Five weeks ago, I started the Exploring Personal Learning Networks cMOOC with enthusiasm and expectation. Jeff Merrell (@JeffMerrell) and I had organised to meet via Google Hangout to have a chat about this but of course, our firewall prevented that from happening as it was during work hours. Instead, we talked via teleconference and I recall him talking about the aims of this cMOOC and how he wanted to inspire something similar to the Educational Technology MOOC that was organised some time ago by Professor Alec Couros (@courosa)
After the call, I was quite excited for this cMOOC to begin and advertised it on Yammer and my Google Circles and Twitter friends. The recent trip to London where I met my UK peeps was still fresh in my mind and I wanted to relive the excitement of connecting and making new friends who had similar thoughts and challenges as me.
The Exploring Personal Learning Networks for me was an eye opener. It had made me completely rethink and reframe my mindset around networks. Initially, naively, I thought that our assignment of presenting a case for (or against) PLNs to our CEO was going to be a walk in the park. When Kimberly Scott (@KGS_Scott) mentioned in the first week, “we may decide to argue against PLNs to the CEO,” I recall thinking, “Why? Why would we do such a thing. No way!!”
Little did I know that the following weeks led to a level of discussion, debate, argument and analysis of everyone’s thinking around PLNs. Every blog post made me question my original thoughts. At times, I felt confused because I didn’t want my original beliefs challenged.
And yet, they had some good points that I hadn’t considered.
All of a sudden, things didn’t seem so “black and white”.
Added to that, there were things happening at work that contextualised what I was learning in theory around PLNs. I felt that my network, my trusted network which I worked hard to maintain, cultivate, nurture, trust and grow was going to be exploited by other individuals within the organisation who saw me as their ‘free ride’ to some quick answers.
The reading in the third week by Gordon Ross called Intranet Strategy: Understanding the Impacts, Networks, Power and Politics didn’t help either.
That’s when my thinking started to change.
Dare I say it, I started to feel protective of my PLN especially if I was seeing others take advantage of it rather than cultivate and grow their own.
So the question of balance featured in my mind. Sure, I’d share what I know or learn through my networks – but you’ve got to do the same. It’s an equal relationship.
So what started with naive optimism and exhuberance for this MOOC and PLNs in organisations, finished up with me being a tad more cautious about how they are used and implemented in an organisation – especially if there are imbalances of power.
My key learning point always goes back to looking at the culture of the organisation. If there is a genuine, authentic opportunity to share and learn and be respectful of each other’s networks then I have no problem with it at all. If it is mandated, or if my networks are used, misused or discounted, then I’d question why I’m even working there.
For the time being, I will nurture and maintain my networks but I will be cautious in how mine are used within my organisation and for what purpose.
But I’m the one who decides that.
(1) “Co-operators Attract Co-operators, Non-Co-operators Are Stuck With Each Other”, a blog post by EvoSConsortium
(2) Gordon Ross, Intranet Strategy: Understanding the Impacts, Networks, Power and Politics, 28 March 2013