From the time a worker bee emerges from its capped cell, it is learning from its hive mates. They communicate through their intricate dances, odor plumes and even have shown to create their own cognitive maps. The workers may engage in honey sealing, drone feeding, attending to the queen, building honeycomb, packing pollen, fanning, acting as morticians, carrying water, and foraging for nectar. All of these worker bees performing all of these tasks in perfect synchrony. They may alternate tasks or focus on one; most engage in foraging for the last 20 or so days of their lives.
You could apply the function of a bee hive to a Personal Learning Network: individual branches of input and output functioning together for a common purpose. By working collaboratively, people can share knowledge, offer and receive support and develop new knowledge. Much like the honeybee, we thrive as professionals when our Personal Learning Networks are fully functional. We rely on the many branches of our network to play various roles in our own learning and development.
Where this metaphor falls apart is clear: the honeybees hardly ever get it wrong, and they are incredibly consistent. The fanning bees always fan just the right amount of water out of the nectar, and the honey sealing bees never cap honey cells before the water content reaches 20%. Sloep & Berlanga (2011) emphasize in their writing of "Learning Networks, Networked Learning," that profiling, vetting and trust formation must take place at the individual level in order to ensure that one's Learning Network and its components are trustworthy.
Sloep & Berlanga (2011)