Valuing Your PLN
My enlightened associates in education may scoff at a reflection that is so esoteric. I endeavor to ask a question: How is one to value his or her Personal Learning Network (PLN)? During the 2013 Connected Educator Month (CEM) I became intrigued by three acronyms: Circle of Practice (COP), Personal Learning Network (PLN), and Community of Professionals (COP). I confess that I was lured into the exercise of expanding my own PLN through social media.
As these things go I began to ponder upon the worth of a PLN. Can you value a PLN? I believe that you can, but my valuation and your valuation may be very different at the end of the day. So, I am supposing that there are three or four methods of valuing a PLN.
First, one could value his or her PLN economically. That is a strict dollar-and-cents valuation. To arrive at that value one could use a credit and debit system. One would credit the personal monetary increase that the PLN netted. One would debit the time and expense of setting up and running the PLN. You or a colleague might expense a new smart phone or some software to enhance your PLN. If the net was positive, that could be the profit margin on the PLN, and that could be your value.
When we speak of cash value, I see that as seguing into the pragmatic method of valuation. Pragmatism does ask: What is the “cash value” of a given operation? It is here I shall reveal a bit of my thinking. A PLN is a social network I suppose. I suppose a social network connects one with others by means of long or short routes. I suppose that the common wisdom is true that there are six steps between any two persons. So, the value of my PLN might be calibrated by calculating the number of steps it enabled me to eliminate between myself and someone else. For example, if my PLN connects me to Susan, and if Susan’s PLN connects her to a guru on a mountain name Arnie; then my PLN may be valuable for reducing or eliminating one to four steps between Guru Arnie and myself. The calculations of any individual PLN would be contingent on the steps it reduced between individuals and the relative significance of contacting some individuals like the guru on the mountain top. http://www.teachthought.com/technology/learning-through-networks-is-the-future/
Before the likes of Charles Sanders Pierce other great minds were at work trying to determine the best way to calculate value. I rank Jeremy Bentham as a clear minded thinker who was asking how one might measure the quantitative worth of a thing on the basis of its ability to produce pleasure or pain. He gave us the hedonic calculus as a method of measuring that value. One should gage the pleasure or pain of an experience by considering seven factors: the strength of the experience, the duration of the experience,the purity, the certainty, the remoteness, the likelihood it will produce more of its kind, and the people it will impact. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Felicific_calculus
John Stuart Mill carried the calculus to a new level by introducing qualitative considerations. Some pleasures he judged to be better than others not only quantitatively but also qualitatively, and I would concur. So, if you are gauging the value of a PLN by its ability to produce pleasure you should consider the pleasure or pain your PLN may produce. In other words, even if you have over a thousand followers on Twitter, your list of followers may not be as valuable as a list of seventy for a connected educator communicating with other connected educators.
The value of a PLN may be viewed existentially too. Does one’s PLN dehumanize the individual? Perhaps we can now frame a question in the spirit of Martin Buber? Does one’s PLN affirm one as an object or a subject? This question itself invited further introspection. It could be framed from the existential view of Emmanuel Levinas, Jean Paul Sartre, or Soren Kierkegaard. ( I must confess, this very idea drives me to new meditations that shall take me far afield.)
Let us return to our question: What is your PLN worth to you? We have no less than three ways of valuing a PLN – a pragmatic valuation, a hedonic valuation, and an existential valuation. On the one hand, my PLN could just be a way of tapping someone on the shoulder to pick their brain. On the other hand, my PLN could be an adventure in self-discovery and self-affirmation as I encounter the other. Or my PLN could be something in between. I leave you to think of that, while I shall busy myself with some other thoughts.