Posted by: crumphelen | September 8, 2014

Why Open: a Grand Tour

I know. It’s been a while. Any way, anyone who has followed this blog before the hiatus will know that it’s the place I use to chart and reflect upon my learning, learning that’s mostly occurred in online environments that have the label ‘open’. Indeed, I started this blog as a requirement for POTCert – an open online course. However, what I didn’t realize at the time was that open didn’t just refer to the course access but, to quote Jim Groom, is an ‘ethos’ and, not sure who I’m quoting here, is also ‘a way of being’ too. Because, you see, since agreeing to blog, agreeing in effect to ‘learn in the open’, that’s what I’ve steadily become, I’ve become an open learner, an open practitioner if you like.

why_open

The P2PU online course, Why Open, examines the question of openness, and starts by asking “what do you think ‘openness’ is”? There’s been many answers: access, re-use and re-purposing, sharing, collaboration and transparency etc. but, as I’ve already intimated, for me openness is a ‘way of being'; it’s a way to engage in learning, not just learning that’s visible on the open web, but a way to engage in learning that acknowledges the vulnerability and risk that’s inherent and asks the learner to recognize and embrace this. After all, in order to learn you’ve got to put something ‘out there’, thus exposing your ignorance, your difference, your half-baked understanding, your radical position – whatever. In this sense, openness is also about sharing; it’s about putting something out there for mutual benefit, for learning together.

OK, so seeing as I’ve been greatly shaped by these online open learning experiences, I now want to fully understand the whole notion of open, the range of notions. I’ve heard comments like “the battle for open has been won“. However, it wasn’t me that was doing battle; I’m just lucky enough, and able enough, to reap the spoils. I want to understand open more fully because if, as I’ve just read in Jenny Mackness’ blog, “open is going to become the ‘name of the game’ in education”, then I’d like to be more knowledgeable on the topic, more able to effectively engage in open practices, more able to support open learning and be a more assured and convincing advocate of openness, if open is the appropriate option in the given situation. After all, open is not easily going to be the default mode for everyone. It’s not exactly a walk in the park – learning in the open is complex, risky and emotional; good job it’s also rewarding and fun.

Coming up over the next few months are a raft of good courses that relate to open; I hope to sign up and take a “Grand Tour”.

Why Open? by School of Open on P2PU – Aug 10th to Sept 5th (open archive)

Open Knowledge: Changing the Course of Learning by Stanford Online – Sept 2nd to Dec 12th

Open Research by OER Research Hub on P2PU – Sept 15th to Oct 12th

Connected Courses. Active Co-Learning in Higher Ed. Sept 2nd to Dec 14th

Hopefully, I’ll be a good open learner and share my reflections here.

Image source:Project 365 #303: 301009 Blink And You’ll Miss It!

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Posted by: crumphelen | February 15, 2014

Signals of Success and the EMOOCs Summit #emoocs2014

Earlier this week, I was in Switzerland at the EMOOCs Summit. I was there, along with Paige Cuffe, to present a collaborative paper entitled ‘Signals of Success and Self-directed Learning’. It seemed a little weird at first, considering that this time last year I had barely cut my MOOC teeth (who had?), and I’d certainly never presented at such a conference before or had a paper published (collaborative or otherwise), so testimony to the power and possibilities that MOOCs and open education can afford and, more importantly for this story, testimony to the power of connection for collaboration and ongoing learning that’s now possible in this new era of learning.

Reflecting individually, collectively and openly

Paige Cuffe, Iwona Gniadek, Briar Jamieson, Penny Bentley, Helen Crump and Sheila MacNeill -
“How do learners define success in a MOOC?”

So what’s the story? As you might know, this time last year I participated in OLDSMOOC and you might be forgiven for thinking that once a MOOC has finished that is it that, the learning is over, but not so because via the OLDSMOOC hashtag and other various social networking activities, connections made in the MOOC continued; the true awesomeness of which was realized when, six months after the MOOC, a group of us responded to a tweet from one of the OLDSMOOC design team wondering if anyone was thinking of submitting a paper to the EMOOCs conference. Hey presto, what do you know; spontaneously and enthusiastically out from the internet emerged six individuals to reflect on their learning and to deliberate what success in a MOOC meant to them. You can read the full paper in the conference proceedings here (p.18) and get more of an insight into our back story in the video below:

The premise of our paper is interesting in that it tries to go beyond institutional evaluations and measures of success to offer an alternative perspective to the pervasive discourse about completion rates and dropouts in MOOCs. Hence, in the conference session entitled ‘Dropouts in MOOCs’, I was heartened by the findings presented by Tharindu Rekha Liyanagunawardena that shows that “MOOC participants are challenging the widely held view of dropout, suggesting that it is more about failing to achieve their personal aims”. Yay!!

On the other hand though, I was a little dis-heartened because although there was a session devoted to connectivist style MOOCs at the conference, cMOOCs seemed to be something of a Cinderella topic. Don’t misunderstand me, there were some excellent presentations given pertaining to cMOOCs (Christine Sinclair, p.245 and Jutta Pauschenwien, p.277) but the overarching concerns of the conference seemed to be xMOOC oriented with concerns about platform provision, production quality and costs and the optimum way forward for higher education dominating.

Not that the conference was all about higher education, indeed one of the four tracks was dedicated to business. I’m glad I opted to go to the panel discussion in this track, ‘MOOCs as a training instruments for employees and partners’, because it really was excellent.

The panelists:

  • Donald Clark, Plan-B Learning, UK
  • Ralph Wieser, SWISSCOM, Switzerland
  • Gregor Erkel, Deutsche Telekom, Germany
  • Marcelo Di Pietro Peralta, WIPO, Switzerland
  • Yannis Angelis, Fresenius Kabi, Germany
  • Carl Dawson, Proversity.org, UK

Certain of their application and with a can-do beta attitude, the panelists were very convincing in aligning MOOCs with vocational skills, competency, CPD and lifelong learning for a corporate market, which was in stark contrast to the presentation entitled ‘MOOCs: an alternative perspective’ given by Debra Humphris of Imperial College, London who didn’t really seem to say what purpose MOOCs might serve and whose institutional policy was to go away and formulate a strategy.

It’s widely agreed that MOOCs are a phenomenon of transition, pointing the way to some future landscape of learning. Right now though, the term seems to signal different things to different people with discussion easily conflating learning contexts, learning cohorts and pedagogies for learning.

In the policy track session, ‘Bringing new challenges to Higher Education’, that I attended on the last day, Gerhard Fischer, Center for Lifelong Learning, University of Colorado noted that many reflections on MOOCs seem to be based on economic and technical perspectives rather than on perspectives of learning science. He suggested that in the main MOOCs are currently geared towards ‘learning about’ and to topics for which there is a known answer, as opposed to ‘learning to be’ and when the answer is not yet known.

Overall, I enjoyed the experience of attending the conference and learning something of the flavor and the fervor of MOOC development and debate, but I think what I was struck by the most was that despite the general nod towards social learning there is a real lack of awareness or understanding for learning in networks and distributed learning environments. Attending the conference as just such a learner (or researcher) made me wonder if I belong to a secret sect because so many people seemed oblivious to these developments.

Image source: Davinia Hernández-Leo. https://twitter.com/daviniahl/status/432906051277836288

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Posted by: crumphelen | January 26, 2014

Rhizomatic learning: chaos, provocation and conflation #rhizo14

20140126-141320.jpg

This is something I scribbled during the week, and in this blog post I’ll tell you what I found the answer to be. But, for the sake of tradition though, I’m going to have to start at the beginning.

Chaos abounds in Week 2 of #rhizo14, which I guess is quite befitting of a learning experience concerned with rhizomatic learning. So many conversations distributed across a range of different spaces means that it’s very difficult to follow, keep up, pin down, think, comment and then start to make sense of it, just a small part of it even, and so many conversations speaking from different contexts and entry points. In addition, and just to ensure things stay interesting, provocation has been part of the mix this week too. Firstly with Dave’s initial challenge, and then with blog posts that challenged us to consider the theory associated with rhizomatic learning (Deleuze and Guattari, 1980) or drop the rhizomic prefix altogether.

Yes, the challenge: “explore a model of enforced independence. How do we create a learning environment where people must be responsible? How do we assure ourselves that learners will self-assess and self-remediate?”

Now there’s a loaded paradoxical phrase to unpack and get your teeth into – enforced independence!! The language is provocative, possibly unnecessarily so. Hitherto, the phrase I’ve associated with rhizomatic learning is “make learners responsible for their own learning”, which is getting at the same thing. Isn’t it? Well to start, for an effective learner, independence isn’t the only stance to learning that they need – what about dependence and interdependence? On this point, Catherine Nardi’s post is particularly illuminating. Even then, going back to the phrase “make learners responsible for their own learning”, doesn’t that imply that learners have to be coerced and that “taking responsibility” doesn’t come naturally. Well, I’m not sure that’s necessarily the case. Perhaps thinking more in terms of “allowing” learners to take responsibility would be more beneficial because to a large extent, learners aren’t really “allowed” to take responsibility for their own learning, are they? I’ve been thinking about my learning history and how I came to be a relatively effective lifelong learner. I have to agree with Scott Johnson’s sentiment that because school is “so deliberately generic” being a lifelong learner is something you just have to take on personally; apart from an innate desire to explore, this for me has always stemmed from contradictions between what I was told and what I experienced. Madhura Pradhan says something similar in her delightful blog post too.

“One way to feel independent or to assert your independence is to take charge and break out of the mould and you can only do that when you are uncomfortable or in a situation that demands you to stand out and voice your opinion”.

To permit “responsibility” and enable learners to assert their independence, it seems to me (and to a few others) that schools, or any formal learning context, would do well to not only encourage learners to pursue their passion, but to honour their unique experiences and to give them voice. But such a move would in turn necessitate a conversation about assessment, wouldn’t it? Yes, and wouldn’t it be great to have such a conversation and consider the benefits of such varieties as peer assessment, self assessment and ipsative assessment and how these might help learners to self-assess and self-remediate.

That’s what my short ruminating on the question has come up with anyway. However, it doesn’t tell half the story of the head scratching, mind blowing, obfuscating, illuminating yet ultimately nourishing learning conversations that I’ve been exposed to in #rhizo14 this week.

I think the main reason I found this week intense was not only because there were so many different angles, or experiences, of learning being brought to the table, but also because of a nagging feeling that the discussion was at heart conflating something. So how glad was I then when an old post by Bonnie Stewart from #change11 surfaced and I found her declaring that “we conflate learning and schooling”. That’s it! Indeed we do.

The post was also magic for me in that it helped calm the chaos that had been symptomatic at the start of the week (maybe symptomatic of the start of every week in #rhizo14, what with “detonator Dave” and his provocations). Anyway, it helped me (as per the title of Bonnie’s post) to see more clearly what rhizomatic learning is actually about and what rhizomes are good for, which is kind of ironic because as Bonnie points out, it’s not about seeing learning more clearly; it’s about seeing it differently.

References: Stewert, B. (2011) The rhizomatic learning lens & what rhizomes are good for. Accessed at: http://theory.cribchronicles.com/2011/11/09/the-rhizomatic-learning-lens-what-rhizomes-are-good-for

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Rhizomatic learning, an open course with Dave Cormier, started on P2PU this week (or is that last week now?). Actually, it seemed to start before the course was officially launched because there was a real flurry of activity appearing beforehand in my inbox via Facebook and Google+ notifications and alerts, which didn’t let up once the course got going either. Such is the interest in this topic. Any way, I didn’t have time to check in to the course right away and find the content or the discover the task at hand but I was getting the gist via the conversation and postings in the channels mentioned above (oh and via the #rhizo14 hash tag on Twitter, of course), so that’s the reason for the sequence of my reflection here.

Metaphors

Firstly, I was struck by the dominance of the the rhizome metaphor within the initial discussion, and what plants are in fact rhizomatic (rhubarb, ginger, licorice…). Hardly surprising, I hear you cry; the clue’s in the title. However, that’s the botanical metaphor associated with rhizomatic learning; it’s the metaphor for “the learning process”. But what I’m interested to learn more about, what’s drawn me in (see previous blog post), is the anthropological metaphor that’s associated with rhizomatic learning; the nomad as metaphor for “a rhizomatic learner”; this is how Dave explains it:

The nomad is trying to do what I call ‘learning’. Not the recalling of facts, the knowing of things or the complying with given objectives, but getting beyond those things. Learning for the nomad is the point where the steps in a process go away.

It’s what Wynton Marsalis calls ‘being the thing itself’.

Nomads make decisions for themselves. They gather what they need for their own path.

And
In order to create an educational system that allows for nomads we can’t measure for a prescribed outcome.

All of this resonates with me completely. I feel rhizomatic. As such, I’m really keen to explore this further.

Synergies

Also, I’d like to explore the relationship and/or similarities between Rhizomatic Learning and Heutagogy (self-determined learning). At this point I was grateful to Penny Bentley for asking in the Facebook group, “is there a difference between Rhizomatic Learning and Connected Learning?” Dave Cormier replied by saying that there’s “overlap” but rhizomatic learning is “messier”. Thanks. However, the handy part about the conversation was the mind map posted by Adeline Wall Avril (see below) as it illustrates that a core purpose of rhizomatic learning is to “make learners responsible for their own learning”. So, yes, there’s plenty of fruitful synergies to explore here.

Read More…

Posted by: crumphelen | December 27, 2013

2013, a year on the global learning commons.

Do you have books just lying around on your Kindle, clicked and downloaded back in the mists of time because they seemed to have something important to say then forgotten, or simply left upstream as the river of information kept on flowing passed? I thought you might, so have I (quite a few actually). Well, an airport lounge always affords the opportunity to paddle back and take a look; this is how, as I embarked on my Christmas travels, I came to read “Open: how we’ll work, live and learn in the future” by David Price and subsequently came to put this blog post together as a kind of end of year review.

Although the New York Times might have labeled 2012 the “year of the MOOC”, for me it was most definitely 2013, just take a look at my blog posts. I think I participated in 8 or 10 altogether, at least half of which I either completed or participated in to a large extent. However, I don’t think I’d like to remember the year as just being synonymous with MOOCs. After all, I was active in many online communities as well as kept busy attending to my personal learning network, so I’d rather like to think of 2013 as the year that I discovered the “global learning commons”. But what do I mean? According to the author of the aforementioned book, the global learning commons is something that

encompasses the ‘ecology’ of learning: the relationships we have with each other; the creation of an hospitable habitat for learning; how we cultivate the evolution of learning in communal, social environments, [and] transfer it successfully to others.

I like this idea because it gets away from what’s become almost ceaseless noise about MOOCs and their platforms/sponsors to put the spotlight firmly on learning (three cheers!!). That is, learning across a variety of environments in which open is a fundamental feature, learning that’s personally driven by passion and/or purpose and open in the sense of not just open access but in the sense of open values and actions too. In truth though, this notion is quite contentious because openness signifies the battle being fought for the control of knowledge (hence, the reference to the commons with its historical connotations and its antithesis, the enclosure); the idea also signifies a switch in thinking from teaching to learning, or pedagogy to heutagogy, which is equally contentious.

Medieval_Open_Field_System

Medieval Open Field and Common Land System

Shaping how we interact online in the global learning commons, where collaborative participation abounds, are four inter-connected and consequential values making up the acronym SOFT: share, open, free and trust. Sharing appeals to people’s sense of altruism; they freely share with no sense of return other than maybe a little recognition, which in turn encourages reciprocity and requires that we’re open. Free can mean many things, but the notions that sit best with me here are “free to roam”, wherever your passion/purpose takes you, and “free to fail”. Trust is best thought of as “in ourselves we trust”, which gets us away from the plethora of institutions that we’ve recently lost trust in and away from the “command and control” mindset of the industrial era.

It’s these values and actions that are thought set to become increasingly important because they allow knowledge to flow freely and quickly, facilitate collaboration and in turn promote innovation. Looking back over my own participation for the year, I can certainly vouch that these values, actions and outcomes are to the fore in the informal social learning environments that I’ve been engaged in. And what’s more, it’s the learner that’s calling the shots. However, this shift is largely being experienced not in education or the workplace but in individuals’ social space. It’s true. Using my experience “in the new learning landscape” and telling of my learning journey “beyond the walled garden“, I’ve presented at a couple of education conferences this year and both presentations clearly illustrate this. In addition, I’ve recently collaborated, as part of a small international group, on a paper that’s been accepted for the European MOOC Summit in Switzerland in February, which again is proof of new and innovative things that can happen in open environments, or the global learning commons. I’ll blog about this at a later date, maybe after the conference, because it’s been an interesting learning experience, one that none of the group had prior experience of or that none of us could’ve have been prepared for, not in the management/logistics of the endeavor nor in its potential for cooperative learning.

So now, with all this in mind, it kind of begs the question of me, “so now you know (about the global learning commons, or learning in open online environments), what are you going to do about it?” This is the “transfer it successfully to others” bit that was mentioned in the quote above. Good question. Because like I said earlier, this is happening in the informal social space; I’m not a big shot in higher education (just a limpet on the underside), I’ve not had anything to do with learning in the workplace for over a decade and in the day job I teach adults that education didn’t do right by the first time and that “accidents of geography” now similarly place on the wrong side of the digital divide.

Looks like that’s the challenge for 2014. I’ll keep you posted.

Image source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_England_in_the_Middle_Ages

References: Price, David (2013). OPEN: How we’ll work, live and learn in the future. Crux Publishing. Kindle Edition.

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This appears to be an interesting bonus that has come my way. Last week, or rather the week before because I got held up finishing this post, a tweet forwarded on by my PLN notified me of a webinar run by Jenny Mackness and SCoPE that was shortly getting under way, “what is emergent learning? why is it relevant?“. Not a topic that I know much about, only that it had been recommended by my PLN and that I happened to be free at the given time – so why not!!

It transpired that this would be the first of two webinars. In the first one we’d be introduced to the concept of emergent learning and in the second we’d be shown how to draw a footprint identifying the mix of emergent and prescribed learning experienced within a particular learning event.

Emergent learning being defined as:

“learning that happens when a large number of self-organising people interact frequently, in an adaptive, open environment, with considerable degrees of freedom and minimal constraints; no individual can see the whole picture; agents and system co-evolve”.

That being the case, it immediately put me in mind of the learning experience I’d just had in the open online seminar, Exploring Personal Learning Networks, because I have to say that some of the learning I experienced there was probably some of the most challenging I’ve faced in a long time, possibly ever! So yes, I’d definitely be interested to try and map a footprint of that. Footprints can be used to map not only the learning experience but the design intentions also. They’re also time contextual, so they can be drawn as a series over time by an individual.

So what is a footprint? With complex learning environments in mind, they aim to represent the pedagogy and design elements of a course in an easily accessible and visual way. The footprint is developed around a series of circles with the more structured, prescribed part of the learning experience towards the center, and the more “emergent” self-directed, connectivist elements towards the outside, and beyond which is “chaos”. The white shaded area represents what’s seen as the “sweet spot” for emergent learning.

from the centre out: prescribed learning > emergent learning > chaos

from the center out: prescribed learning > emergent learning> chaos

The series of circles are divided into four areas:

  1. Open/Structure (the space or environment and how it’s set up)
  2. Interactive Environment (the extent of contextualization and interactivity)
  3. Agency (self-direction and autonomy of learning)
  4. Presence/Writing (the learning process and product, or the way the learning is realized)

and in each quarter is a number of elements that can be mapped across the spectrum of circles and then joined up to create the footprint. The more inward parts of the footprint represent the more prescribed or directed elements of the learning experience, and the more outward parts represent the more emergent elements.

This is what a blank footprint palette looks like:

blank footprint palette

blank footprint palette

And here is the link to resources you’ll need in order view the mapping elements and to draw a footprint of your own. There is also a handy video to guide you through the process.

The activity is quite detailed, and in truth requires some amount of effort to fully understand the elements to be mapped, but once you’ve grasped those, I’d say that a footprint, such as the one I drew below, has a lot to offer as an attempt to describe and understand the dynamics at play in the learning experienced in these new and complex open environments.

#xplrpln footprint of emergent learning

It was an interesting and worthwhile activity, and I’d be interested to see what the course #xplrpln facilitators, Jeff Merrill and Kimberley Scott, make of my footprint, and indeed maybe see one of theirs from a design point of view. When I get permission, I’ll upload my completed mapping sheet to the emergent learning wiki so that it’s possible to see how I arrived at my footprint.

Posted by: crumphelen | November 5, 2013

Personal learning networks: it’s mutual #xplrpln

Week 4 of the open online seminar Exploring Personal Learning Networks gets down to participants pitching to an organizational leader the value (and implications) that PLNs would bring to them. I have to say that over the last few weeks the discussion has been both intensive and extensive as the community discussed the coming together of personal learning networks and the organizational context. Here though, I must point out that it’s the addition of organizational involvement that’s caused me difficulty because, similar to Deborah W Halasz, I’m not directly involved in an organizational context relative to the PLN that I’ve been developing (probably why I was interested to consider PLNs in relation to contractors, adjuncts and the like in my last blog post) and, no surprise here, I’m convinced.

So now what indeed?

Well thanks to suggestions, I’m going to think about others who might benefit from developing a PLN and explore the direction from which they’re best developed. The context I’ve chosen is higher education, as I’d like to think that the sentiments in this blog post might form the basis of a discussion in some kind of teaching and learning forum or committee. Hopefully, this would have representation from both academics and students with discussion/actions being disseminated to administrators and support staff within the institution.

All along within the seminar it’s been suggested that we hone a definition of personal learning networks and consider where this falls between the spectrum of “PLNs are absolutely personal and everyone has their own version of a definition” to “PLNs have clear defining attributes”. I’m squarely in the “personal” camp where each PLN is as unique as a snowflake. And as such, I’m not overly keen on providing a definition. I’d rather describe my PLN and show others how I’ve constructed one and highlight the benefits that it brings. At the moment, I’d describe my PLN something like this:

enhanced by social networking technologies, my PLN is the connections and relationships I develop and nurture in order to pursue my learning goals and to make sense of the things I’m interested in.

In addition, I can offer this screencast, entitled “A Presentation of Networking and Learning” (made for my POTCert class earlier in the year) to show what one might look like. Oh, and I think this #xplrpln tweet nicely captures the nature of my PLN and the dualism that’s at play.

Any way to continue, within the higher ed group that formed it was thought that the development of PLNs might assist members of faculty who wanted to develop their online teaching offer. But, as Rick Bartlett reminds us, it’s not that networking is new to faculty; academics have always had their networks, attended conferences and collaborated with colleagues. It’s just that the technology is changing and with it comes greater opportunity for networking/collaboration, and with a wider audience now too. On this point, it was thought that colleges/universities might encourage PLNs as part of their outreach activities. Virginia Trovato came up with the excellent idea of “campuses as incubators for PLNs” where opportunities for building PLNs would be encouraged and the relevant pedagogies embedded in the curriculum. After all, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that individuals and organizations need to develop a new set of skills and a new mindset to thrive in the new networked era (or possibly just survive even).

The important point in all of this is that personal learning networks are precisely that, and they flourish for mutual benefit when individuals are able to freely persue their interests and their learning goals (or shared learning goals). In which case then, PLNs can’t be mandated by top-down approaches nor, like Jane Hart frequently says, can people be forced to be social either. So it seems to me then that the best way to go is for committed individuals (like me) to model what’s necessary in order to develop and nurture a PLN and to highlight the benefits to be gained from being a connected/networked practitioner. Hopefully, this will encourage others to develop PLNs of their own. Furthermore, seeing as you can’t mandate or force this activity, any organization interested in “incubating” PLNs might best be served by considering the different ways that individuals can be supported to become connected, if and when they choose to, and not have technical issues or policy issues stand in the way.

Hey what do you know, I reckon I could pitch this to an organizational leader after all. In fact, I believe the whole #xplrpln community could do a pretty good job.

Therefore, before I sign off this blog post I’d like to say a great big thank you to Jeff Merrell and Kimberley Scott for facilitating this seminar and to the community of participants who wrestled with this challenging topic. I hope you don’t mind if my artifact is in fact a hyperlink to an existing one and if my final reflections have largely been a synthesis of the discussion we’ve had. I look forward to continuing the discussion in our ongoing connections… PLNs as language – now what’s that all about?

First of all, I think I ought to warn you that for me this post is somewhat of a foray into unknown territory, but it’s where my thoughts and readings have taken me this week as we consider, in Exploring Personal Learning Networks, the organizational context. Although I read the main readings for the week, which considered organizational culture and the power and politics inherent in networks, my thinking follows on from the comments on my last blog post and the reflection that is posted in the introduction for this week (week 3).

Considering my reticence to define a PLN, Jeff wonders if we might indeed be doing ourselves a disservice by trying to define them, and in thinking of them as some kind of “intervention” that can be implemented. That being said, he makes the point in reflections that defining, creating and maintaining a PLN is the work of an individual, and it’s not dissimilar to investing in the development of knowledge, skills and abilities. So in that case, might we now safely add network “klout”, “know-how” or “nouse” to that trinity?

You can certainly see how an individual with an effective PLN can bring value to an organization, but what are the politics of allowing an organization to appropriate such an asset. Yes, a PLN is an employee’s asset, something of value, and it’s interesting to think about the “value proposition” that a PLN represents, the power dynamics, or labour relations, that are implicated and the type of organizational structures that are best equipped to reap the benefits.

As I was thinking about this, a fellow participant posted that she does indeed work for an organization where certain staff are required to develop PLNs. It’s an interesting example, and nice to see how new ways of doing things evolve.

However, this brings me to another point, one that I think echoes Gordon Ross to some extent when he asks in his article “Intranet Strategy: Understanding the Impacts of Networks, Power, and Politics“, “who is included in this so-called digital workplace and who is excluded”? What I mean is, in this day and age does everyone actually “belong” to an organization, and if so, to what extent? What does that really mean anyway, and do you even need to “belong” to an organization? So with this in mind, it was with great interest that I read the article by Terri Griffith and discovered the term Work as Service (WaaS). The notion of Work as Service is an adaptation of the idea of software as service (SaaS). Just as software used to come in a box, now it’s generally available online for download. Equally, work might become “free of the box” too, that is free from the organization and available through options such as contractors, mechanization, and/or crowd sourcing. The phrase used in the article is “a people cloud”, and it goes on to mention “people cloud”companies such as oDesk, which I was surprised to find I’d already heard of, and via a local source to boot! Any way, such companies aim to support the process of quickly and flexibly matching talented individuals with workplace opportunities.

"people clouds" and new organizational structures

“people clouds” and new organizational structures

I think it’s interesting to consider all this as organizations endeavor to create new, agile structures and “knowledge workers”, or “artisans“, take stock and adapt to these changes. Like Jeff, I’m wondering if PLNs can become a way for employees to maintain their value and to secure working conditions that are consistent with their talent and their contribution.

Well, I’m not sure if I’ve exactly addressed the question set out his week, which asks what would it look like for an organization to somehow “adopt” PLNs, or some aspect of them, and what would the likely barriers be? Moreover, I’m not sure from what perspective, or scenario, to consider the overall course project from. I’m interested to consider PLNs from the point of view of organizations and freelance or contract workers, or PLNs as they relate to higher education and adjunct staff. I’m just not sure.

Image source: Peter. Lorre http://www.fotopedia.com/items/flickr-2688143773

References:

Griffith, T. (2012) Work as a Service – Is There a People Cloud? Accessed at http://terrigriffith.com/blog/work-service-there-people-cloud

Ross, G. (2013) Intranet Strategy: Understanding the Impacts of Networks, Power, and Politics. Accessed at http://www.thoughtfarmer.com/blog/social-intranet-strategy-networks-power-and-politics/

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It appears at this stage that PLNs are pretty loosely defined, so it was interesting to consider the question posed in Exploring Personal Learning Networks this week (week 2).

Are PLNs absolutely “personal”– meaning that everyone will have their own version or a definition? Or will there someday be clear marks to know where a PLN begins and other types of networks or communities end? And, if these two questions were terminal points at the opposite ends of a scale, where would you land – closer to “personal” or to “there are clear defining attributes?”

Instantly I thought, PLNs are deeply personal, everyone has their own version. And what’s more, I’m not sure that I want to define it either. I mean, it’s a bit like how do you define love? It’s impossible to define love in a concrete way because everyone experiences love differently. But hang on a minute, if you think about it, love must have certain traits that characterize it across time and space and endow it with universal similarities, how else can you explain why Shakespeare’s sonnets, and the like, still resonate today.

So, maybe a PLN does after all have clear defining attributes, to some extent or another.

In that case, perhaps the question shouldn’t be posited on linear thinking, and this echoes some of the thoughts Maureen posted in the comments to her blog.

In her blog, Maureen interestingly poses the question “can a network be owned?”. The conversation moves to favour the notion that networks can’t be owned, seeing as they are after all “just a number of relationships or connections”. Upon which the question is then asked, “if PLNs can’t be owned, then do you think that your employer can rightly demand that you provide a list of the people who are in your personal/professional learning network” Now there’s a thought. Can your PLN be co-opted by your employer?

When I looked it up, co-opted has four meanings. Here are 2
  • appoint summarily or commandeer
  • to take or assume for one’s own use

No, this doesn’t sit well. After all, a PLN is personal. It’s about sense-making; that is my sense making, and my sense making for me. In his post, “the knowledge sharing paradox“, Harold Jarche admirably addresses this aspect. Using frameworks such as PKM, he says that individual workers can develop sense-making skills to learn continuously and to apply their learning to their work. Individuals care about what they need to get the job done, or about what makes sense to them. As such, knowledge is a very personal thing, and individuals are more likely to invest time developing their knowledge networks, and more likely to share their knowledge, if they remain in control of it. He says, organizational knowledge sharing will never be as good as what networked individuals can do. Hence, the challenge is how to connect the two.

This brings us to, what’s been posed in this open seminar as “the PLN problem“, basically how to leverage PLNs for organizational success. In the final week we’re to make our case, as advocate or otherwise.

This is tough, especially as I’m not enamored of conjuring up a definition of a PLN in the first place, but as Jeff Merrell points out, unless you have a general definition of a PLN it’s not possible to tell if PLNs and organizations are in  “structural conflict with each other” (or “structural alignment” for that matter). And therefore you won’t be able to determine the kind of changes, if any, required in the organization to effectively incorporate PLNs and create a business advantage. Thanks, by the way, to Kay for mentioning this point in her blog. It was particularly helpful.

Still tough though. So far, I’ve got as far as discovering that I’m wary of defining a PLN but will probably have to, not being convinced that you can own one and that individual knowledge making practices trump organizational ones.

So, the challenge, it appears, is to see if PLNs can bridge the individual-organizational knowledge sharing divide to become a match made in heaven. Hey, we’re back to the theme of love. Not quite, but something reciprocal or mutual anyway. Until next week, where the topic is barriers to PLNs.

PLNs and organizations: are they a match made in heaven?

PLNs and organizations: are they a match made in heaven?

References: Jarche, H. (2013) The knowledge sharing paradox. Accessed at http://www.jarche.com/2013/03/the-knowledge-sharing-paradox/

Image source: http://pixabay.com/en/heart-love-luck-abstract-105730/

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Posted by: crumphelen | October 10, 2013

Personal learning networks: the power and the glory #xplrpln

An open online seminar, “Exploring Personal Learning Networks” started this week, and I’ve been looking forward to participating ever since I was alerted to it by, yes, you guessed it, my personal learning network (PLN).

This week is introduction/orientation week and it’s been suggested that participants relate something of their stories, either, what does having a PLN mean (that is, if you’ve already got one) and how has it changed the way you learn and practice in your professional field, or if you don’t already have a PLN, maybe, what’s the attraction?

Any way, I think I can safely say that I’ve got a PLN but, most likely it’s the same for a lot of people, it started to take shape before I knew what was actually developing. I first came across the term PLN whilst researching the use of Twitter for teaching and learning in higher education. I can remember reading one paper in which two ‘early adopters’ mentioned that they used Twitter to connect to their personal learning network (PLN). Although I registered the term, I guess I largely equated it at the time with a rail network, or some other piece of infrastructure. Akin to plumbing, probably. But then, as I began to use Twitter and to comment on blog posts and participate in discussion forums, I started to realize that I wasn’t just gathering useful information but I was actually getting to know something of real people. Avatars and headshots were coming alive as peepholes opened up relating snippets about work projects, world views,  conferences, commutes, pet hates and various passions etc. It’s this kind of interaction that builds trust, which in turn opens up opportunities for mutual learning and mutual benefit.

Agreed, engaging in this way and developing a PLN has really opened up my learning and created possibilities that I couldn’t possibly have had otherwise.

At first, my PLN developed by just observing how others interact online, but the really crucial factor has been my participation in a number of connectivist style MOOCs and the connections that these environments have enabled, connections that continue beyond the event to keep a sense of community and create chances for future collaboration. At this point I’ll direct you to Sheila MacNeill’s blog, “after the mooc has gone – the real collaboration and connectivism begins” so you can piece together the story for yourself.

Now, seeing as my personal learning network developed ‘organically’, what I’m interested to explore for this seminar is how others can best be supported to develop personal learning networks of their own and, seeing as I developed my personal learning network outside of any organizational context, how personal learning networks figure from their point of view.

But, before I leave this post, I’d just like to add that introduction/orientation week of Exploring Personal Learning Networks entreats us to try something new: share goals, experiment with new tools or reach out to people we don’t really know very well and maybe share our thoughts about a topic of interest. Well, in line with the anaology that cMOOCs are “like being in a pub“, I’d like to reach out to @JeffMerrill and @MattGuyan who, I notice from his #xplrpln tweets and Twitter bio, is a Pale Ale drinker to say “cheers, here’s to a successful PLN seminar”.

pic 1 (2)

Underlying the development of a PLN is the need for individual learners to be able to have the capacity for self-direction, which requires a higher level of learning maturity— – See more at: http://www.hybridpedagogy.com/Journal/files/Personal_Learning_Networks.html#sthash.FNI4TVHh.dpuf

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