Why you should be excited by PLNs and superhero capes


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by CostinThampikutty.com

Everyone can lead something. That’s exciting. This post is about why PLNs are exciting … and breeding grounds for sense-making leadership. [token woot!].

In the real world’, the idea of creating ‘leaders’ is linked to enhanced line roles: leading, managing and supervising others to ensure their effective performance. This isn’t the same as project roles: orchestrating the use of resources to achieve specific ends, often oriented to the achievement of clearly delineated, narrowly focused short-term outcomes. It’s fair to say that being given a project role used to give people the sense that if they did it well, stuck to the rules and could demonstrate success, then they’d be ‘up for promotion’ – to the enhanced line role. The problem today is that upward movement is completely truncated as there are too few ‘top roles’ to go around.

I’ve seen more than one person lately who bust a gut in project-roles, did a fabulous job (leading, not just managing) only to be told their innovative work as now become absorbed into usual business or simply no longer refunded due to [insert excuse]. That’s not exciting, that’s brain-missing. In the old days, the post-war management era, this was how life was. But life isn’t like it anymore. We have capes. Social media is breaking the rules and given a new leadership ‘spin’. Potentially, those people on project roles are savvy enough to use social media to their advantage. If you want to get ahead, get a project – get ten projects! Don’t get too fragged, when a project doesn’t work out and  don’t waste all your valuable nodding to the bar-stool theorists – do something you believe is worth while and honour it.

It’s a great way to learn and to further where you want to go. If you don’t want to go anywhere, then go watch TV with the others who clock off at 5pm and on again at 9am. I’m fine with that too, but by the gods of bazinga, you are the first generation with this power,  living in a time for which your parents and grand-parents could only have dreamed. Stop bitching and start making. This isn’t the same as ‘building a PLN’, if you’re interested in leading something, then creating a conscious space in your life to do it makes perfect sense, unlike hoping for your number to come up in a feudal lottery.

Building a PLN, can also be about building leadership skills that disrupts the ‘power-culture’ in which great effort is placed on the strings of control that used to work on your parents. Most people used reach the middle of these structures after 30 years and quite frankly – it’s the worst place to be,  especially as you will get kicked off a project that you have invested so much in more than once.


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Sam Howzit

People in the middle are escaping to the Internet and putting up detour signs for those below them. I kind of see things like TeachMeet leading from this middle. It’s almost a social-blockade – a kind of OccupyEducation movement that never goes away, nor can those invested in ‘power-cultures’ fathom what is happening. I think there are three things that PLNs are doing (I am less interested in what they are or are not, I’ll leave that to …) – This is what they can do for anyone who chooses to join in.

Knowledge for Practice – researching and applying to practice, where knowledge is embodied in people rather than information.

Knowledge in Practice – A creative, almost artistic pursuit of reflecting on and inquiring about their own actions. This is all about being coached from the outside rather than being taught.

Knowledge of Practice – Working out the underlying values, principles of what is working by problematising it in communities though critical thinking and analysis.

This network leadership. What teachers on Twitter are working on – I think – is sense making. If I put it as a driving question it would be this. “What is the nature, potential and limitations of agency in a networked world”.

One thought on “Why you should be excited by PLNs and superhero capes

  1. So happy to discover your blog. I have just started teaching in a “Learning Space” of 180 Stage 3 students with 6 other teachers, no walls, limited upfront instruction, lots of facilitation and I am trying to find research about PLNs and Web 2.0 and the value of twitter. This is great

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