I often wonder why, as adults, we have make to things so hard and complicated. We struggle to define and categorize things that to children seem self-evident. Although my 8 year old daughter has never heard the phrase "personal learning network (PLN)", she certainly has one of her own, knows how to use it and even reminds me to use mine as well. To her these things are transparent and simple. As I struggled to figure out to hem a Halloween costume she walks by and tells me to call my friend who "is really good at sewing". Gardening questions about vegetables goes to one Grandma while the other Grandma is reserved for questions about flowers. If there are hammers, saws, or mechanics involved I'm advised to maybe wait for Dad's counsel. Wondering about where to put a picture on the wall -- she's got the gal for you. She knows where everyone's strengths and expertise lies and she's not afraid to use it (or tell me to do the same). She's also quick to recommend my services to others in what she considers my areas of strength.
I have to admit that I bristle every now and then when she admonishes me for not using my network to solve a problem "Mom -- just call Grandma -- she'll know what to do.." and it's hard to resist the temptation to squash this seemingly natural tendancy. It feels like cheating. I wonder when this shift happens? When do we start putting a higher value on "things we figure out ourselves" than on "things we figure out through our connections and conversations with other people"? When does knowledge become something we possess rather than something we share?
Through the ease of communications on the internet these connections and conversations are easier and more prevalent than ever before. My daughter's expectations seem to be that these connections and conversations are a natural part of life and learning. She see's no problem in "mining" her network to construct the knowledge she needs to attack any problem she comes up against. Is this another symptom of the "cut and paste" mentality that so many speak of? Is she cheating? or Is she simply perpetuating a natural form of learning that is no longer limited by the knowledge of her immediate (re: physical) network?
As educators try to come up with a definition for Personal Learning Networks kids are moving full steam ahead constructing them anyway (online and off). They don't care what words we use to describe them, they just see value in the experiences and expertise of other people. The process is as transparent to them as water is for a fish. So it leads me to wonder -- if the natural tendencies of children (and all of us) is to learn in a networked social environment is it fair to call socially constructed knowledge "cheating" or would that be like calling a fish wet?