Book Review: Cultivating your personal learning network

For the past month, I have been recovering from a total hip replacement. During that period, I had an opportunity to knock out some reading; however, the medications prevented me from writing anything coherent. Since the fog has lifted, I would like to let you know about a few great books that I recently read. Each book will earn its own post.

The first book is called Cultivating Your Personal Learning Network* written by David Warlick. I certainly like what Warlick has to say, I had an opportunity to hear him speak at the 2nd Annual WYTECC Conference in Rock Springs, and I thought he was a great speaker. Here is a post about that presentation.

In this book, Warlick tied the idea of a personal learning network (PLN) to a food ecosystem. He began by noting that until recently information was prepackaged for us just like fast food. Due to technology, individuals can build their own learning that is more organic.  Warlick encouraged cultivating your own learning garden. He did this over the course of nine chapters.

Once you get past the introduction, Warlick explained his idea of a learning garden as well as what a personal learning network is. He identified a number of leaders in the field of PLNs such as George Seimans and Stephen Downes. He also talked in detail about his journey and how he developed his current approach to learning.

In chapters four and five, Warlick described the change in the information landscape. He addressed the amount of information available, the amount that is created each day, and the number of people who are becoming contributors to the information stream. More importantly, Warlick identified tools necessary to harness all this information. He seemed to focus on Twitter, blogs, and wikis; these are in my opinion great places to start. However, he also included tools like Flickr, social bookmarking, and virtual worlds.

“We find ourselves, as a profession, challenged to adapt our practices and even rethink what it means to be educated in this time of rapid change” (Warlick, 2012, Chapter 4, Converging Conditions, para. 4).

For the rest of the book, Warlick talked about how to sow, cultivate, and harvest the learning garden. I thought this was a great analogy for building a personal learning network. You first must start collecting connections, then you must begin to benefit from what is coming through your network. Finally, you must begin to share what you have learned with others.

Throughout the book, Warlick provided links and QR codes to additional information. Unfortunately, these special links did not work for me. I was using the Kindle Reader on my iPad. (Note: these links were only the ones beginning with goo.gl). Warlick also intended this book to be an interactive book, and provided suggestions throughout the book to engage others around you in the learning process. For example, the first suggestion is “As you begin this book, mention to one or two of your colleagues that you are reading a book about personal learning networks, and that you would like to share with them the best ideas and techniques that you learn.” (Warlick, 2012, Chapter 2, Suggestion, para. 1).

If you are trying to figure out personal learning environments, I would definitely add this book to your references. In a comfortable dialogue manner, Warlick provides a detailed yet easy approach to getting a PLN of the ground. I personally believe that a PLN is essential to lifelong learning.

If you have read it, let me know what your thoughts are.


* In the spirit of full disclosure, this is an affiliate link, which means that if you purchase this item through my link I will earn a commission. You will not pay more when buying a product through my link. I only recommend products & systems that I use and love myself, so I know you’ll be in good hands.
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