Thursday, October 17, 2013

20 minute blog post! PLN-thinking off the cuff

I'm currently doing what I tell my family is my "fake class" - an open learning opportunity through Northwestern's Master's Program in Learning and Organizational Change on Personal Learning Networks (PLN).

Through this experience I've come to the realization that my next learning step needs to be blogging, but I keep putting it off, so I'm challenging myself today to just jump in and put a draft out there. Here goes! Learning out loud. (thanks @sorokti)

This week we are working to try to define what in the world a PLN might be. The challenge item from our facilitators was to explain a PLN to your boss or your mom. Participants have also been challenging each other to explain PLN on twitter in 140 characters, in haiku, in images.

We've seen some great blog posts asking if people in your PLN have to be alive, or even have to be people at all. I also really appreciated a blog about to what extent your PLN needed to be online.

The question that I find myself coming back to is to what extent your PLN needs to be intentional. Does one need to have a clear agenda for your PLN?

My own bias is that I've stumbled onto my PLN because I spontaneously decided to sign up for a MOOC - E-learning and Digital Cultures from Coursera through University of Edinburgh. So my feeling is that my PLN was serendipitous. I took a chance and commented on a Voicethread, and met some great new people, but I'm still not sure what my intention is any more than what my agenda is when I engage in water cooler chat. To be completely honest, sometimes my intention is just to get some time away from my work with people I find interesting.

I really enjoy the fact that when I sign-on to Twitter or Google plus I get a variety of often unrelated bits of information - recipes, jokes, professional development. If it was all tailored to an agenda I think it would be less fun.

I also see that part of the purpose of the PLN is to mix-it-up, even if you have a goal for your PLN, maybe a PLN mission statement?, your interactions should hopefully bring some diversity and unexpected connections. I liked this chart from Harold Jarche in PKM in 2013.
I get that there needs to be some intention (sense-making), but I would argue that it can be very minimal. I'd also want to say that the reciprocity element can be minimal.

And now I'll have to admit that I went over my 20 minute limit because there was a work interruption, but I'm back in. Gonna wrap this up before lunch.

New goal is to add a bit about my thoughts on reciprocity this weekend and make some more connections to our fascinating readings that I am behind on!


  1. Nice post, Virgina, thanks. I think the question you ask in there is at the heart of distinguishing what PLNs are. My own answer is that it does need to be intentional, to some degree (even if minimal) and this degree is entirely up to the person. Without intention of some sort, it will be difficult for others to have anything to hook their trust of you into - it will be difficult for reciprocity to take place.

    I do also think that the overall intention is in constant change or refinement, which might make it a bit paradoxical, but all good things are, aren't they? :)

  2. Terrific post, Virginia! I especially like your question about how to make PLNs more intentional. My PLN (both "live" and online) is quite serendipitous, too. How do we graduate to a more intentional model? Great first post; can't wait to see more!

  3. My husband also calls the MOOC a fake class and doesn't understand why I would want to take such a class, but I've benefited so far from everything I've seen in this class. I like the way you talked about twitter feed, specifically, being tailor made. With twitter, I think the only way to tailor make twitter is through lists, but even then, twitter gives you the opportunity to express yourself both professionally and personally, and very few are able to maintain just one. I tried to manage two separate twitter accounts so I could have a personal and professional one, but it was too difficult!

  4. Hey Virginia, thanks for your post. I really need to get onto this 20 minute blog post thing too - I always end up spending too long on blog posts then running out of time to finish them, then leaving them hanging around in draft which time my thoughts have evolved onto the 'next' post and it no longer seems relevant. A lot of posts get abandoned that way, which all kind of defeats the purposes of blogging to narrate your work.

    Anyway...some interesting thoughts here, which also intersect what I've been considering which has been reciprocity and intentionality. And serendipity is something I've always loved about PLNs- and I really identify with your observation about why you like twitter and G+ - these are exactly the same reasons I like these platforms. On your point about serendipity and intentionality - and whether they are at odds with each other....perhaps thinking of intentionality in broader terms might be helpful - intentionality as a driver rather than a specific agenda.
    e.g. although the recipes, jokes, professional dev articles you find serendipitously may not be directly related to the specific learning goal you have at that time, there is still a reason you find them interesting and are driven to explore them further > it's essentially because they're related to other (subconscious?) learning goal or need that you have.
    Just a thought...hope it makes sense! Still working these things out myself!

  5. Virginia,

    I loved this line: "To be completely honest, sometimes my intention is just to get some time away from my work with people I find interesting." I think sometimes engaging in SM serves that purpose for me as well. I appreciate the insights and funny comments that come through these various channels.
    I'm still wrestling with the ideas of who makes up a PLN. I suppose it's because I emphasize the "L" part. I learn from a wide variety of people, living and dead (through books), and I'm finding it hard to commit myself to narrow it down to just those I'm in direct connection with. I'm enjoying the conversation though.
    I appreciate your thoughtful post.