By definition, the personal learning environment is a solitary practice. It’s your learning practice. But the last stage of a PLE is public: You are demonstrating what you’ve been learning and how you’ve been applying it. You may choose to make parts of earlier stages public by sharing your studies as you are working, or you may just keep it to yourself.
But when you do share your learning journey, you are engaging in a peer teaching behavior. You’re sharing what you’re learning and how you’re doing it to anyone who happens to stop by. When you put your own journey on display, you’re providing evidence of your growing expertise, and others learn about what you’re interested in and what you’re experienced in…and then you become a node of information.
That’s how personal learning networks and communities of practice come about. People identify others who are learning concepts similar to theirs and connect to share knowledge. People identify others who are ahead of them in a discipline, and reach out to them for an apprenticeship-like arrangement to improve their own knowledge on a topic. Or, they may identify people who have completely different skill sets, and connect with them to benefit from the knowledge of that diverse skill set.
These networks and communities allow for craft specialization as each member of the group focuses on the skills they are most interested in, and looks to other nodes for the information they need.