Your Personal Learning Network, Environment and Operating System

networkI didn't get to attend a workshop on personal learning networks (PLNs) led by Helen Blunden in Ghent, Belgium at Learning Tech Day. I would have loved to travel to Belgium, but thankfully, someone who did attend posted about it. (I keep reading that blogging is dead. I disagree. And the post I found and I am passing along is some evidence of blog usefulness.)

When I first heard about a Personal Learning Network, I thought "Well, most of us already have a PLN." What I was thinking of was the informal network of people and sites that we use to do our work. Keyword: informal. 

I discovered that PLNs were more formalized. The authors define a PLN as "a trusted network of current and former colleagues or other people that are valuable to you as a professional or in other areas of your life," and Rajagopal, Verjans, and Sloep (2012) refer to it as “the network of people a self-directed learner connects with for the specific purpose of supporting their learning”

I'm editing a dissertation about "Knowledge Broker Teachers" (KBTs). They are those teachers that other teachers go to for help because of their extensive knowledge. The subjects in the dissertation are technology KBTs, but in any type of knowledge work this tends to be more cross-disciplinary. A network that involves people with different skills working together is a good way to add novelty to problem solving.

Not all PLNs are professional. People naturally create them around common interests or practices, to exchange ideas, and give or receive support to others. Blunden is interested in the professional variety. 

PLN plan

Her workshop explored "elements of your personal profile; build trust online; building reputation and credibility; curating learning and experiences; reflecting and sharing your work and projects; working out loud, and then also learning how to use social tools and media for the purposes of building trust, sharing your expertise and building a personal learning community."

Back in 2007, I was noticing that people were talking about Facebook as a PLE (Personal Learning Environment) which was another term that emerged for me about the same time as PLN. Facebook did not become a true Personal Learning Environment though people seemed to think that after MySpace it might be such a thing. 

I was reading in the "Jargon Watch" section of Wired magazine and came across the term "Social Operating System" (SOS) which they defined as "a social network site like Facebook or MySpace that seamlessly integrates activities, including entertainment and shopping, to become a platform for online living."

You can put the PLE and the PLN (and the SOS) under the heading Personalized Learning

In 2013, I was changing jobs and started get more serious about trying to build a more formal network and wrote about creating your own PLN. I did that, but within a larger professional organization. Now, that PLN has formally disbanded because the larger organization decided to no longer support it after a reorganization.

I still maintain many of the personal connections I made in that PLN, but it is again informal. How has the network changed for me? It is weaker. We meet - online and in person - a lot less than we used to connect. Formal is better.

Mobile Social Media Goes Even More to Video

video on phone

The web went mobile years ago. Video went mobile with smartphones. Social media went mobile soon after. And next social media went video crazy.

Facebook and Instagram (which it owns) have launched a separate app called IGTV. This is an app for watching long-form, vertical video from Instagram creators. It is a video hub, but it is not for episodic, TV-like content.

But Facebook is interested in that kind of content.

With Facebook's 8 billion daily video views per day, Facebook doesn't want text - which is still a huge part of the Facebook experience - to dominate.  They are moving towards an even more video-oriented site.

They started by introducing a new Watch section to a small group of US users. The new platform differs from  IGTV which targets Instagram’s younger audience. That audience is made up of a lot of Generation Z who were NOT brought up on TV. Instagram says "We've learned that younger audiences are spending more time with amateur content creators and less time with professionals." 

Instagram is supposed to be meeting with online creators hoping to lure them into the new video platform. They are looking for things like 10 minute vlogs, not extended programs. On IGTV, creators are the channels.

instagram-press.com/blog/2018/06/20/welcome-to-igtv/

newsroom.fb.com/news/2017/08/introducing-watch-a-new-platform-for-shows-on-facebook/

Blockchain on Campus

blockchainBlockchain is sometimes described as a secure public ledger. I wrote last year about blockchain and its possible uses on campus, but I have not seen evidence of its application on the campuses I have visited. Of course, it is possible it is being used behind the scenes since this is a technology that would not be evident to end-users.

I read an article about Oral Roberts University's recent conference intended to educate and persuade schools to learn about the technology,test it out and collaborate. Their CIO, Michael Mathews, believes blockchain will be as important to transforming education as the Internet was and early adopters will benefit the most.

The first blockchain was theorized by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008 and applied the following year as a key component of the digital currency Bitcoin. That connection to the alternative currency that has a still unclear reputation may have influenced some to associate blockchain with had some negative of that rep rub off on it. In fact, it is a technology that adds levels of trust, authentication and recordkeeping. As a public ledger of transactions, it uses a peer-to-peer network (another idea that picked up a bad rep through pirating software and music) to build a decentralized, distributed database. (A more detailed definition here.) Block chain offers an unalterable (for now, at least), public record (that can be made only semi-public) of digital transactions.

Though financial transaction are blockchain's main uses, for a school, the immediate applications would likely be student application processing, transcript evaluations and articulation agreements. 

The conference program may be correct that blockchain is not only the future business model of supply chain, but may be applied to a large education value chain.

This post first appeared on LinkedIn

Aligning Learning and Key Performance Indicators

focusAlign your training with KPIs. This is not a mantra I hear in education. A KPI is a Key Performance Indicator, which is a measurable value that demonstrates how effectively an organization (most commonly a company it seems) is achieving key objectives.

KPIs are used to evaluate success at reaching targets. Businesses talk a lot about the Return on Investment (ROI) and they are usually talking about dollars and cents. But in educational training and professional development, the ROI probably can't be measured in dollars.

Still, the process may be similar.

Define which metrics are most important to you. These become your key performance indicators. You need to know exactly what you're going to use to judge performance. 

If you want to increase enrollment in a major or program, that provides an easy metric. If a professor want to increase attendance in her classroom, that is also easily measured.

When I work with faculty designing courses, many professors stumble on setting objectives versus goals. The simple difference is that a goal is a description of a destination, and an objective is a measure of the progress that is needed to get to the destination. In this context goals are the long term outcomes.

Teachers will sometimes tell you objectives that are not measurable. For example, to want students to "have an appreciation of modern poetry" may be an admirable goal for a poetry courses, but how do you measure that? 

For an objective to be effective it must be clear, measurable and have a time element. For instance, that objective of increasing class attendance by 10 percent by the end of the semester is clear, measurable and has that time element.

Of course, after you determine those objectives, the real difficult part begins - figuring out how to reach that objective.

Professional Ghosting

ghostIf you are familiar with the term "ghosting," it probably refers to the the practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication. It is often used in social media contexts. Lately, I have seen it used in the context of work situations.

Professional ghosting isn't about Ghostbusters. In a similar way, it could be the co-worker who just doesn't respond to an email, but you know they are at work and reading emails. But a newer usage to me is in reference to a situation like interviewing for a position.

You interviewed, sent a thank-you note after your interview to the main contact, then sent a follow-up note  so that it was clear you were still interested in the position - but you're getting ghosted. No response.

In office politics, there are different ways to deal with being ghosted when someone on a team isn't responding to communications about a project or when you ask for volunteers to take on a task.

In teaching online, I have had to deal with students who ghost me. They seem to drop out and stop responding to emails, messages within the LMS and comments on posts. I will try my best to communicate 1:1, even using a phone number when it is available. I find some students seem to react more from fear and hide from faculty, deliberately not responding because they don't want to confront whatever the issue(s) are in the course.

In classroom or workplace, ignoring your requests, inquiries and feedback is serious. If you are the supervisor/faculty, ghosting will having consequences. If you are the person being ghosted by a supervisor, the practice is not only confusing and frustrating but could affect your job.


The term ghosting has been around since about 20111. The term "ghostbusting" is when you force someone to reply.

"Marleying" (as in the character Marley from Dickens' A Christmas Carol) is when an ex gets in touch with you at Christmas out of nowhere.

“Caspering” (from the comic book friendly ghost) s a friendly alternative to ghosting when, instead of ignoring someone, you’re honest about how you feel, and let them down gently before disappearing from their lives.

The Psychology of Ghosting