I identify with many roles in my professional life: teacher, administrator, facilitator, co-learner, student, researcher, blogger, consultant… At the end of most days, as I reflect upon what went well and what didn’t, I usually end up devoting most of my thoughts to the role of designer, dreaming and strategizing about how to design powerful learning objects, high-impact teams, engaging environments, transformational experiences, and spaces conditions conducive to creativity and innovation. With the role of designer in mind, any good instructional designer knows the value of getting to know the learners. In education, a good learner analysis informs almost every part of the design: the outcomes, learning activities, duration, location, assessments, medium, examples, illustrations, etc.
Recently, I started thinking about the role of learner analysis as one designs a personal learning network (for a primer on PLNs, see 35 Ways to Build Your Personal Learning Network and this Will Richardson video on PLNs). In other words, this is a learner analysis that is also a self-analysis. Consider this short list of PLN traits.
- Everybody’s network will look a bit different.
- It is focused upon your personal passions and interests.
- It is mean to help you grow and develop, building upon your strengths and managing any weaknesses that get in the way of your goals, aspirations and responsibilities.
- It requires developing the ability to traverse and leverage this network as you build it.
- It is self-directed and self-generated.
- Rather than being static, it is dynamic, continually adjusting as your needs, work, interests and passions change, exchange, or focus.
In order to build this type of network, it also requires growing and developing in self-knowledge, getting to know our strengths, challenges, limitations, passions, goals, aspirations and interests. One of the great things about a PLN is that you get to custom-build it to meet your unique needs and interests. The only trick is that it requires that we take the time and energy to learn those things about ourselves and to experiment with what works best for our own learning strengths and limitations. I, for example, blog to learn. It challenges me to explore, discover, apply, analyze, synthesize, and create. In the process, I get to share with others, refine my own thoughts, document my thoughts and learning, and build new connections with others; thereby extending my personal learning network further. Many of the ideas that later turn into major projects and large-scale initiatives started somewhere on this blog.
What works for you?