PLN : Intentions vs Expectations

My last post “post #xplrpln flow” (well actually my first ever…) ended up on the topic of intentions and expectations. Then a few days later I read that quote posted by a friend on Facebook : “Too much intention creates tension”.

Personally I think tension in its stressful meaning is probably more the result of too many expectations actually. Intentions for me come intrinsically as a positive tension, except in case of bad intentions of course. As an introspective process, making intentions requires self-knowledge and discipline though. Or as @MitraClara, one participant in our #xplrpln seminar, said in her post on Knitting Intentional Networks : “And yet there is a heaviness to all this intentionality”. I agree. Making an intention implies stretching out and making some efforts, while having expectations is rather awaiting for something external to happen, anticipating a result or a reaction. Or worst even, making the assumption (see #3 of the 4 Toltec agreements) that something will happen…

Dance in Learning

Gathering on a #5rhythms dance floor for a couple of hours or for a weekend implies making the effort to be there and to show-up. It can be a bit weird sometimes to go dancing with people you don’t or hardly know; and all this without any substance to reduce your inhibitions, break up the resistance or ease up the fears. Each of us comes with different intentions, level of experience, vulnerability, age, professional/family/educational background etc… What brings us together there is a certain level of commitment, to move, connect and share where it’s possible and appropriate. To let the medicine of the dance be part of my learning – and healing – process is often my main intention. Is it something I can expect or assume to happen ? Personally I don’t experience it this way. And yet it is possible to create the right conditions for that medicine to happen. Certainly there are tools, techniques and rituals that may be used to facilitate the process. Although my belief is that the medicine is more likely to happen from the dynamic and the energy inside that unique constellation of dancers, rather than as a “packaged prescription” hidden somewhere in the room, in a book, or delivered by an omnipotent teacher aka “Shoemaker”. For me there are no mysterious red shoes in #5rhythms, whilst the way of the dancer remains THE mystery. Or like the founder of #5rhythms, Gabrielle Roth said : “Between jumping and landing, there is God”.

I won’t appeal to any spirituality in the context of PLN. Like I don’t think it is necessary to be spiritual to enjoy a good dance, a “wave” in #5rhythms jargon. What is well needed though is an “attitude”. Or as mentioned by K. Rajagopal et al in their article Understanding personal learning networks: Their structure, content and the networking skills needed to optimally use them : “…that networking itself is linked to a deeper metacognitive level, namely, the attitude of the learner”.

The way of the learner

Attitude seems to be the building block from where PLNs can emerge and flourish. From my own modest experience, I would certainly list the following ones : generosity, passion, trust, humour, respect, empathy and curiosity.

In her final reflections on our #xplrpln seminar, @tanyalau says : “I’m starting to think that an open attitude to learning / sharing, and mutual cognitive engagement is what drives learning in connectivist online learning environments.”

In another enlightening piece of research “People in PLNs : Analysing their characteristics and identifying suitable tools”, K. Rajagopal et al speak about “connection-determining factors”. How to create the right conditions for the social learning to happen ? And what drives learners to connect and use new technologies for their informal learning process?

As a result of their research into the concepts that drive PLN, they managed to identify a list of 22 concepts. Their Top 5 is made of :

– Connecting with people with different perspectives
– Connecting with people who have values I appreciate
– Connecting with passionate people
– Connecting with inspirational people
– Connecting with people I trust

These main connection-determining factors sound to me as quite “behavioural” and “intentional” indeed. At least they demonstrate a certain mindset without linking directly to any specific results or goals. Of course one could expect something from connecting to someone, but one has to do the “first step”, after reflecting on why and how to connect.

I was also quite surprised to see that less than half of respondents declared they were connecting to find “influential people” or “mentors”. That could possibly demonstrate the level of autonomy and also the boundaries PLN’ers wish for their self-directed learning.

The learner as orchestrator

One technique the dancer is invited to use in order to help the body get (and stay) in movement is by “taking ownership of the beat”. In PLN, the learner is supposed to take ownership of her learning. Or like described by K. Rajagopal et al in, “the learner as orchestrator of her personal learning network”.

In their survey, K. Rajagopal et al went a step further and asked participants about tools (social networks) they found most appropriate depending on the concept of learning. Interesting to see that Twitter scored highest in the Top 5 of the connection-determining factors. The only area where Twitter is competed by LinkedIn is on the concept of “expertise”. While Facebook scored highest on concept of “familiarity” and, quite surprisingly in my eyes, it did quite well on concept of “trust”.

That survey offers an interesting way to identify which platforms to use for which purpose of learning. However, as mentioned by the authors themselves, the research in that field is still quite limited. Their sample was limited to 46 respondents and a majority of them didn’t use tools like Diigo or ScoopIT.

Anyway for me these clear orientations confirmed some of my thoughts about the needs for education to social media and collaborative tools in the workplace. With “Attitudes” and “Intentions” as prerequisites, there seems to be a skill set to develop that could be composed of soft and hard skills. Soft skills being the various networking skills of the learner. Hard skills the way to use technologies and tools to continuously (and consciously) build, maintain and activate PLNs in a professional environment.

“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them and pretty soon you have a dozen.” John Steinbeck

Photo Credit

The question is… do we really want PLN to develop in the corporate environment ? Where are the fears, shadows and obstacles ? Some scary thoughts for my next post…

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3 Responses to PLN : Intentions vs Expectations

  1. tanyalau says:

    Hi Cedric! I think it’s really interesting how you compare dancing with the process of developing a PLN. What struck a chord with me in your post is where you state how it can be weird dancing with people you don’t know. I think about this sometimes when I comment on blogs of people I don’t know, or engage with someone on twitter who I don’t know or have had no previous contact with. Although the platform is open, and affords the ability to do this, it can sometimes still *feel* a bit odd. That might have something to do with social conditioning (we don’t just rock up to random strangers in real life and start talking to them…). Trust is a big issue as well: if someone doesn’t know you, they’re less inclined to trust you – at least not without some evidence that you’re authentic or have some other cred. And this goes to your other point about intentions (essentially, they may not trust you, because they’re not certain of your intentions). Trust is important because it forms the basis for reciprocity.
    Just on your point about Facebook scoring high on ‘trust’ – I’m wondering whether this is because it’s a social platform on which you primarily connect with friends and family – people you already know and trust. And it’s a closed network of connections, so it’s much less likely that you’re ‘friends’ with someone you don’t actually know (unlike twitter, for example).

    • cedbo says:

      Hi Tanya, thanks for your comment!
      Yes totally agree – question of trust again, in others but also self-trust I guess…both are linked certainly. Like you said in earlier comment, we are social creatures first of all… but codes in our western societies are not always as social.
      Regarding Facebook – network of “friends” indeed but then I wonder when some people have thousands of these so called friends and at the same time I read statistics showing 1 in 4 users don’t even check their privacy settings. Maybe because I work in recruitment industry I am a bit paranoid about this;)

  2. Pingback: How Being Social Has Made Me A Better CIO | SoshiTech

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