Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Shifting Landscapes of Professional Learning, Part 5

With our Shifting Landscapes of Professional Learning session coming up in a couple of days at the Canadian eLearning Conference I'll be finishing up a couple blog posts (in between the excellent sessions, lunches, and parties!)

One of the advantages of using social networking services for professional learning is that there are endless opportunities for unintentional learning. Follow a link or two a day posted by individuals in your network and you can really find yourself going off on fascinating tangents. You also find my find yourself engaging in interesting conversations that would not normally be part of your daily work routine. How can can you keep up?

It takes time to work out a system to manage your involvement in various services. In fact there are [yet more] services to help cope with just that challenge. One that is effective for catching up quickly with individuals in your network have contributed is friendfeed. With this service you choose who to follow, and those individuals choose which services to include in their feeds. Of course, like all tools, the effectiveness depends on how the people in your network use it. This is a sampling of updates through friendfeed that shows activities of people in my network from 3 different services: YouTube, Twitter, and Delicious.

If you do have difficulty figuring all of this out you're not alone! During a SCoPE seminar on multimembership held in October 2008, it became apparent that management of multimembership is something we all struggle with, and that there are no easy solutions. Sue Wolff prepared a summary of that seminar which nicely captures what many of us are experiencing.

Lots of lurking and scanning is one of the most often mentioned strategies for managing our multimembership in social networks. We require alert systems to notify us that something might be relevant if we are to even click into a networked discussion area, event, or community.

Alerting tools like RSS, Google keywords, email subscription are widely employed.

Aggregation tools include the email digests and RSS feedlists, but many of us have discovered Netvibes, Pageflakes, Protopage or a personalized search homepage like Google's where most of our community action can quickly be surveyed. Keeping two browser windows open with at least two or three tabs open to each community and switching back and forth throughout the day was another technique.

I found it interesting how often people mentioned various listing, sorting, and foldering organization strategies, and how often in the same breath they mentioned most that gets sorted away, gets left behind.

AND LEAVING BEHIND IS OK! We miss our online social connections when face to face pressures take priority, but attend to those things that dovetail well with "whatever we are working on in life" as many put it. We tend to experience our peripheral and sporadic online social immersion throughout our work days as much enervating as overwhelming, although sometimes too stimulating and distracting.

I believe it was Julia's "act schedule or let go" that captured the current strategies many are using.

There was a definite evolutionary quality to our attitudes, strategies, techniques and tool adoption. We start out excited, breathless, and swamped. Then we try to get organized. We start to realize there's way too much coming in and cut back. We switch to an integrative approach where we hone in on whatever catches our attention that relates to wahtever we are working on. The most managed state is one where we have found a few tools and cues to keep the most important things in view, while letting much more swirl around. Without worrying too much, we let go of the belief management is even realistic, and instead realize what is most important will always be with us as we need it.

Last, but certainly not least in our learning were the points Nik started a topic on - that many of us blog or write to make sense of all that we are taking in online. Others of us appreciate and subscribe to those who are doing that.

So there is no doubt that our professional learning landscape is shifting, and one major implication is that it is easy to become overwhelmed. This is partly because of the sheer number of options for connecting with others, but also because so much of what we end up learning is unplanned -- useful but unplanned.

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