Social Learning

I have created a Popplet to portray the relationship between the learning theory Connectivism, Personal Learning Networks, and Communities of Practice.  The middle picture shows an example of all the technological resources that are available to gain and share knowledge.  It is in the middle because technology can be used for all three of these concepts.  While each concept has its own unique characteristics and can stand alone, there is one commonality that links them together–technology.

Stephen Downes and George Siemens promote the learning theory called Connectivism. They believe that learning occurs through connections made among a series of networks where knowledge is shared  (Education-2020, para.1).  Connectivism begins with an individual.  The individual’s knowledge is part of a network.  The network feeds information into an organization or institution and these provide knowledge back to the individual through the connections they have formed.  The individual must be able to acquire the skill to access this information in order to enhance their knowledge. Connectivism is a model of learning that acknowledges that learning is no longer an individual activity.  Learning happens when individuals use tools to work with others to obtain knowledge especially within our current digital age  (Siemens, 2004).

Communities of Practice and Personal Learning Networks stem off of the theory of Connectivism.  Within both areas of professional development, an individual makes connections with others and can shares resources, ideas, and collaborate, using a global network.   Communities of practice are made up of a group of people who are not novices on a topic working together to share what they know so that members of the group gain a deeper understanding and knowledge for the topic  (Bates, 2014).  There are three characteristics of a community of practice.  There has to be a topic or theme, a community of members interested in that topic or theme, and ideas, tools, knowledge, and shared resources that will advance inquiry forward for that idea or theme (Moore, 2016).  A community of practice is an informal group of people who join based on interest in the topic or idea and their ability to contribute to the group.  In the picture I chose to portray a community of practice, the people are all interested in solving the puzzle.  They are all working together to put the pieces together and solve the puzzle.  Thanks to technology, a community of practice builds groups among organizations and can extend past geographic boundaries.

Personal Learning Networks are similar to Communities of Practice but they are more individualized.  In a Personal Learning Network (PLN), an individual has developed their own network of resources to help make them better at what they do.  These networks can be developed through in-person relationships or online through social media such as Twitter, Facebook. Blogs, etc.  A PLN is adaptive to an individual’s needs and one can control the subject matter to be studied.  In a PLN, one can decide whether to “lurk” or read the postings without making contributions or share their own experiences and knowledge with the group (Catapano, para 1, 4, 5,6 ).  Through the picture I provided one can see that a PLN can extend all around the globe, is always available, and people are always sharing and obtaining information.

To take a look at my Popplet, please click on the link below:


Bates, T. (2014, October 1). The role of communities of practice in a digital age. In online learning and distance education resources. Retrieved from

Catapano, J. (n.d.). What is a PLN? Why do I need one?. In TeachHub. Retrieved from

Connectivism. (n.d.). In Education 2020. Retrieved June 10, 2016, from

Moore, C. G. (2016, January 26). Communities of practice: Sharing and building knowledge. Retrieved from

Siemens, G. (2004, December 12). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. In elearnspace. Retrieved from



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