Week 3: Exploring technology, networks and communities in the service of work

Introduction to Weeks 3-4

In the first two weeks, we explored different models of learning in networked environments. We’re now shifting our focus to innovative models that impact the way we work or address workplace challenges.

We’ve selected a few models that may help us understand the potential offered by enterprise social networks and open networks:

  • Crowdsourcing
  • Idea Management and Design
  • Communities of Practice
  • Working Out Loud

To start the exploration we’ve created an open Google document that provides a starting point by defining each concept and  providing a list of references and resources. Participants may add to and refine this document over the next two weeks (or more).

The definitions and resources are also provided below under the heading References and Resources.

Where to begin

Begin by scanning the topics and our starter kit of readings and resources (listed below) to see what might be new territory for you and what might be more familiar territory. Note: You do not need to read all of the recommendations. None are compulsory. These are recommendations to help you get started along one of two options for blogging and discussion.

Option 1: Explore a model that is new to you. Write a post or start a discussion about what you see as the most innovative features of that model.

Option 2: This is for participants who have experience with one or more of these models. Based on your experience, what are the subtleties that novices overlook or under appreciate about any one (or more) of these models? Some potential questions to explore:

  • What makes a community a community? And a community a community of practice?
  • What is the experience of “working out loud” really like? How do you sustain the effort?
  • What really motivates individuals to contribute ideas to internal idea banks? To open calls for ideas (such as Open IDEO)? How do you inspire contributors to provide their best thinking – knowing that the is only a small chance their idea may be among the “winners?”

Option 3: Let’s leverage our networks to answer some of the questions above – especially where our own experiences may be lacking. Who in our networks can help us better understand the nuances of these concepts?

Post your thoughts on either option during the next 7-10 days on your blog and/or MSLOC430 Enterprise Social Networking and/or via Twitter.

Contribute to the shared Google Document

You may contribute to creating the shared document at any time.

Help us plan Twitter chat(s)

During week 4 (which begins Monday, Feb. 16) we would like to host at least one Twitter chat to share what we’ve learned, what potentials we see for the ideas we explore, and how we might innovate using them. If you are interested in leading a Twitter chat, comment on this post in our Google+ Community. Our goal is to do chats at one or more times to help us include a global audience.

Schedule Summary

For weeks 3-4:

  • Feb. 9 – Feb. 20 – Blogging and discussion to explore models of learning in networked environments. What are the defining features of each? What subtleties might novices miss?
  • Feb. 16 – Next weekly update (via this blog)
  • Week of Feb 16 – Twitter chats? At #msloc430
  • Feb. 19 – Feb. 24 – Final effort to complete the shared document.

References and resources


Our starting point for exploring crowdsourcing as an innovation is the work of Daren Brabham, an assistant professor at USC Annenberg. Brabham is author of a short book from the MIT Essential Knowledge series – Crowdsourcing – that summarizes his research into the history of the concept, case studies and uses.

In his book Brabham outlines the key ingredients of crowdsourcing to be:

  1. An organization that has a task that needs to be performed
  2. A community (crowd) that is willing to perform the task voluntarily
  3. An online environment that allows the work to take place and the community to interact with the organization, and
  4. Mutual benefit for the organization and the community. (Brabham, 2013)

Brabham is also one of several academics who have made an attempt to define crowdsourcing by categorizing its different uses. Brabham’s typology consists of four general types:

  • Knowledge discovery and management
  • Distributed human intelligence tasking
  • Broadcast search
  • Peer-vetted creative production

Each type outlines one way of thinking about what crowdsourcing is (and is not). Brabham further defines a decision tree based on his typology to help practitioners decide what type of crowdsourcing model might be appropriate for their situation.

Daren Brabham video overview of crowdsourcing: http://youtu.be/GSjG82ZPb_4

Brabham typology definition: https://essentialcrowdsourcing.wordpress.com/overview/

Brabham decision tree: https://essentialcrowdsourcing.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/a-crowdsourcing-decision-tree/

Blog post covering Brabham’s 2013 conference presentation (International Association for Public Participation). The full slide set adds further details to the decision tree and typology:


Brabham book: http://mitpress.mit.edu/books/crowdsourcing

Idea Management and Design

For this exploration we are looking at a couple of concepts that are combined in an innovative way by Open IDEO.

The first set of concepts includes “idea management,” idea markets and idea banks. For our purposes let’s define this set of concepts as anything that helps solve the problem of finding and filtering through new ideas by leveraging technology to reach a diverse set of contributors. Contributors could be within an organization, outside of it, or both.

One way to look at idea management/markets is to break it down into two key components:

  • Sourcing – who contributes ideas, and how do you collect them
  • Filtering – how do you evaluate ideas to find the most promising or innovative.

Technology and networks allows the possibility of sourcing ideas from a large number of contributors. The value of this approach is the benefit gained from diverse thinking and heuristics. The challenge, however, is how to successfully filter a large set of ideas to find the one(s) that may be most promising (to address a problem) and/or innovative solutions. Approaches include using expert panels, open voting, creating “markets” in which ideas are traded and valued like stocks – or some combination of these three (Soukhoroukova et al, 2012).

In the Open IDEO case we see examples of open idea sourcing; a combination of voting and expert review to filter ideas; and some instances of these ideas beginning to take shape as actual solutions. As a design effort, Open IDEO allows us to see the full cycle: leveraging the network for ideas that eventually turn into something tangible.

For example, see the case of the Open IDEO challenge to address this question: How might we create healthy communities within and beyond the workplace? The challenge:

  • Generated 333 contributions in the “Inspirations” stage, which led to
  • 240 actual ideas in the “Concepting” stage.
  • A shortlist of 20 ideas was then created via voting (“Applause”)
  • The 20 shortlisted ideas were refined by the community and then evaluated by the community using factors such as viability and impact.
  • The evaluations were then considered as part of the final evaluation by the sponsors of the challenge. Out of this evaluation, 10 winning ideas were selected.

The same process plays out for many different challenges: A sponsoring organization poses a big challenge. A network of contributors generates ideas. The ideas are filtered and refined by the network. And a final selection is made through some combination of evaluation input from the network and from a panel of experts or key stakeholders. Impact of completed challenges is recorded in the Open IDEO Impact Book.

Open IDEO home: https://openideo.com/

Open IDEO challenges: https://openideo.com/challenge

Open IDEO Impact Book: https://openideo.com/content/impact

Case studies of internal idea management efforts from the Management Innovation eXchange:


Academic references:

Soukhoroukova, A., Spann, M., & Skiera, B. (2012). Sourcing, Filtering, and Evaluating New Product Ideas: An Empirical Exploration of the Performance of Idea Markets. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 29(1), 100–112. doi:10.1111/j.1540-5885.2011.00881.x

Lauto, G., Valentin, F., Hatzack, F., & Carlsen, M. (2013). Managing front-end innovation through idea markets at Novozymes: idea markets stimulate creativity and enable recombination of existing knowledge in large corporations. Research-Technology Management, 56(4), 17+.

Communities of Practice

Communities of Practice (CoPs) could have easily been categorized in our exploration as  technology and communities in the service of learning rather than in the service of work. It clearly bridges both. CoPs can be emergent – evident “in the wild” – as structures for practitioners to become practitioners in a specific domain of practice. CoPs can also be instrumental – efforts that are intentionally designed to support the on-going development of a specific domain of work practice.

It may be most helpful in our exploration of CoPs – and the role of technology in supporting CoPs or allowing the development of entirely virtual CoPs – to begin by understanding what makes a community of practice according to Etienne Wenger, who created the concept of CoPs with collaborator Jean Lave.

Wenger provides an overview of the concept Introduction to Communities of Practice. He also describes the history of the concept and its essential elements in Communities of Practice and Social Learning Systems: Career of a Concept (download the full paper from this page). This is a long read – but among the key ideas are the five disciplines of learning partnership described on page 12.

Key questions to explore are: What makes a community a community? And what makes a community a community of practice?

Case studies also provide insights into how this concept is currently used in ways that leverage enterprise social networks or open networks. Two case examples may be

The United Nations Development Programme Community of Practice Guide defines the concept and effective practices based on the U.N.’s extensive experience in utilizing the concept.

A Model for Evaluating eXtension Communities of Practice addresses the development of CoPs at eXtension – an interactive, online learning environment delivering knowledge from land-grant universities across the U.S. – and a model for evaluating their role in meeting the organization’s goals.

Etienne Wenger – Introduction to Communities of Practice: http://wenger-trayner.com/theory/

Etienne Wenger – Communities of Practice and Social Learning Systems: Career of a Concept


Definition of communities from CommunityRoundtable


The United Nations Development Programme Community of Practice Guide
A Model for Evaluating eXtension Communities of Practice

Working Out Loud

“Working out loud” according to John Stepper, who is publishing a book on the topic:

“Working Out Loud starts with making your work visible in such a way that it might help others. When you do that – when you work in a more open, connected way – you can build a purposeful network that makes you more effective and provides access to more opportunities.”

Working out loud emerges from the possibilities created by the existence of enterprise social networks and open networks. So our exploration of this concept starts with those enthusiasts who are not only defining the concept but living it as well.

Working Out Loud website and community

The Five Elements of Working Out Loud (John Stepper)

Working Out Loud Circle Guide

Stowe Boyd interview with Jane Bozarth


Week 1: Exploring technology, networks and communities in the service of learning

Time to start. This is the opening post for the full open section of #msloc430 as well as for the two-week exploration of networked learning innovations. Let’s cover a few things:

  • How we’ll organize throughout the six weeks
  • Some tips for success
  • An introduction to Weeks 1-2
  • Readings and resources for Weeks 1-2

These same items (except readings and resources) are addressed in the video in a bit more detail.

How we’ll organize during #msloc430

How to Participate and Topics and Schedule offer an overview. But keep in mind that we are generally organizing around a few tools and spaces – both for course updates and to help guide our learning.

Updates and general organizing

We’ll use this blog, the MSLOC430 Enterprise Social Networking Google+ Community and Twitter for course logistics, updates, suggesting recommended readings and topics for discussion.

On Monday (U.S.) at the start of each week we’ll post an update on this blog with guidance, suggested activities, updated schedules and references. The blog post will be cross-posted to MSLOC430 Enterprise Social Networking and shared on Twitter using the #msloc40 hashtag.

During the week we’ll use both Twitter and MSLOC430 Enterprise Social Networking to share resources and discussions.

The basic tools for participating

We’re starting out by focusing on four tools: Your own blog, MSLOC430 Enterprise Social Networking, a shared, open Google document and Twitter.

Use your own blog (assuming you have one) to explore the topics of #msloc430. We’ll post questions at the start of each week to help prompt some writing ideas.

Please also share your blog posts in MSLOC430 Enterprise Social Networking (simply sharing a link to your post is fine) and/or by sharing a link on Twitter (use #msloc430 hashtag).

If you do not have a blog you may wish to contribute to discussions via MSLOC430 Enterprise Social Networking.

We’re also asking participants to collaborate to create two shared Google documents – one summarizing what we’ll learn after weeks 1-2 and one summarizing weeks 2-4. Anyone may contribute to the document.

Twitter will be used throughout the week for on-going conversation and sharing. We currently have two planned Twitter chats. The first is on Thursday, Feb. 5. (8-9 pm Central Time). More chat dates and times may be added.

Tips for success

These tips apply for the entire six weeks.

Find your own path through the six weeks. And be comfortable with it. It’s ok to jump in and jump out. Or lurk for awhile. Come to the whole event with a key question or two in mind and let those questions guide you to a path.

Make one commitment: Comment on someone’s blog or discussion post. And make that someone a someone you do not currently know. This is one of the biggest lessons we’ve learned in doing events like this. It all starts by igniting new conversations and relationships.

Try something new. Even a small something.

Introduction to Weeks 1-2

In the first two weeks, we’ll explore different models of learning in networked environments. By “models” we mean something that has a clear enough definition to provide us with an example that we might replicate or follow.

Our starting point is by no means comprehensive. We’ve chosen a few models that will help us compare and contrast defining features and thereby understand each model more clearly. The models include:

  • Networked learning
  • Personal learning networks
  • MOOCs
  • Communities of inquiry

By the end of this two-week segment – Feb. 7 – our goal is to have created our first collaborative Google document. The document will include a brief description of each model and its key defining features as well as a list of references and resources to help all of us dive deeper into each model.

Where to begin

Begin by scanning the topics and our starter kit of readings and resources (listed below) to see what might be new territory for you and what might be more familiar territory. Note: You do not need to read all of the recommendations. None are compulsory. These are recommendations to help you get started along one of two options for blogging and discussion.

Option 1: Explore a model that is new to you. Write a post or start a discussion about what you see as the defining features of that model. For example: What makes a MOOC a MOOC? A personal learning network a personal learning network?

Option 2: This is for participants who have experience with one or more of these models. Based on your experience, what are the subtleties that novices overlook or under appreciate about any one (or more) of these models? For example: What is the magic behind a great cMOOC? Or – where are there blindspots in cMOOCs? The subtleties might deal with either positive or negative aspects of the model.

Post your thoughts on either option during the next 7-10 days on your blog and/or MSLOC430 Enterprise Social Networking and/or via Twitter.

Contribute to the shared Google Document

You may contribute to creating the shared document at any time. Starting Feb. 5, we’ll start to put more energy into completing a good first version by Feb. 10.

Join the Twitter chat

Thursday, 8-9 pm Central Time (U.S.) at hashtag #msloc430

Schedule Summary

For weeks 1-2:

  • Jan. 25 – Feb. 5 – Blogging and discussion to explore models of learning in networked environments. What are the defining features of each? What subtleties might novices miss?
  • Feb. 2 – Next weekly update (via this blog)
  • Feb 5 – Twitter chat 8-9 pm Central Time (U.S.) Hashtag #msloc430
  • Feb. 5 – Feb. 10 – Final effort to complete the shared document.

References and resources

The references and resources listed here are not compulsory readings. They are a starter kit. Browse through and find something that helps you get started on your own preferred path. Let it lead you someplace.

You may know of other great references or resources. Add them to the shared document covering the topics for weeks 1-2. We sincerely hope to build out an open list of resources that have helped all of us wrap our minds around these topics.

(Many thanks to Ess Garland and Maureen Crawford for their significant contributions to this list)

Networked learning

Downes, S. (2014, Sept 5. The Challenges and Future of Networked Learning (Slideshare). Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net/Downes/2014-09-05-the-challenges-and-future-of-networked
Synopsis: Useful overview of meaning and how Networked Learning works with further references (a few don’t link) as well as challenges ahead and useful questions for reflection at the end.

Gorbis, M. (2013, March). The future of education eliminates the classroom, because the world is your class.

Connected learning: Reimagining the experience of education in the information age. http://connectedlearning.tv/connected-learning-principles

International Conference on Networked Learning – Conference Proceedings 2014 http://www.networkedlearningconference.org.uk/info/confpapers.htm
Synopsis: The International Conference on Networked Learning is a gathering of academic researchers that began in 1998. The link is to the latest conference proceedings. The site also includes past proceedings. This is shared more as a general resource than as a specific “reading” for #msloc430.

Personal learning networks

Howard Rheingold interview with Shelly Terrell re: PLNs: http://dmlcentral.net/blog/howard-rheingold/shelly-terrell-global-netweaver-curator-pln-builder
LaLonde, C. (2009, October).
Synopsis: Both of these articles provide history of usage of the term, basic definitions, and examples.

Couros, A. (2010). Developing personal learning networks for open and social learning. Emerging Technologies in Distance Education. Retrieved from http://www.aupress.ca/books/120177/ebook/06_Veletsianos_2010-Emerging_Technologies_in_Distance_Education.pdf
Synopsis: Illustration from the author’s experience of a PLN in a learning environment, definitions and history of PLN’s from a theoretical perspective and practical pointers to establishing your own.

Rajagopal, K., Brinke, D. J., Bruggen, J. V., & Sloep, P. B. (2011). Understanding personal learning networks: Their structure, content and the networking skills needed to optimally use them. First Monday, 17(1). http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3559/3131
Synopsis: Provides an overview of research into PLNs and proposes a model to define personal learning networks.

Seaman, A. (2013). Knowledge sharing as a democracy. Hybrid Pedagogy. (Blog). Retrieved from http://www.hybridpedagogy.com/journal/personal-learning-networks-knowledge-sharing-democracy/
Synopsis: Makes a case for PLN’s, defines them with a brief history and describes them ending with a useful way to start to build one.


Bates, T. (2014, October 12). What is a MOOC? http://www.tonybates.ca/2014/10/12/what-is-a-mooc/
Bates, T. (2014, October 12). Comparing xMOOCs and cMOOCs: Philosophy and Practice. http://www.tonybates.ca/2014/10/13/comparing-xmoocs-and-cmoocs-philosophy-and-practice/
Bates, T. (2014, November 21). A ‘starter’ bibliography on MOOC’s. Retrieved from http://www.tonybates.ca/2014/11/21/a-starter-bibliography-on-moocs/
Synopsis: Each of these blog posts is a chapter-in-progress for Bates’ open book “Teaching in a Digital Age” http://opentextbc.ca/teachinginadigitalage/

Cormier (2010) Success in a MOOC video. http://youtu.be/r8avYQ5ZqM0
Synopsis: Short video outlining how to participate in a MOOC by one of the originators of the model.

Jacoby, J. (2014). The disruptive potential of Massive Open Online Courses: A literature review. Retrieved from http://journals.akoaotearoa.ac.nz/index.php/JOFDL/article/viewFile/214/168
Synopsis: Interesting from a higher education perspective. Particularly helpful from “Key Issues” in identifying further emergent classifications of MOOCs and history.

Seimens, G. (2012, June 3). What is the theory that underpins our MOOCs. Retrieved from http://www.elearnspace.org/blog/2012/06/03/what-is-the-theory-that-underpins-our-moocs/
Synopsis: Developer of first MOOCs discusses differences between Connectivist MOOCs and MOOC’s promoted by learning platforms such as Coursera. Outlines theory underpinning Connectivist MOOC’s,.

Vetting Wolf, T. (2014, April). The growing potential of MOOCs. http://traceevettingwolf.weebly.com/blog/the-growing-potential-of-moocs
Synopsis: Some thoughts on the design of a cMOOC.

Community of Inquiry

Anderson, A. , Butler, R., Kyle, N., & Wess, Y. (2014). Community of Inquiry (Video file). Retreived from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7MHPxIU27E
Synopsis: Simple presentation based upon referenced research outlines Community of Inquiry model and how it works in a learning environment. (Cartoon in the middle was bit jumpy for me?)

Community of Inquiry: https://coi.athabascau.ca/coi-model/
Synopsis: Website providing a reference point for description and research on the model.

Swan, K., Garrison, D & Richardson J. (2009). A constructivist approach to online learning: The community of inquiry framework. In Payne, C. (Ed.) Information Technology and Constructivism in Higher Education: Progressive Learning Frameworks. Hershey, PA: IGI Global. Retrieved from http://www.academia.edu/398997/A_Constructivist_Approach_to_Online_Learning_The_Community_of_Inquiry_Framework
Synopsis: Downloadable chapter presents the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework of online learning as the interaction between and amongst three presences: social, cognitive and teaching.

The next thing: Learning and Change

Exploring PLNs: Practical Issues for Organizations was a wonderful 5-week adventure. Now, of course, we want to do more. Who wouldn’t want to, after all of the positive, encouraging remarks from our participants?

We’ve started by opening up a new Google+ Community called Learning and Change. We invite you to join. Our presence on Twitter (#xplrpln and other hashtags) and here on this blog also will continue, with an expanded focus.

The new Learning and Change community is designed to allow us to continue exploring the questions and issues we considered during #xplrpln — and we have created three additional topic categories that are of interest to us as we explore the intersection of learning and change, and how best to prepare organizational leaders and learners for the future.

Much like how we started #xplrpln, these topic categories are driven by questions we think are worth exploring together:

Networked Learning. This is the community category under which we will continue to explore personal learning networks and other forms of digital networked learning (MOOCs, virtual communities, communities-of-practice, etc.) as they apply to workplaces.

Designing for Change. This is both about the designed thing (workplace practices, systems, spaces) and understanding how the design process may impact how we approach continuous change. How does “design thinking” help us create more sustainable approaches to workplace learning and change challenges?

Learning and Strategy. How do we rethink the relationship between “learning” and an organization’s capability to both develop and execute strategy (or mission)? At the macro level, the relationship between individuals and their workplaces continues to change (e.g., contingent work force, knowledge workers who are more tied to their profession than the organization, etc.). “Learning” as a field of practice also is evolving. What does this mean to the relationship between learning and strategy?

Horizon Watching. What else is out there – new trends, emerging practices or modes – to which we should pay attention? In our Conference Board Future Leaders Conference presentation, we made the point that we should be looking ahead not only to Web 3.0, but preparing for Web Whatever.0 as the constantly evolving learning landscape is difficult to predict.

Of course, these questions simply help us create a starting point. Through our new, expanded community and on-going sharing via Twitter and blogs, our intention is to identify a more focused topic or question that would draw enough interest to convene another open, online seminar modeled after #xplrpln.

Why? Because we like the adventure.

Many thanks again to everyone who participated in #xplrpln!

Jeff Merrell & Kimberly Scott

Week 5: A call to the full community to crystallize our thinking (well, at least for the moment)

We’ve reached our final week. It’s been a great, engaging learning journey for us. And what we mean by “us” is all of us – from the lurkers (“samplers?”), to the well-intended (“I wanted to participate more but…”), and to the intrepid #xplrpln’ers who are putting the final touches on their case artifacts.

This week we invite all of you — all of you — no matter what level of participation you represent, to help us crystallize our thinking about PLNs and organizations. Our call to the community:

For those of you who complete an artifact in answer to our case problem. We aren’t awarding badges or certificates. But you will become the inaugural members of Kimberly and Jeff’s XPLRPLN Hall of Fame – and recognized on this blog. (We know – pretty amazing isn’t it? Won’t your now-PLN-knowledgable-mothers be proud?).

Seriously we all owe you a round of applause. We invite the community to join us in sharing appreciation visibly in our Google+ Community and on Twitter.

For those of you who do not complete an artifact in answer to our case problem. Share your thinking. Where did you start 5 weeks ago? Where are you now? Make a point of attempting to crystallize your thinking. Commit to a point of view – even if you truly believe there is more to be discussed and you will ultimately modify your point of view.

For everyone. Share your reflections by posting directly to our Google+ community or linking to your blog (or whatever) to the Google+ community.

Post final case artifacts to the category: Final case artifacts

Post all other thinking or reflections to category: Closing reflections


  • Final video broadcast/virtual classroom session at 8 pm Central Time (Chicago) on Tuesday, Nov 5. See the Event notification in the Google+ Community for the link and instructions.
  • Final #xplrpln Twitter Chats at 8 pm Central Time (Chicago) on Wednesday, Nov. 6 and 1 pm Central Time (Chicago) on Thursday, Nov. 7.


  • By Monday, Nov. 4 (preferable – but post when you can), post final case artifacts to the category: Final case artifacts
  • Post all other thinking or reflections to category: Closing reflections

Our Reflections – and a note about continuing community

The “well, at least for the moment” reference in the headline on this blog post is in recognition of two things.

First, we certainly continue to evolve our own thinking about the topic of PLNs and organizations. The topic fascinates us because it raises so many questions and issues about learning, organizations and change that are worth additional exploration. But we find that creating these moments where we must openly reflect – to crystallize our thinking – is one of the most important learning activities in which we can engage. Even if our point of view is modified by “at the moment…”

Second, we are contemplating how we might continue this community. Our plans have always been to make the current Google+ xplrpln community a temporary space. At the conclusion of the seminar (end of next week) we will stop adding new members to our G+ space. The community will remain open to all of you as an archive, and you may certainly re-share content as you wish. However, we will not maintain the current site as an on-going community.

At the same time, we are very interested in building upon the conversations started here and sharing resources, research, and inviting new voices into the network. Another (different) on-going Google+ Community that is more broadly scoped (networked learning and beyond) seems appropriate. Help us think through this. What would be valuable to you? Please share your ideas in a post on our #xplrpln G+ Community Closing Reflections space.

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