existing way of thinking.

Ask yourself, does your PLN ever engage in argumentation? Does your group have individuals who challenge your beliefs and not just whether you have read the same book they are reading? Do they get you to use the same motivational phrases they use? Are they into innovation, teaching like a pirate, or hacking this or that?

It is a PLM isn’t it?

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