The PLN promise can turn your organisation into the house of horrors

PLN house of horrors
PLN house of horrors

Week 3 and 4 in Exploring PLN Seminar (and maybe even week 5…)

This post is aimed to be a quick wrap-around my #xplrpln artifact (you can find it on Prezi) we were invited create in response to a set scenario and share it with others this week.

Yes, it is covering two weeks of the seminar (and I am posting it in week 5!). This is not because I have become disengaged or too busy. It is because the few readings on PLNs and organisations provided by Jeff and Kimberley in week 3, along with the seminar participant contributions needed some solitary rumination before I could spit the chewed cud back into the communal fermentation vat (help! – I seem to be losing control over my metaphors…).

Among all the rumination around the topic I was also struggling with the idea of the CEO pitch. This is not the first time that my allergy to corporate/managerial context has surfaced. One of the reasons I quit the Open University’s #H817 Openness and Innovation in eLearning course earlier this year was the large chunk of the assessment based on presenting business cases. I understand why – it’s important to make such courses relevant to practitioners via authentic/applied assessment. Perhaps it is something about the executive language? Perhaps it is the difficulty of putting myslef in the CEOs or large organisations’ shoes (I keep thinking that the bottom line for them is really just financial gain – even in educational institutions these days)? Perhaps it is the disenchantment with such organisations and their cultures? Or simply the lack of sense of play and fun in learning from such artifact?

On the other hand, perhaps I started to expect an inspiration to push beyond institutional/established mindsets in my ‘learning experiences’. To be encouraged to explore different ways of representing and applying my understanding. This is one of the thing that cMOOCs taught me (although in fact it was probably seeded long time ago when I heard about learning in the open and digital artifact-based assessment approaches taken by the University of Edinburgh’s MSc in Online Education).

I did try to take on a challenge of getting it done, finding a “professional” voice. But simply couldn’t force myself to go there. Thankfully – this learning experience, unlike the caged OU course, was not prescriptive. I enjoyed crystallizing my ideas around the potential institutional horrors of ‘implementing’ PLN approaches at universities – large, complex and culturally diverse organisations. I did try to entertain the audience as well. Including the imaginary HE leaders and, the very tangible, fellow #xplrpln-ers alike. While making us laugh I was hoping to make us all more thoughtful before we rush into implementation of the new PLN and related ideas at a massive scale. At institutional and Profersonal(TM) levels.

My ruminatory state sharpened my attention to examples of organisational PLN horrors in my recent PLN data stream – I tried to include those alongside the insights from the course readings. These anecdotes turned it from a theoretical to a very much real-life tale…and also illustrated the ongoing/dynamic nature of the beast. Changes in technology, terms and conditions will keep coming, and we have to, personally and institutionally, keep reconsidering the cost/benefit equation for PLNs or specific technical solutions which may enhance/detract from it.

Why the horror angle? I thought a lot of the PLN-related hype is coming from businesses who have much to gain from organisations and individuals engaging with the services they offer – either as paid for SNA /social intranets/social enterprise solutions for organisations or by getting hold of our very much monetisable data, including our personal or professional network interactions via their ‘free’ social media services (we have all heard the now well worn warning “when you are not a customer you are a product”). Organisations implementing social learning solutions may also have less than altruistic ideas at heart. I thought an antidote to the seductive murmur of the Sirens was in order:) Oh – and it *was* Halloween…

Just in case I don’t find time for more reflection around #xplrpln here, I would like to say now that I am extremely grateful to Kimberley and Jeff for putting this seminar together and to the co-participant for diving in (or even just watching). It has been a great adventure!

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