Week 4: Articulating Our Point-of-View on PLNs

cross roads

We’ve arrived.

After hundreds of posts and comments, more than 2200 Tweets, dozens of new-things-tried, it’s time to start crafting our responses to The Problem:

Your CEO (or equivalent organizational leader) just heard about PLNs at a cocktail party and is excited about gaining a competitive advantage (or improving impact on mission) by leveraging PLNs for the organization’s success. But, she/he knows little about PLNs or what to do with them to support organizational success and strategy. Is the organization set up to benefit from and support PLNs, so it is more than just an individual thing? She/he is going away on vacation for one week, and upon return wants you to explain what PLNs are and to provide guidance for what to do. You have a one-hour meeting to facilitate a conversation.

Our challenge for this week: What would your response be – for your specific audience? Advocating for PLNs is not the only possible path here. We encourage critical thinking about this problem. And, what would you prepare (briefing document, visual, talking points) to make your case?


  • There will be no live video broadcast/virtual classroom session this week – but we will post a short recorded version before Tuesday, Oct. 29. A link to the recorded session will be posted in both the Problem: Case for PLNs? category in our Google+ community as well as the new Archive: Video and Chats category.
  • #xplrpln Twitter Chats at 8 pm Central Time (Chicago) on Wednesday, Oct. 30 and 1 pm Central Time (Chicago) on Thursday.
  • Your final artifact should be posted to the Google+ Community Final case artifacts category by no later than Monday, Nov. 4.


This is the week that we begin crafting a final artifact that helps you explain your case to your leader. We are looking for something succinct – a 1-page position paper, a visual or infographic, a short video – something you would be confident presenting to your leader. However, we also would like you to use your blogs or the Google+ community to give us some background and insight into your thinking behind your artifact. Who is your audience? What would you say to your leader as you are sharing your artifact? Why did you choose this approach for your leader/organization? What are your lingering concerns or questions?

Three things will prove useful for this week:

Making sure you have a clear vision of your audience. Who specifically is the audience for your case? Our problem scenario focuses on an individual leader in your organization. Who exactly is that person, in your case? We don’t need to know real names and identities – please do fictionalize your scenario. But it may help to think about a real individual, or a composite of leaders you’ve worked with in the past.

We also know that some of you are thinking about a case for PLNs that would be appropriate for larger professional communities, or for situations that are not clearly “in” a single organization. Spend some time getting clear about a realistic scenario in which you might be making a case to these larger communities. Giving a talk at a conference? Sharing your thinking with a key group of thought-leaders? Be explicit enough about your specific audience so that you can actually visualize the situation.

Nancy Duarte (author of Resonate and slide:ology) offers effective ways to focus on audience. The article The Presenter as Mentor  summarizes many of her insights.

Working together on common organizational contexts. This is an idea we proposed earlier this week and several of you already have started exploring collaborating on ideas for common contexts – libraries, higher education, large corporate environments, not-for-profits. Consider using the Google+ Community category Problem: Case for PLNs as your space for thinking out-loud in your groups. For example: Start a discussion post on your area of interest and use the comment thread to share ideas, links, etc. If you instead choose to use some other space (your blogs, example) to share ideas – post a link to your thinking in the Problem: Case for PLNs category so that your thinking becomes visible to the entire community.

Decide on a format for your final artifact. This is really a two-part challenge. First, decide what type of artifact would fit the audience scenario you choose – but we also encourage you to focus on something that would truly be useful to you in your professional work. Some ideas:

  • A 1-page document, including visuals.
  • A visual representation of your case – a framework, model, or one-page infographic. See A Darn Good One Page Summary of Good Boss, Bad Boss for a great example.
  • A concept map or mind-map
  • A short video – you simply explaining our case, or for the more adventurous, a video narration using visuals (see the Dave Cormier video on success in a MOOC as an example)
  • A few slides you would use for your presentation

The second challenge is in deciding what tool to use. Our guiding rule is this: Just make sure it is something that can be easily shared (via link) in our Google+ Community. Some ideas:

  • Craft your case in a Google doc or presentation. This is especially helpful if you collaborate with others on creating your artifact.
  • Create a presentation and share it via Slideshare
  • Collaborate on a concept map using Cmap Tools
  • Post your video on YouTube

During the week, we encourage you to share your ideas on fun tools to try out, as well.


  • Watch the Week 4 video  (posted by Tuesday, Oct. 29)
  • Participate in one of the two Twitter chats (Wednesday edition or Thursday edition)
  • Make your thinking visible – individually or in groups – by posting to the Google+ Community category Problem: Case for PLNs
  • Post your final artifact by Monday, Nov. 5 to the Google+ Community category Final case artifacts (In our final video broadcast and final week of the seminar, we will reflect on the output and try to draw insights from our work)


We designed this seminar with the intention of inspiring new connections and to benefit from the learning that emerges from thinking out loud with each other. Our approach was to create a safe, open space for reflection, for interaction, for trying something new. For many of us, this has come true.

It’s certainly proof of something – that a group of self-directed learners, who don’t really know each other, can come together and energetically unpack a complicated, ambiguous issue. What have you learned as a result? We look forward to unpacking that together too during the next two weeks. What we experienced here so far may be viewed as the building or maintaining activities described by Rajagopal et al in our Week 2 readings. Some of us may become a part of each others’ PLNs and choose to activate meaningful, learning relationships.

We eagerly await your answers to the questions that led the two of us (Kimberly and Jeff) to initiate this venture. How can organizations provide a landscape where PLNs can openly thrive, to the mutual benefit of both individuals and the organization? Is this even possible, or do we need to look elsewhere? And ultimately – Did your #xplrpn experiences help you achieve the goals you created when you set out on this open online journey?

photo credit: Julia Manzerova via photopin cc