Shift to a learning journal

This entry marks a rebirth, of sorts, of this blog. Perhaps there’s some good to come of my painful learning experience of re-branding the original blog. This space will now become my learning journal for self-directed Open Education resources.

I recently signed on to the LearningSpace of The Open University after downloading some of their content through iTunes U. I have had a long-standing interest in the Open Education concept, particularly in light of the success of the OU in the UK. While newer approaches like MOOCs seem to have garnered a lot of attention, OU has quietly contained to evolve and mature.

So, I am going to take some of the writings, notes, and other findings from my disparate, disjointed, and eclectic studies, and place them here. Using this space as my learning journal I won’t be an “elearning guy”, but a Guy doing some e-learning in his ongoing professional development.

Pinterest: It took a while, but I get it. Finally.

Pinterest LogoIn many respects (for those who subscribe to such things), I am a typical Taurus, and stubborn as hell. I admit that there are times when I will resist trying new things until I know I can see the benefits for me. Once I “get it”, however, I’m unstoppable.

That paragraph accurately sums up my experience with Twitter. While initially skeptical, I have now – as most of you know – embraced the tool enthusiastically because I see the value from a personal and professional point of view. A secondary benefit is, of course, the entertainment value.

And then came Pinterest…

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Tweeting as a personal backchannel

I tried something “new” this past week and I’m surprised I didn’t think of doing it sooner.

I sat in on one of the many workshops we run for our Instructor cadre. Because I have an interest in the coaching function I decided it might prove interesting.

Because I already had Twitter open, instead of using something like Evernote directly, i thought, ‘why not make use of Twitter?’ I could jot down a few notes and add a hashtag and keep going.

While not a quantum shift, it is a potentially disruptive innovation in note-taking. In the same way that conference note-taking has become a public-facing backchannel, my approach opened up a generic topic to outside query or sharing. I liked the fact that I was immediately forced into a concise summary mode with 140 characters and because I have the RSS feed for my Twitter account saving to my Google Reader, the tweets are auto-archived. If I had also added the @myEN tag, I could have also saved critical tweets to Evernote (something I do when I save critical Tweets in my regular feed)

The one challenge with using Twitter is, of course, the hashtags. Because they are unregulated, you have to take come care with selecting one for your own use. One risk you also run is the relatively new technique of hashtag spamming. Some popular tags (e.g. #lrnchat) are now flooded with spam, rendering them largely unusable.

The final consideration in this technique is the material being discussed. A personal backchannel is good but consider whether or not you’re potentially disclosing information that should remain behind company doors. If that’s the case, tools like Yammer may be more appropriate than Twitter.

As with any other backchannel, it’s only worthwhile if you actually do something with the information. In my case Ie put together an internal summary for my colleague who was facilitating.

I’d be interested to hear of anyone else has tried this approach and what they thought.

Design a Planet, or just my little piece of it?

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“The chances of finding out what’s really going on in the universe are so remote, the only thing to do is hang the sense of it and keep yourself occupied… Look at me: I design coastlines… I’d far rather be happy than right any day.”
“And are you?”
“No, that’s where it all falls down, of course.”
“Pity, it sounded like quite a good lifestyle otherwise.”

Slartibartfast to Arthur Dent.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Book 1

As a small foreward to this (probably) disjointed post, congratulations to Harold Jarche for his 7 years of independent and thought-provoking blogging.  He gives me hope that maybe another ex-soldier can make good in the learning world.

As I was participating in the most recent #lrnchat, I commented to Jay Cross that I wanted to be able to participate in more things like MOOCs and other readings, etc. (for example, Clive Shepherd’s most recent book is still mostly unread) but scheduling was a challenge.  While he agreed he suggested prioritization, although I said to him that negotiating that kind of regular effort would likely require some coordination with those who sign my cheques.  He does, as he says, have the benefit of being his own paymaster and secretary.  Of course, as I pondered that exchange, I imagined Peter Block telling me that I just wasn’t committed enough. 😉

For all the time I’m spending on what is (relatively speaking) a pretty aggressive and innovative front, I feel a tremendous dissatisfaction that my own development is taking a distant back seat.  Part of that, I think, is the post-Grad School hangover, where all of a sudden after 2 years you’re not scrambling to read a journal or write a paper or engage in a discussion of some kind.  The other part of it is perhaps being in a role where – for whatever reason – there’s no overt or explicit encouragement to keep skills sharp or even to participate in events, conferences, or the like.  Even my participation in #lrnchat feels slightly ilicit under what is nominally a vendor/reseller banner, but I wouldn’t trade my experiences there for anything (although I am considering a separate handle for more of my PLN/personal commentary and only using the main handle for work-specific purposes).

Now I know that part of the recent time issues are of my own making with my agreement to teach two online courses for the College.  With 35 learners in one course and 13 in the other, I definitely have my hands full, and – of course – having an active 2 year old does tend to have an impact on remaining time.

So the question is:  what to do if I want to keep current or ahead of some of the trend demands?  Do I just say, ‘screw it’ and book my own time to read books/articles/blogs and seek out the brains of my PLN and abandon more event-driven activities?  Or do I take a more forthright stand and seek more control over my allowance for T&D and seek out some better Dev opportunities? I genuinely envy some of the folks in my PLN who are in either the right career space or right geographical space to take advantage of conferences, but for us Canadian practitioners who are not self-employed in lucrative thought-leader practices, its a different logistical challenge. Since very few of these big events come to Toronto, one has to travel larger distances and frequently across borders to attend. As an employee in a smaller org., it’s also logistics and a certain amount of proposal and rationalizing to convince someone to agree to pay for a flight, accommodations AND conference fees, all the while being generally unavailable for paid work for the duration. While I know that self-employment does have its advantages in

Maybe have a plan?

Ah, there’s the rub.  Saint-Exupery – I think – said that a “dream without a plan is just a wish”.  For me, a plan needs to have a goal and some kind of practical outcome.  Can I really learn to plan my own T&D for its own sake?  I suppose the educational purist in me says, ‘well, Duh’, but the practical and pragmatic Me has to raise some doubts. “Life”, as they say, “is what happens when one is making plans”.

But as time goes on, this T&D issue is going to hit critical mass and I can’t risk getting left behind in my career.  I’ve put way too much into it over the past few years to put it at excessive risk.  I’d much sooner be an in-demand resource than “just another training generalist”.  Selfish so-and-so that I am, I think I want to be right AND happy.

So, let’s see….Social Media, Informal Learning, mLearning….wow.  Looks like I have my work cut out for me.  Now, where did I put Clive’s book…?