Links Across the World: A Play on Collaboration and Sausages from Kate Sonka

Links Across the World: A Play on Collaboration and Sausages from Kate Sonka

A reflection by Kate Sonka on the power of personal learning networks.

ACCESS – Does regular access to other individuals from other institutions and institutional perspectives challenge your definition of access and what it means? If so, how?

This is an interesting question for me. As someone whose work centers on the field of accessibility, I can no longer see the word ‘access’ without considering it through the frame of inclusion, absolutely for persons with disabilities, but also the myriad of other individuals supported by accessible and inclusive practices (e.g. second language learners, non-traditional students, etc.).

When I work with faculty, staff, and students, we talk about how accessibility enables greater connectedness in a variety of ways. The same holds true here with a PLN. Access to partners in different places and spaces widens my ability to tackle a challenge and helps me realize new ways of knowing that I would not have arrived at on my own. We are better teachers. We are better students. We are better communicators. And we are better humans.

LEARNING EFFECTIVENESS – When you reflect on your work, how has meeting and learning from individuals from other institutions and institutional perspectives helped you to clarify or re-define what it means for learning to be effective?

This is a big one for me, and something for which I am grateful to my fellow PLN members. I’ve found that many who work in a loosely defined discipline of “Academic Technology” have fallen into it by accident, or were scooped up by pure happenstance. This is certainly the case for me as my disciplinary background is in Linguistics. Through a series of events that I won’t bore you with here, I found myself working in an Academic Tech office after the conclusion of my graduate program. My graduate program and coursework examined learning effectiveness as couched in Second/Additional Language Acquisition. Certainly there is crossover into learning effectiveness in other spaces and disciplines, but having a PLN has helped surface what that means and has given me more tangible ways of approaching the field of teaching and learning.

SCALE – Is the PLN scalable and/or replicable by others at other institutions/organizations? If so, how? What challenges do you encounter?

Whether you hail from a large, small, or somewhere-in-between sort of institution, I believe you can replicate a PLN. The thing about it is that it should be unique to you. I’ve had the very fortunate luck to be connected to so many of the contributors to the Squad Goals Network and they rank among my closest collaborators and confidants. But I also have several other PLNs outside of this group that I rely on for other aspects of my professional (and personal!) life. Each of us has a unique set of skills that translates to very specific projects. Because of that, it’s necessary to explore all of the ways you need to find a network of expertise and tap into those communities.

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