Check out this month’s Big Question… Tony Karrer takes up a thread I started back in June. It’s only right, then, that I respond to the challenging questions that Tony puts out there. I’m so glad I actually did something with this idea – otherwise I’d be pretty embarrassed right about now. 🙂
Here’s the Q&A – Tony’s questions, my answers:
If you have a to-learn list and are willing to share – and willing to share how you work with that list – that would likely be helpful information.
I did, in fact, create that to-learn list. I started by identifying six areas of learning that I wanted to concentrate on this year: adult learning theory and research, coaching and mentoring, graduate teaching, learning 2.0, personal learning environments, and faith and religion. As I hinted in my first post, these are tied to my “commitments” (my broad resolutions/personal goals) – so they support goal accomplishment. By articulating them and incorporating specific actions into my to-do list, I make sure I am making progress. For example, I’ve put specific books to read on the list, searched out blogs to read on specific subjects, reserved time to keep a learning journal (paper and pen kind), assigned myself application tasks (e.g. try this new idea with this project) and the like.
As Knowledge Workers, work and learning are the same, so how does a to-learn list really differ from a to-do list? How are they different than undirected learning through work, blogging, conferences, etc.?
My to-learn list feels an awful lot like a to-do list, but I think that’s okay — by making the list and giving the deliberate learning actions on the list the same status as everything on the to-do, I’m making more progress than I otherwise might have. The list is different from undirected informal learning precisely because it is directed… I learn lots of things that aren’t on the list, to be sure. But by keeping an eye on the list, I’ve been able to prioritize specific readings and activities that might have seemed “extra” before. With so much amazing stuff to learn, I can’t tell you how important having the list has been – I’ve actually stopped myself from going too far down interesting paths that weren’t contributing to the learning that I have made a priority. That sounds stifling, but when you have limited time, you need to know the basis on which you will make choices.
Are to-learn lists really important to have? Are they as important as what Jim Collins tells us?
I have to say it’s working for me… but as I said in my original post, I believe in new year’s resolutions, too.
Should they be captured? If so how?
As noted above, putting them in writing is an important part of the process. See my post on this subject. I’m using Outlook as a tool for capturing all my various and sundry to-dos and reminders. I can use the features of the task list to call up just the subset of to-learn list tasks, which are categorized. Every month or so, I review where I am and add to / prioritize the list to ensure I’m making progress. It has helped to keep them from getting lost in the shuffle, although it hasn’t helped me to find another 4 or 5 hours in the day to really get into them. 🙂
How does a to-learn list impact something like a Learning Management System in a Workplace or Educational setting?
I haven’t thought about this much… in my experience Learning Management Systems aren’t very good at capturing the informal stuff – either as part of a learning plan, or as part of a learning transcript. To-learn lists, I think, are as personal as to-do lists and are probably out of scope of corporate systems.
What skills, practices, behaviors do modern knowledge workers need around to-learn lists?
To write a to-learn list, I think we can rely on our objective-writing and project-planning skills. I also think that modern knowledge workers can be more efficient in their learning if they utilize personal learning environments and web 2.0 technologies to get connected to others who share their interests. I also think that we need to balance efficiency (read speed) with depth of learning – for the things on a to-learn list, we’re probably looking for real depth, which is hard to get if all we do is skim internet postings or tackle the low-hanging fruit on a to-learn list action plan.
Thanks, Tony, for bringing this back up again. In thinking through your questions, I actually came up with a few more actions for my to-learn list. I’ll look forward to seeing others’ reactions -perhaps you (gentle reader) could take a few minutes to respond as well.
“Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.” – Abigail Adams