#xplrpln: Week 1: try something new

Well, we’re now at the END of week 2 of the ‘Exploring Personal Learning Networks’ open online seminar…and I’ve finally got to getting down a post on week 1 (BlogFail!).  Have been WAY too preoccupied with exploring, commenting and conversing on all of the interesting stuff that others have posted. Which is Good, and kind of the point of this type of (cMOOC) experience, but I recognise it’s also important to leave time for individual reflection and take stock of what I’m learning.

And…since I’m doing this, I might as well start at the begininng.

Why I’m doing this seminar

I was really excited when I saw the overview of this seminar / cMOOC. This was not just because it was on PLNs – something I was interested in exploring further – but because it focused on exploring PLNs from an organisational perspective, and the impact of networks both internal and external to the org.

I immediately saw a link with some of the ideas and themes I was discussing with my supervisor for my Masters research: knowledge creation-sharing- management / organisational learning / innovative teams / open innovation / Communities of Practice. I had an ‘aha’ moment when I realised the external connections in an individual’s PLN could potentially function as sources of open innovation for organisations, and the proposal in my previous post is my initial delve into the academic literature on this.

So: my main motivation in participating in this learning experience is primarily to enhance my understanding of PLNs to inform my Masters research. Another goal is to experience a connectivist MOOC (cMOOC). I’ve had #etmooc envy since reading about Jeff’s experiences on his blog, and been itching to get into one. I’m keen to really explore complex ideas in depth with smart people who have an open attitude to learning (and in doing so, expand my own PLN). So far, it’s certainly shaping up to be exactly this.

Try something new

The theme of week 1 was ‘try something new’. I love this theme. What I love about it is that it introduces spirit of adventure, and invites a mindset of experimentation upfront. It reminds me of the creative headspace that #DS106 encourages. Most of the new things I’ve tried in the last week have been inspired by the #xplrpln community:

  • Exploring and engaging with communities in Google + for the first time (main site of the #xplrpln community)
  • Now using HootSuite to follow twitter streams (now following #cicmooc, #ooe13, #DS106, #ds106dc, #lrnchat!) and to find interesting stuff more easily – thanks to this post by Keeley Sorokti
  • Finally participated in a #lrnchat (something I’ve been intending to do for YEARS, but never seemed to be ‘able’ to make time…until I caught the ‘try something new’ bug)
  • Exploring interesting ideas with a bunch of new people who have totally inspired and stimulated my thinking
  • Used Pinterest for the first time – to chart a narrative of my PLN (or perhaps, more accurately PLE) – see below for more.

A view of my evolving PLN/PLE – on Pinterest

I was quite inspired by the posts from others reflecting on their own PLNs. I liked how some attempted to map their PLNs using mind mapping tools to provide a visual of their network (Kind of like a basic SNA diagram). I was also taken by Helen Blunden’s narrative approach, describing her experience meeting her PLN, using a tool she’d never used previously (Shadowpuppet).

I liked the idea of using this exercise as an opportunity to experiment with a tool I’d never used before. And ever since I read about Jane Bozarth exploring Pinterest to create narratives, I’ve been interested to try this too. So I attempted to map a narrative of my evolving PLN on Pinterest:


Reflections in light of week 2

I started mapping my Pinterest PLN idea last week, and over the week, as we’ve debated and discussed the definition of a PLN in week 2 of #xplrpln, I’ve come to realise that what I mapped last week, was probably more my PLE (Personal Learning Environment), with portions of PLN distributed across this PLE.

Regardless, it was quite a valuable exercise, as it made me reflect on where I learn stuff, who from, how, and the types of things I learn across the various platforms within my PLE. It also raised a number of questions for me, including:

  • What distinguishes a PLN from a PLE? There was a LOT of thought provoking discussion about this over the week. I think I’m leaning towards reciprocity or the potential for reciprocity as the difference between a PLN and PLE.
  • What differentiates a purely social network from a PLN? This is a slippery one for me, as I don’t particularly differentiate personal from professional learning when thinking about my PLN. And I also think, if we’re talking about reciprocity or potential for reciprocity as a defining feature of a PLN, having a social connection is integral to this reciprocity, or potential for reciprocity. So, for example, even though I define my Facebook network as largely a social network, there are people who I connect with (albeit occasionally) to exchange ideas about parenting. Thus they would form part of my PLN.
  • What are the different features and affordances of the various platforms that might make up a PLE, and how does this impact what, how, and who you learn from? For example, in mapping out my own PLE, I realised that my LinkedIn consists largely of a local professional network with whom I mostly learn and share stuff that directly impacts my day to day role (e.g. instructional design, elearning design / dev, training, job opportunities…). Whereas twitter is my connection to the global L&D community to learn about ‘big ideas’ that I’m interested in (innovation, creativity, org learning, change, open ed…).

There are a lot more thoughts and questions that have emerged from other interactions, discussions, blog posts in week 2…but I might save that for my next post!

6 thoughts on “#xplrpln: Week 1: try something new

  1. Sorokti says:

    Tanya – I appreciate how you have linked out to other resources and blogs in this post – not only gives HTs (hat tips – new term I’ve learned in #xplrpln) but also demonstrates the power of personal learning networks. I was just speaking to Jeff Merrell yesterday about how these cMOOC experiences become catalysts for energizing people to go deeper and try new things with members of their PLN. It is clear that this is happening for you. I wonder how many people would be able to sustain meaningful interaction with members of a PLN without these catalyzing events? I also know that I needed to take a break from this kind of intense experience after participating in #edcmooc. I think two times a year might be a good pace for me.

    One other thing I noted while reading your blog…so many of us (including myself) start our blogs with an apology about the fact that we haven’t blogged or haven’t met our blogging goals. A student in the MSLOC program shared an article titled 10 Things Not to Say at Work this week that has me thinking about how I present my work and talk to people (http://www.refinery29.com/2013/10/55289/uptalk-communication-mistakes). From here on out I’m going to write blog posts without putting any caveats on them about how little I blog. I’m just going to try to be okay with the amount of blogging I choose to do so it doesn’t become another thing to check off on my list.

    This makes me think about Luis Suarez’s There Can Be No Resilience Without Transformation post (http://www.elsua.net/2013/08/05/there-can-be-no-resilience-without-transformation/) where he says:

    “People nowadays are just putting check marks on their massively ever growing to-do lists that they have tweeted, plussed, facebooked, linkedined and what not, so that they can move back into their real work: the one that doesn’t require critical, constructive thinking, engaging, conversing, caring, or helping others and so forth for that matter.” – Luis Suarez

    I want to make sure that I’m choosing to blog and interact online because it is enriching me and supporting my “real work” – I already have way too many things on my to-do list!!

    HT to Jeff Merrell for writing this blog post that led me to Luis’s post: http://purplelineassociates.com/2013/08/11/not-being-afraid-of-the-shadows/

    • tanyalau says:

      Hi Keeley!
      Thanks for your thoughts and links. Wow. a LOT of food for thought here.

      I’ve been thinking a fair bit about interaction within PLNs in light of the discussions over the last week on PLNs and reciprocity. In a good spotaneous twitter chat with EssGarland @essigna the other night (another new thing!) on what motivates us to reciprocate in a PLN, she mentioned
      “& Moocs ie forming PLN out of previous online experience.”
      I agree that a catalysing event like a cMOOC is needed to achieve the level and depth of meaningful interaction currently happening in #xplrpln – and that this degree of interaction in our PLNs is likely not sustainable beyond this catalysing event (is this what you’ve found from your previous cMOOC experiences…?).
      However, what I do think will be sustained (to varying degrees across different people in your PLN) are the relationships with the new people you have connected with as a result of the cMOOC event. And the thinking triggered by @essigna’s comment is that it is this prior interaction that increases the likelihood of potential reciprocity in future. I.E. even though you may not sustain the level and depth of interaction that you had during the MOOC, the shared prior experience kind of breaks an invisible social barrier and gives you unspoken ‘permission’ you to connect with them in other contexts in the future.
      This is why potential for reciprocity now makes sense to me as a defining feature of PLNs.

      On apologising for not blogging – yes, guilty as charged! The link that you posted was interesting particularly for its observation that this type of behaviour / communication tends to be gender specific. (And, just thinking about it now, everyone I’ve seen apologising about their blog failure have been women! Be interesting to see if any men feel the same way? Or perhaps do but just don’t express it publicly..?!). It’s also a good point about not making blogging just another a chore – and something that I’ve been quite conscious about since I saw a tweet a while back by Jane Bozarth saying something like: if you have to force yourself to blog, maybe it’s not for you.
      I often think about that. I really enjoy doing it and think it’s really valuable to learning, so it’s certainly not something I think of as a chore, but I DO have a lot of half started / half finished blog posts and ideas floating around in my head that I feel bad about not writing. I need to stop feeling bad about that.
      The other thing I’m going to try is the 20 minute blog post – inspired by Virginia Trovato’s post http://edcmoocblogva.blogspot.com.au/2013/10/20-minute-blog-post-pln-thinking-off.html (and also similar to what you touched on in your post on setting a time limit for writing)
      Because part of the reason I have a lot of half finished posts is because I often spend too long trying to get complete thoughts out. I’ve seen a few other people in #xplrpln do short ‘thoughts-in-progress’ posts (e.g. Maureen Crawford) which I think is a really good way to reflect on what you’re learning without making it a huge thing.

      On Luis Suarez’s post. Heaps to comment on here! I had started reading this a while back when I originally saw the link from Jeff’s blog post, but I had been in transit (on way to work) and was one of those posts I never finished reading. Glad you reminded me of it because the sentiments are certainly ones I can relate to and leaves a lot to think about. A lot of these themes – of how we’re more engaged outside of our work (day jobs) than in it, why, and what can we do about it – have been the subject of conversations I’ve been having with Helen Blunden on G+ and her blog. Part of it is that the whole system is set up to reward individual performance (and thus knowledge hoarding) rather than real meaningful social interaction; and busy work (checking off ‘to dos’ in spreadsheets as Luis says) rather than work that makes a real impact. So, although we DO need to make sure we’re working on ways to integrate what we’re learning from our external PLNs into the work we’re doing within our organisations, to some extent unless the system evolves with us, we might well end up experiencing the burn out and exhaustion that Luis talks about. No easy answers…but hoping to explore some in the coming week!

  2. Maureen Crawford @jmc3ualberta says:

    I feel that I am a writer/poet at heart. One of the things that I have learned is that to be a writer you have to write! Sounds obvious but the clincher is that you have to write enough that you don’t think of your writing as being too precious . . . because then it is hard to do. Of course you also have to be willing to edit ruthlessly!
    Here is one of my poems that speaks to the issue.

    Three Poems
    If you have written three poems in your life
    They are all precious, holy, held.
    They may be the best and only poems
    You ever write.

    But having three careful poems
    Makes writing the forth poem hard,
    Almost impossible.

    Much better to write ninety-three poems and
    Not worry about the ninety-forth
    Being special or great or even worth saving.

    Challenge yourself.
    Write a poem, or two or ten
    A day, every day for a year.

    When you have four hundred
    Poems celebrate
    And think of the joy

    And revelations you have given
    The gift of a poem a day.

    When you have four hundred
    Poems select
    Three, holy, precious, held poems

    Knowing for certain that there
    Will be three more and three more
    And three more as the
    Seasons cycle.

  3. tanyalau says:

    Maureen!!! I love love love that you posted me a poem in reply – this is the most awesomest (yes, I know that’s not really a word, but my elation is such that I’m now babbling) response I have ever had! Poetry is my fave form of writing, so this really makes me heart burstingly happy. And I know exactly what you’re saying. It was in fact Julian Stodd (who pretty much writes daily) who inspired me to start writing a blog – it was always my intention to blog as he does – to test out ideas and capture evolving thoughts. But I’ve never been able to really put the idea into practice. Thanks for pointing out why, and what the solution is! I think I was close to coming to that conclusion after I saw your posting style – short but regular, generally exploring a one idea. This will have to be my ‘try something new’ for this week : )
    Thanks for the inspiration – and poetry. Love!!!

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