In my last post, I advised that declaring your intention to learn is one of the most important developmental steps you can take. In that spirit, let me share what is on my “to-learn-list” for 2013. It’s interesting to me that what winds up on this list are not the things I know little about, but the topic areas that I know fairly well – enough to know that learning more will be valuable and energizing.
Collaborative learning spaces.
I believe collaboration and social media engagement are important tools for all learning professionals – for our own learning and for the work we do supporting others. We need to help curate the best of what’s out there, and better still, we need to help our learners become highly effective at finding and filtering material for themselves. We need to help build collaborative spaces where learners can meet up virtually and engage the problems of their work together.
I want to understand better what makes that kind of space tick, and to understand more deeply the individual tools that are employed in the effort. Collaborative learning is particularly important for my work in learning environment design, especially for those learners with complex knowledge bases and skill sets whose work practices are being reinvented every day.
I’m teaching a course on e-collaboration that begins this week, so I’ve already been doing a lot more reading in this arena. There’s no better way to learn a topic than to engage with a lively group of students to explore it deeply. In my course, we’re reading some theoretical material on collaborative learning and communities of practice as well as practice texts on using social media for learning. (I assigned Jane Bozarth’s Social Media for Trainers and Will Richardson’s Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. Our third text is A New Culture of Learning by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown, who lay out the case for why this is such a relevant topic for learning leaders.) Better still, we’ll be looking at a variety of social media tools and the students will be supporting one another in designing online collaborative learning spaces for topics/audiences of their choosing. I imagine the discussions will be pretty intense, and we’ll run into many of the very real challenges and surprises of social learning.
I’ve also taken a more hands-on approach to learning about how to tap into the learning affordances of social media. I’ve had a private Twitter account for a few years now (I follow people, but don’t tweet myself). I have found it invaluable in terms of making me aware of interesting conversations, great articles, new conferences, and smart people to follow. Last week, though, I launched a Twitter account for my consulting practice – @L4LP – and I’ll be trying to enrich the Twitterverse with relevant tweets of interest to learning professionals. I’m looking forward to using Twitter as a two-way communication tool as well. At the moment, my exploration of social media is being coached on the side by Dave Kerpen’s Likeable Social Media and a bunch of new Twitter feeds and blog subscriptions.
Perhaps because my day-to-day work is in a solo consulting practice, I’m recognizing more and more how highly valuable it is to engage with others when making sense of the world, thinking through problems and inventing approaches. Figuring out how to enrich my own collaborative environment is a priority for me.
Last fall, I worked with a terrific group of students as we explored the many varieties of and contributions of adult learning theory. I strongly endorse constructivism, but I wish I were more widely read on the subject. Constructivism appeals to me because so much of the learning that I support is related to complex knowledge bases and skills that can’t be reduced to a collection of courses. I’m surprised by the relationships I find between seemingly unrelated topics, and how drawing from one knowledge base helps me to more deeply understand another. How we learn from experiences, from relationships, from reflection… these processes intrigue me.
I have been truly inspired by Ken Gergen’s Relational Being, and by other readings in the constructivist school of thinking and I want to continue down that path. I want to be able to answer my students’ questions a little more confidently, especially related to how to craft constructivist approaches to support specific learning challenges. I’m a book geek, so I always start with a reading list… So far, I’ve added two books to the queue: Social Constructionism: Sources and Stirrings in Theory and Practice, by Andy Lock and Tom Strong and Relational Reality by Charlene Spretnak.
I have a few smaller learning goals as well – polishing my conference presentations, becoming more efficient at facilitating my online learning classes, fine-tuning systems to keep all my various projects on track, and developing my writing in a variety of forms (blogging included). Growth in these areas comes from planning, practicing, and noticing outcomes, and I already feel like I’m making real progress.
If you have ideas on books, articles, web sites, bloggers, or other resources on any of these topics, I would love to hear about them. Over the course of the year, I’m sure I’ll be sharing what I learn along these lines, so stay tuned.
What about you? I’m always interested in what other people want to learn as well! What’s on your to-learn-list?