Week 3: PLNs and Organizations

As we head into our third week of our Exploring PLNs online seminar, we continue to define and redefine PLNs for ourselves–and for our mothers, CEOs, principals, or another significant person who might be interested in understanding what they are. Within our Google+ Community, our Twitter Chats, and participant blogs, we’ve debated whether and how to put boundaries around the concept of PLNs. This discussion will continue into the next week when we layer on this consideration: What would it look like for an organization to somehow “adopt” PLNs (or some aspect of them) as part of its innovation, learning or knowledge sharing strategy? Would this be a good idea, or a bad idea? Would it even be possible given the barriers that we likely would encounter?

To facilitate a debate about these questions, we believe it will be helpful for us to first think about how an organizational “implementation of PLNs” (not something we’ve yet seen or heard of happening) might be similar to other types of learning and development initiatives that have been used by organizations. For example, one can imagine such an intervention being similar to implementing an Enterprise 2.0/social technology platform within an organization, or an organizational redesign to facilitate sharing across networks, or introducing communities of practice, or rolling out formal mentoring or an individual development planning process. There may be others that come to your mind, so feel free to share them. What do we know about these types of organizational interventions that might shed some light onto our questions about PLNs? There also are likely to be unique challenges that organizations would face in trying to “leverage” PLNs, so much so that we may decide that it would be a really bad idea to even consider it! This will be the topic of conversation this week. Are you up for it?


  • Video broadcast/virtual classroom session at 8 pm Central Time (Chicago) on Tuesday, Oct. 22. Note that we will continue to use an Adobe Connect meeting room (rather than a Google Hangout on Air) for this session. See the Event notification in the Google+ Community for the link and instructions.
  • #xplrpln Twitter Chats at 8 pm Central Time (Chicago) on Wednesday, Oct. 23 and 1 pm Central Time (Chicago) on Thursday.


This week we have a few items that we ask everyone to read as well as other optional items that you may wish to explore depending on your work context. Our initial readings focus on learning from the organizational change lessons of “Enterprise 2.0” and implementing social collaboration software in enterprises with the goal of inspiring beneficial sharing and networking.

As we noted, however, you can look at how an organizational “implementation of PLNs” might be similar to many other types of learning and development initiatives that have been used by organizations. So look for more optional readings to be shared during the week in our Google+ Community – both from us and from you. Wrapping our brains around the change challenges here is a big task; the more resources we can share from experienced/expert points-of-view, the better.

Readings for the week:

The first two readings come from thought leaders who are immersed in the implementation and use of social, collaboration technology within organizations. These posts share insights into the dark side of social networks and sharing within organizations – power, politics, culture and old routines do not magically disappear in the face of some apparently beneficial innovation. In both of these readings, remember that the authors are in fact evangelists for sharing and social collaboration.

The Wall Street Journal article highlights the typical challenges and guidance commonly provided to organizations thinking about using social collaboration technology within their enterprises.

Optional Readings

The following readings provide additional depth on social networks and information sharing in organizational settings.


  1. Complete the readings from Suarez, Ross and the Wall Street Journal.
  2. Share other PLN readings or resources you discover by posting them in the “PLN Resources” category of our Google+ Community.
  3. Attend the live virtual session on Tuesday at 8 pm Central Time (U.S.) and the Twitter chats on Wednesday at 8 pm Central Time (U.S.) or Thursday at 1 pm Central Time (U.S.)
  4. Write a blog post on your own blog, and/or post your reflections on this week’s topic in the “Barriers to PLNs in Orgs” category of our Google+ Community.
  5. Comment on someone else’s blog post or Google+ Community posting.


By definition, PLNs are personal. As we think about potential practical issues for organizations, let us not forget that an individual’s work to define, create, and maintain a PLN also is similar to an individual’s investment in developing knowledge, skills and abilities. While employers may wish for their employees to openly document and share all they know for the benefit of the organization, including who their key connections are, a PLN is something of value that employees may want to think twice about relinquishing to employers. Consider this example described in a blog post by Prof. Terri Griffith [see Work as a Service–Is there a People Cloud?]. As organizations attempt to create new, nimble ways to structure work and “knowledge workers” adapt to these and other shifts in the global marketplace, can PLNs become a way for employees to maintain their value and secure working conditions that are consistent with their contributions to their organizations?

Next Week

Our plan is to dedicate Week 4 to reflecting on what we have learned and applying those ideas to the problem scenario we’re using to facilitate our learning. Next week we will discuss tools we can use to create an “artifact” for sharing our understanding of PLNs. We also will encourage participants to form groups to work together on creating this artifact, allowing for more connecting and sharing if that is your goal.


Starting Our PLN Journey: Week 1 – Orientation

We have arrived at the official start of our online seminar! The introductions and conversations in our Exploring PLNs Google+ Community have been engaging. If you have not yet joined our learning community, you first need to register for the seminar and then submit your request to join us in Google Plus. We will keep registration open until Oct. 7.

Schedule for Week 1

This week we focus on making introductions and helping those of us who are new to open, online learning understand the flow of the seminar. We want everyone to participate right off the bat, even if it’s just lurking and adding a reply to someone’s post. We have tried to make it easy for everyone to participate in our first exercise, setting learning goals, by creating an online tool to gather and share goals. We are calling this our Open Goal-Setting Forum. Registered participants have (or will) receive an email invitation and link to the goal-setting tool. If you have not received an invitation or if you would like to submit more than one form, please let us know by replying in the Goal Setting Forum section in our Google+ Community.

In addition to the ongoing discussions within our Google+ Community, here is our schedule of learning activities for the week:

  • First virtual Google+ Hangout on Air (video broadcast) session at 8 pm Central Time (Chicago) Tuesday, Oct. 8
  • #xplnchat Twitter Chat at 8 pm Central Time (Chicago) Wednesday, Oct. 9 and 1 pm Central Time (Chicago) Thursday, Oct. 10. (Note that we have added a second Twitter chat time to accommodate different time zones)

Resources for Week 1

With our focus on setting everyone up for a successful learning experience, the main resources for this week are the collaboration tools and instructions for participation in the seminar. See:

We also have shared supplemental resources for those of you who would like to learn more about open online learning design, self-directed learning and other related topics. We’ll be updating this page with new resources throughout the seminar:

Activities for Week 1

  1. If you have not done so already, join our Google+ Community and introduce yourself. Post it to the Introductions category.
  2. Use our goal-setting tool to help focus your learning goals for the seminar. Then keep an eye the Open Goal-Setting Forum to see what types of goals our community is creating.
  3. Most important: Try something new. If you are new to blogging, write a blog post and then share the link in our Google+ Community. Join one of our Twitter chats. Or follow the  on-going Twitter conversation by monitoring the #xplrpln hashtag. Add photos or video to your Google+ introduction to help us visualize where you live or work.

Our Reflections on Week 1

This week we’ll begin building the connections and relationships that may help us all create or expand our own (online) personal learning networks. We’ll do this by participating in the activities – and especially, by trying something new, together. Sharing goals. Experimenting with new tools. Reaching out to people we don’t really know very well and sharing our thoughts about a topic of interest.

But what does it mean, really, to connect like this?

Howard Rheingold (the author of Net Smart) wrote a short blog post in which he interviews Shelly Terrell, an educator who is credited with really accelerating the PLN movement among teachers. Terrell defines PLNs simply as “the people you choose to connect with and learn from” but also refers to them as “passionate learning networks” to get at the pull that draws us into making and maintaining our connections.

We know there are participants in this seminar who span the experience curve on PLNs – learning from an online network of “people we choose to connect with.”

So – what are our stories? As prompts for blog posts, community discussions, Twitter conversations or resource sharing during the week, let’s explore our stories:

  • How has having a PLN (if we do have one) changed the way we learn and practice in our professional fields? What does it mean to us?
  • If we don’t have a PLN – what’s the attraction of it? What pulls us into wanting to make the effort to create one? Or simply just to explore the idea by joining this seminar?

As you post or Tweet – remember please to use the #xplrpln hashtag.

Next Week

Next week is our formal “Introduction to PLNs.” We will share additional readings and references to help us build a broader understanding of PLNs.