Saturday, February 20, 2010

My Learning Tools


I just finished reading Harold Jarche’s post: Seek, Sense, Share
In the post, he talks about how seeking information, then applying our personal sense-making filters to it, and finally sharing it helps us to see the interconnections, patterns and the larger whole. This is why the process of “seek, sense, share” becomes so important in one’s personal learning and knowledge management.
This set me thinking about how I manage my personal knowledge and from there it led to the tools I use to do in this networked world.
Lately, I have started using a number of Web tools actively. The post made me pause and reflect on the position/use of each in my PKM. And this is what I found after some random scribbling, reflection, dialogue with self, and head scratching…
I have listed the tools in their order of frequency of usage (at least now and this is liable to change)…
What do I receive (tangible and intangible)/how do I use each of the tools…
1.       Resource links, suggestions, insights that have taught me more in a year than I learned in the previous five
2.       Responses to queries
3.       Opportunities to participate in global conversations like #lrnchat (my favorite activity)
4.       Access to collective wisdom helping me to make sense of all the information flowing endlessly
5.       A real-time editing of the web that filters the most useful bits with comments, suggestions, additional thoughts that add to my sense-making
6.       Send out 140 ch thought chunks where I force myself to summarize what I have read (my ability to see the essence/core of a piece is improving with this)
7.       Opportunities to lurk on interesting conversations that erupt in an atmosphere where most are seeking to learn
8.       Ability to participate or just “be”, depending on my mood and still benefit
9.       A feel of the “pulse” of what is happening, how the world and worldviews are shifting, and how these can impact learning/training/organizations/interactions—in short everything

1.       I have been using Amplify to not only share what I read and like but also to share (to some extent) my take on the topic.
2.       Amplify bridges the gap that micro-blogging seems to have created in the blogosphere with people sharing links to great posts and maybe a few words on Twitter.
3.       Using Amplify is forcing me to go beyond superficial skimming and read more deeply before I post the link. While my sharing on Twitter may have reduced, I feel that I am doing so more thoughtfully now.
4.       It’s a step beyond Twitter and I feel will help us to make greater sense of the information coming our way—at least from an “analyzing to internalize” perspective.
5.       This may also take care of some of the fears many have expressed about Twitter encouraging superficial/no reading. The way Amplify works, one has to dig a bit deeper…probably a move toward sharing more thoughtfully…

As Harold Jarche has said, my blog is where I hammer out my ideas. For the most part, my posts are an outcome of some theoretical understanding (a beginner here) combined with experiential learning. They are more often than not reflective in nature. Blogging has helped me to:
1.       Pin down sometimes elusive thoughts
2.       Rationalize my reactions and even hunches
3.       Analyze any new theories/concepts I come across (those that fall within my areas of interest)
4.       Concretize my understanding and make new concepts my own (I can beat these around till I see how they all fit into my overall understanding)
5.       Connect old ideas to new learning and information—thus adding layers and depth to my knowledge
6.       Come into contact with wonderful bloggers and be a part of the blogosphere
7.       Trace the emerging pattern of my writing to see what is driving me (though I started my blog as an instructional design blog, most of my posts pertain to informal learning, interaction and collaboration. This was an unconscious move and only now apparent in hindsight)

A place for my half formed ideas—those that are too big for Twitter and too scrappy to be a post. I kind of jot them down here (need to use this more frequently) and then go over a collection of them to see the pattern in my thought process. Some of these evolve into posts after reflection, more reading and referencing. Sometimes, I also quickly publish a find that has added to my learning significantly. The best part is that it pushes out what I publish here to Twitter and also saves it as a Delicious link (these options are configurable).

A very recent addition to my list of tools (thanks a lot to @mrch0mp3rs Aaron Silvers), I can see that this is going to soon become very important. Once you create an account here, you can:
1.       Add the book that you have read, plan to read or buy
2.       Add notes, comments, thoughts, and reviews of the books and keep adding to these
3.       Post comment to other people’s notes, books…
4.       Follow others whose reading list interest you
5.    Recommend books building a "user generated" popularity chart 
I have to get down to using this more actively, one of my goals this weekend.

This is another tool I use very frequently and actively. It allows me to:
1.       Save posts, articles, notes I want to go back to and read again, reflect upon
2.       Add my comments and thoughts as I read them (these comments later become my posts in some cases)
3.       Edit, print out, e-mail directly and also share (the way I have done with these notes)
In short, Evernote allows me to filter the web, take what I want and create my own notebook. I can also synch it so that I can access my notes when I am offline. I have found this feature immensely useful when traveling long distances and it has helped me to catch up on my reading.

Xmind and Freemind:
These are FREE! Free is good to use Cammy Bean’s words.
These are free mind mapping tools that helps to me to structure my thoughts and lay them out visually. I use mind maps to:
1.       Take minutes of meetings
2.       Kick start a discussion
3.       Capture a brainstorming session (sometimes these are done by sketching a mind map on a whiteboard, but the result is the same)
4.       Capture the key points I wish to cover in a document with all the hierarchies and sub-sets visually laid out
5.       To lay out a PowerPoint presentation before actually creating one
6.       During the content chunking phase when I can group the content easily (a typical pre-storyboard phase of an ID’s job)
7.       To storyboard and do design thinking
8.       To sometimes capture the key points of a post I am planning to write
9.       And anything else in between
Usually where I save my links with my tags. However, this is a bit on the decline with Evernote proving more useful for me.
I have not gone into LinkedIn here as I don’t really (as yet) use it to “learn”. I use it as a platform to connect to people I learn from via their blogs, Twitter sharing, and such. LinkedIn has some great discussions but participation there is as yet negligible.  

There are also Ning and Wikis but I have not started using these very actively. The activities here are still sporadic, and I think will not pick up speed for the next 6 months. By then, it will be time to revisit this post and note the changes.
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