Exploring Personal Learning Networks – #xplrpln

I’m not Catholic but I feel like I should start this post with, “Forgive me father for I have sinned. It has been six months since my last blog post.” Instead of wallowing in guilt, I choose to take some advice that my colleague Jeff Merrell recently shared about it being okay not to blog on a regular basis. He said to view blogging on a glacial scale – it’s okay to move at an extremely slow pace. Over time there will be some nuggets of wisdom built up or at a minimum some reflection on my learning journey that might help me gain some insight.

So what prompted me to pick up the virtual pen again? I recently registered for an open online seminar called Exploring Personal Learning Networks: Practical Issues for Organizations that runs from October 7 – November 8, 2013.  We will be exploring the following question:

How might it be possible for organizations and individuals alike to benefit if individuals develop personal learning networks within and outside the enterprise–namely, their employers?

I hope you will join me — register by October 1.

If the purpose of a personal learning network is to help me focus on my learning (and to support the learning of others), it seems a good place to start is to identify what I want to learn during this online seminar. Here are some initial thoughts which I hope to refine over the next few weeks leading up to the official kick off:

1) DEVELOPMENT OF ORGANIZATIONAL LEARNING NETWORKS: One question I have been pondering is how personal learning networks and organizational learning networks (OLN?) interact with each other. By organizational learning network I mean the external network of people and organizations that members of an organization intentionally decide to learn from, through social media and other methods, in order to meet the organization’s learning and strategic goals. I am distinguishing this from an individual’s personal learning network. At this point I am not even sure if this is a valid construct but we are experimenting with building an organizational learning network within my own organization so I am curious if others have too.

If individuals within an organization enhance their PLNs will that enhance the organization’s learning network both inside and outside the organization? Are there ways to make that an intentional process as opposed to solely something that happens by chance? Do many organizations even think in these terms?

How might the intentional development of an organizational learning network be the same or different from the development of a personal learning network? For example, an individual can include a disclaimer on social media accounts and blogs to make it clear that she speaks for herself not for her organization. Organizations have no such disclaimer and often limit their social media accounts to marketing megaphones. This probably reduces the ability to experiment as they build a learning network.

2) THE CARE AND FEEDING OF PERSONAL LEARNING NETWORKS: I am also interested in exploring the ways that personal learning networks are nurtured (or neglected) over time. How similar or different are PLN relationships that start via online technology from friendships or work relationships that are started via face-to-face interactions?

Once I decided to register for this upcoming online seminar, I was excited to connect with some members of my PLN who I thought might be interested in exploring these topics. Then I realized that I was a bit reluctant to reach out because I hadn’t been in touch lately and I wondered how this invitation would be perceived. Some of my E-learning and Digital Cultures (#edcmooc) colleagues have invited me to various open learning opportunities over the past six months. While I initially intended to join them, I made other choices about how I spent my time — Chicago is just too beautiful in the summer. Has this been perceived as lack of interest in continuing to learn together or just simply as not being the right time for me? It is certainly the latter for me, but I am not sure I adequately conveyed that when invited.

This begs the question…how are online PLN relationships different from other types of relationships if at all? How do we read social cues in 140 character tweets from people we have never met in person? It seems there is a skill to develop in this area.

In order to truly include someone in our PLN do we need to go deeper than interacting with him or her on Twitter by using tools such as VoiceThread and Google+ Hangouts or leveraging techniques such as quad-blogging? For me, I am finding that there are various levels of connection within my PLN. Some people are in my PLN but they may not realize that they are helping me learn or even know who I am. Others are people who I would meet for coffee or a meal if I visited their city.

I intentionally start this next learning experience with more questions than answers. What are the questions that are surfacing for you as you start reading the seminar materials? How can we support each other in our learning?

Related Resources

#xplrpln – Introducing PLNs

Personal Learning Networks: Knowledge Sharing as Democracy by Alison Seaman

Personal learning networks – notes and resources by Jeff Merrell

The Personal Pull into Social by Jeff Merrell

Business+MOOCs: the Hangout recording | Business+MOOCs tweetstream on Jay Cross’ blog
photo credit: Anne Davis 773 via photopin cc


5 thoughts on “Exploring Personal Learning Networks – #xplrpln

  1. cathleennardi

    PLNs are about connections with like minded people — who as Gardner Campbell reminds us — help us to make meaning. I’m not sure if I will be able to participate in the PLN seminar as I am thoroughly engrossed on cicmooc and ds106 (and like you need to draw some boundaries). But we are reading each others blogs, so we will be a PLN in action. Did you read Dave’s post on my blog? That was in response to your tweet! I look forward to breaking bread with you in the future. (note: companion derives from someone you break break with!). Have a great week!

    1. Sorokti Post author

      Just read Dave’s comment. I’ve been wondering what he has been up to – last saw him on a Google+ hangout after #edcmooc ended. The strands of PLNs weave together in unexpected ways. I am enjoying knowing that we are all continuing to learn exactly what we need to be learning right now and that we’ll just keep sharing when the time is right.

  2. Virginia Trovato

    Hi Keeley. Your comments on being reluctant to reach out to members of our PLNs because of uncertainty in how you will be perceived resonated with me. Confession: I often see your name in my gchat list and think, “I wonder how Keeley is doing.” But I feel like it might be odd to just strike up a (gchat) conversation. Part of this is the medium. Since we aren’t f2f I don’t have any social cues. Are you busy now? Whereas if we worked in the same office I might “drop by” just to chat. Part of it too is that I feel like I need a reason (professional project, learning project, etc. to reach out). Like professional/job networking, I feel like I should have a purpose in mind for my PLN. You don’t want to “waste” people’s time. But is that really the case? I know good ideas can come out of unstructured time. With all this in mind, I thought I might experiment with doing video chat coffee with my PLN over the next month. It’s something we talked about within my college since we have regional centers across the state, but we’ve never tried it. Want to join me for coffee sometime? 🙂

    1. Sorokti Post author

      Yes to video chat coffee Virginia! And always know that I value unstructured time – will be honest if I’m busy and will know that you will understand that it might not be a good time.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s