Friday, July 30, 2010

The Danger of PLNs: More Thoughts

In a must-read article (thanks Ben), William Deriewicz addresses students at West Point on the topic of solitude and leadership. His premise is that solitude is necessary for true leadership. A true leader, he argues, is not merely those "who only know how to keep the routine going. Who can answer questions, but don’t know how to ask them. Who can fulfill goals, but don’t know how to set them. Who think about how to get things done, but not whether they’re worth doing in the first place." A true leader (and surely every teacher is a leader - a leader of children) is a thinker. She must not only follow orders but create new pathways; she must not merely do what's always been done, but have the courage and the confidence to stand up for what she believes in, even if it means standing against a traditional practice or what's "popular."

To think, Deriewicz argues further, we need solitude. We need to concentrate on something long enough to develop an idea about it, which isn't possible "in bursts of 20 seconds at a time, constantly interrupted by Facebook messages or Twitter tweets, or fiddling with your iPod, or watching something on YouTube." Or scanning your RSS reader. What's more, he points out yet another problem with our continuous stream of information (blogs, news, even the New York Times): "When you expose yourself to those things, especially in the constant way that people do are continuously bombarding yourself with a stream of other people’s thoughts. You are marinating yourself in the conventional wisdom. In other people’s reality: for others, not for yourself. You are creating a cacophony in which it is impossible to hear your own voice, whether it’s yourself you’re thinking about or anything else."

How much more dangerous, now that we can create our own personal "learning" networks and marinate ourselves in a soup of sameness. In my last post, I considered the question posed by blogger Scott McLeod: Should we require teachers to have RSS readers? I'm almost convinced we should ban them. (But not quite. I love my RSS reader.)

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