I think I need to take some of my own advice… I have a young friend who had some trouble last year trying to balance his homework and his desire to be connected. I advised him to set a time limit; to allow himself only certain hours for online chatting and texting with friends. As I get more and more drawn into this web 2.0 thing, I think I may need to take that advice myself!
This stuff is very seductive. When I get home from work, I start out reading the “paper” by checking the headlines on all the news sites I enjoy. I find something interesting and check out some of the related links… and the links’ related links. I have a question about whether there’s another perspective on an issue, and I don’t have to wonder anymore; I can just “Google” it. I follow a few blogs… okay, it’s more than a few blogs, and I add more every week. A blogger says something interesting, has a few links to follow, and I’m off on a tangent. Sometimes I decide to comment – just a few minutes to compose my thoughts and get past the spam controls to post my response. Just this week I started taking this online course on web 2.0. It’s a jackpot in terms of links to check out to learn more about web 2.0 technologies and their use in supporting learning. I’m intrigued and drawn into checking many of them out and tagging them so I can refer people to them later. Plus there are interesting conversations going on that I want to contribute to. I’m thinking maybe I should get “LinkedIn” or start a Facebook page. Mmm… more connections; won’t that be grand? But the next thing you know, it’s practically bedtime and I haven’t eaten dinner yet! Do I have to set a time limit on my learning?
I have, on occasion, shrugged off concerns of colleagues who tell me they don’t have time to be exploring which blogs to read and how to use all these nifty new tools. But I am beginning to understand what they’re talking about. Which leads me to the point of this post, which wasn’t really to whine about getting lost on the web. It’s more a question… how do we help our learners sort all of this out and be efficient in thier learning on the web?
To answer that question for learners, I have to answer it for myself. I’m working on some specific strategies that I think will work for me… limiting my scan of blog posts to one or two times per week, putting specific research and follow up on my “to-learn list,” setting a time limit on surfing when I’m just being curious, weeding out those sources that don’t seem to have much impact on my thinking, getting back in the habit of keeping journals at the dining table and in my carry-all so that I can always catch up on reading when I’m waiting, that sort of thing.
For learners, I continue to be convinced that we can help by designing learning environments that they will find useful for specific topics. We can do the work to separate the good from the bad (the blogs, websites, resources, etc.) and set up systems that really help learners to stay informed and to grow. Inside the enterprise, we can (or at least our IT departments can) analyze and recommend the tools that will be most useful for our employees so they don’t have to pick which aggregator to use, or which wiki tool works best. And we can collate the tips and tricks that will help learners to learn how to learn in this environment. This last point can’t be emphasized enough, I think. I’ve noticed some of the people who are savvy with the research are sometimes not savvy about discriminating the well-founded material from the weak. Using online reference databases, researching on the web, and staying up with ever-changing practices are critical work skills that can be taught – and that would be time better spent than trying to teach content in many instances. But if you’re reading this blog… I’m probably preaching to the choir on that score!
So we learning professionals need to be out there using the tools, learning the best sources, devising our own tips, and communicating all that back out to our learners. I’m getting a lot out of the web 2.0 course. And I’d be pleased to hear comments from other readers about the tricks you are learning about how to be efficient on the web.