Today, I've been exploring the world of Personal Learning Networks (PLNs). My personal learning network is broken up into two major categories: Physical (for the hands on, face-to-face learning opportunities) and Virtual (for the technology-based learning opportunities). Each of these is separated into social and solitary learning environments. Based on my perception of myself as an introvert and on the fact that I have been largely homebound for the past two years, I expected the virtual and solitary sections of my PLN to bear the most weight. I am surprised to see all four categories are mostly balanced.
What is missing from my PLN is an indication of the amount of time I spend on each activity. If time were to be taken into consideration, I would have to say that the scales would tip deeply in favor of virtual tools, which means that technology-driven learning is vital to me as a learner. I spend hours on the computer every day and very little time on the direct contact learning tools. While I would certainly like to spend more time doing activities in the physical solitary category, especially reading real books, I find myself relying more and more on technology.
I cannot say whether my experience is common or an anomaly among learners. My Personal Learning Network may have no bearing whatsoever on the state of adult learning in general. Still, the effects it will have on my own lifelong learning are considerable. Technology has made learning more accessible and easier than ever. From my own personal experience, I have seen how it can enrich the lives of people with disabilities by providing them access to learning communities. These formal and informal learning communities have the capacity to flourish in virtual environments, increasing exponentially the demand for more technology-based tools. Who knows what the future of technology-based learning will be? I just know I look forward to finding out.