The personal pull into social


Note: I wrote this short blog post for the Jive Software community. It was subsequently picked by and republished by DZone. It’s my thinking on whether there is in fact some connection between personal learning networks (PLNs) and social business. And very much relevant to an upcoming open, online seminar I am co-facilitating: Exploring Personal Learning Networks: Practical Implications for Organizations.

I am an educator whose academic and professional interests focus on technology, learning and knowledge sharing. One of the questions that keeps me going is: Just how do people become social (in the good-digital-citizen, knowledge-sharing, reciprocating, narrating-your-work-because-it’s-just-what-we-do kinda way)?

This is not just a purely academic interest. And I am more a realist than a utopian when it comes to digital networks and people. But I truly believe social business depends on our collective ability to broadly develop digital literacy and competent digital citizens. We all win when the majority of participants in digital spaces operate in the kinda-way I outlined above.

So how does that happen? What might drive it?

We use Jive as our learning environment in the graduate program in which I teach (yes – correct. we’ve pretty much dumped the university LMS). One of my joys is watching how graduate students begin to connect and learn outside of the formal class groups we create, when no one is telling them what to do or post or share. And as a co-conspirator and participant of ETMOOC – a “connectivist” Massive Open Online Course designed specifically to foster social collaboration and networking around the course topics – I watched as nearly 2,000 people enthusiastically learned and shared, cross-commented on blog posts, jumped all over Twitter chats, and did so with civility.

If you dig into this a little bit, the people who become good at operating in this way are often explicitly working on developing their personal learning networks (PLNs). They see the web as a resource to help them develop professionally or personally; use a variety of technology tools and platforms to collect, curate, share and develop knowledge; and they understand the importance of sharing and reciprocity as the kind of “golden rule” of operating in a civil manner on the web. (See a few of my collected resources on PLNs if you are interested in how I get to this point).

And it’s the reason we are running an open online seminar this fall (Oct. 7 – Nov. 5): Exploring Personal Learning Networks: Practical Issues for Organizations. We’re going to provide participants with some background on PLNs and then engage in a couple of weeks of facilitated discussion: What might happen IF…PLNs became an everyday part of professional development within organizations? Could we build better social muscle? If we focus on the personal first, do we create a pull into social that benefits us all?

photo credit: iirraa via photopin cc

3 thoughts on “The personal pull into social

  1. Hey Jeff, nice write-up on the importance of PLNs within organizational settings. Best of luck to you over the next couple of months in launching a successful campaign to underscore the importance of creating vibrant PLN communities. My experience is limited within this learning space however I would like to share what I consider a guiding principle that may help others in their respected journeys.

    One important thing to remember is that when building your PLN it is critical to eschew the notion of “what’s in it for me?” to a prevailing ethos of “what can I bring to the conversation?”. Through social media tools, one can share their personal insights for a collective whole to leverage. However, expecting immediate renumeration can be a faulty and misguided logic. Understand, that when couched in the sense of building a strong PLN, “value” is not derived through the more traditional social behaviors of reciprocity in which something of intellectual importance is exchanged for something else of equal importance. Unlike formal networking channels, PLNs are a little more democratic and loosely guided. PLNs are less focused on the one-to-one relationship structure and in essence provide meta-insights. I hope that makes sense.


    1. Well said, Jim. And I could not agree more.

      I think your insights into reciprocity are spot-on. It certainly resonates with my own experience. The best relationships (in my PLN) are people who share when they can, and are interested, and not when they are angling for something in return.


Comments are closed.