On my way to office today, I was pondering about my evolving use of social media. Six years have passed since I joined Twitter in 2008, when twitter was in its infancy, and I was clueless about its use. In hindsight I realize how immensely lucky I was to have stumbled onto the learning network I did. I got to learn from the experts – individuals who were charting the path and devising ways to use the tool as an avenue for learning, sharing and innovating – building a strong global community of learning professionals. Here’s my heartfelt thanks to people like @janebozarth, @janehart, @hjarche, @jaycross, @charlesjennings, @jeanmarrapodi, and many more for generously sharing their learning and experience and for changing the face of learning – for individuals and organizations. As I see colleagues and friends and peers still struggling to comprehend how to use social media for “learning” and often expressing skepticism, I thought I’d share my journey in brief. This is also a journey back in time for me to trace my own learning pathway through the maze called social media. I hope my journey will encourage others like me to embark on this path.
I stumbled across twitter quite by accident or should I say serendipity. It was perhaps a case of opportunity meeting the prepared mind. Just prior to that, I had finished reading Jay Cross’ Informal Learning: Rediscovering the Natural Pathways That Inspire Innovation and Performance and was primed to explore new ways of learning. Needless to say when I found the same person on Twitter, I was part excited and part overawed. I lurked and waited. I observed the interactions. I followed the links being shared. I read avidly hoping to reach a level where I would be able to contribute or at least understand part of what was going on. Driven by curiosity and a deep desire to learn, I entered a wondrous world. It was equivalent to an online library being personally curated for me by some of the best learning curators and designers. I found out who followed whom and started following some of the people. I didn’t know then that I was building my Personal Learning Network (PLN) and that it would change how I learned and thought forever. It’s no exaggeration to say that Twitter and my growing PLN contributed to what became transformative learning for me. And I guess this was the Seeking time for me (if I were to map my journey onto Harold Jarche’s Seek-Sense-Share Framework).
I discovered the blogs of several of the people mentioned above and was amazed by the power of the platform – a free tool to share thoughts, ideas and get feedback and inputs. I started blogging—albeit very tentatively. It took me a while to realize that blogging is not about other people – unless you are blogging to market something. Blogging is one of the most critical and powerful personal learning and reflection tool. Just like I am blogging now to delve into how I’ve learned from social media and my PLN. Here’s a link to my first ever blog post called Games in Corporate Training written at a time when most organizations thought that gamification in corporate training was a sacrilege. While the post leaves much to be desired from the point of view of analysis, knowledge and maturity, it’s still a critical part of my learning journey. No one tweeted it. And I didn’t have a Share option on my blog then. It looked very different then from what it does now. It was the March of 2009, and I have completed 5 years of blogging this year. Blogging took me to the next stage of the framework – Sensing. I started to analyze, assimilate and connect the disparate dots – things were beginning to make sense.
Sometime later, I stumbled on to my first ever online learning community, #lrnchat. Little did I know then the influence that it’d have over me. I think it was one of those days when I was just lurking on twitter (as had become my habit), and I saw a series of tweets with the hashtag #lrnchat stream past. I didn’t know what was happening but found that clicking the hashtag showed me all the tweets related to it. I sat through the entire one hour and found out that this “phenomenon” took place at a fixed time and day every week. Intrigued, I was back the next week and the week after and the following week... Again unknown to me, I was following the classic behavior of a community member going from lurking to participating to contributing to lurking again. All that l learned here, I took back to my work. I started to view elearning and instructional design through different lenses. I felt empowered. Such is the power of a learning network and community. Here’s an old post from one of my early #lrnchat days: An Impromptu #lrnchat. It was an exciting time. I saw everyone contributing in the community, and understood the importance of Sharing.
When I trace the path back, I can very clearly plot my Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) approach. But that’s only in retrospection. Here’s an old post on the various learning tools I used way back in 2010. Some of the tools are no longer in existence. But they facilitated my learning journey when they did exist.
Since then, I have learned to curate, filter, aggregate, save and share. I consciously follow people who I trust and who become my curators. I use different curating and aggregation tools like paper.li to share content. Today, my list of social media tools—apart from Twitter and my blog—includes Pinterest, LinkedIn, Facebook, and occasionally, Tumblr. I'm still trying to streamline my sources. I want to avoid the trap of homophily, and try to keep my sources as diverse as possible. However, that seems to be becoming increasingly difficult as we keep receiving “more of the same” kind of content with the web acting as a giant curator. I am not sure if I want everything “irrelevant” filtered out automatically…but that is a topic for another post.