What is digital learning, e-learning, online learning? Short answer, learning!

Laysha Ward, president of Community Relations for Target, published a fantastic post this week on the parallels between the different modes for learning. In her post Ward writes,

…we may be witnessing the death of “digital” — at least as an adjective. We don’t go “digital” shopping — we shop, online, by phone and in stores. We don’t read “digital” media — we read, on the printed page and on screens of every size.

Ward goes on to discuss classroom versus digital versus blended learning which many of us in the profession have been discussing for a decade. What’s exciting is to see this discussion taking place in mainstream media where everyday people can see what we’ve been saying for years. It’s all just learning!

Ward’s last paragraph really struck me as it’s something we’ve said about adult learning as well,

Too many of our students are not graduating from high school ready for a post-secondary education or a career in the 21st century economy. We know that, with the rate of technological change, those jobs will require a lifelong commitment to learning.

Laysha Ward as a Reading Buddy. Photo courtesy of Target

Laysha Ward as a Reading Buddy. Photo courtesy of Target

I would add that the same holds true for many students in undergraduate and graduate experiences as well. We still have professors teaching who do not value digital tools much less teach their students about them and how to use them in the workplace. I think this is one reason why workplace learning and development will continue to flourish in the 21st century. It’s one thing to have students who Tweet and have 1,000 Facebook friends. It’s another to have students, i.e. future workers, who know how to use those tools effectively in their jobs.

Ward’s post is a great read. Be sure to check it out!

Ward, Laysha. Re-Imagining Learning: Digital and Physical Convergence. Huffington Post. April, 23, 2013. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laysha-ward/reimagining-learning-digi_b_3135414.html.

What can libraries do to instill a lifetime of learning and relearning?

Thomas L. Friedman, author of The World is Flat, had a fantastic op-ed in the New York Times this week that says we need more than intelligence to survive in the 21st century and its economy. In the old days,” Friedman said, “it was assumed that your educational foundation would last your whole lifetime. That is no longer true.” Friedmans goes on to create some new acronyms declaring that we need “P.Q. (passion quotient) and C.Q. (curiosity quotient).”

I can’t help but think the roles libraries play in these arenas. We’re all about passion, curiosity, and learning. We show it in the storytime we stay up all night preparing for. We show it in the conference presentation we spend weeks preparing for. We show it in the privacy rights we fight for. While these skills come natural some, how do we help instill these skills in our patrons? Our patrons who might be unemployed? Our patrons struggling to find new careers? Our patrons going back to school for the first time in twenty years?

Likewise, how do we help instill passion and curiosity in coworkers who might be hesitant to learn new technologies or new service models?

Friedmans writes in closing that P.Q. and C.Q. are essential to:

…leverage all the newdigital tools to not just find a job, but to invent one or reinvent one, and to not just learn but to relearn for a lifetime.

When you think about the pace of change in our world you can see that Friedman is spot on. We can’t go to school for x number of years and say, “That’s it, I’m done.”

Darwin Quote

The world we live in requires constant learning and as libraries we are poised to become the center of lifelong learning in the community. Many of us have already discovered that learning = play + passion. Is it time to pass this message on to our communities? What can we do to teach the people in our communities not only the skills they need to find a job but the skills they need to develop a passion for lifelong learning…to play…to learn? There is no such thing as the 20 or 30 year job anymore–not even in libraries. We must all be prepared to prepare and adapt to the exponential change that technology and global communication brings.

If you want to see more, take a look at my slide deck on 21st century learning.

Building a Personal Learning Solution: 10 Steps to Control Information Overload and Take Back Your Life

When you look at the statistics of how much training actually gets retained by learners and how much training actually transfers back to the workplace, you have to ask yourself two questions. Why are we doing training? What can we do better? The problem with most training is that it doesn’t fill an immediate need. What’s the point in taking a class on Microsoft Access if I’m not going to use it for six months or worse don’t even have the software installed. Sounds crazy but believe me it happens. One of the other problems with training is that of ownership. We’ve grown up in this 20th century idea of training with the “sage on the stage”–of one person disseminating information and the learners hoping to learn it all through osmosis. It just doesn’t work that way.

Real learning is a participatory act or a dance between the learners and the facilitator and the learners among themselves. But what to do with information pouring in daily by the gigabyte? Too much to do and too much to keep up with. Enter the personal learning solution = personal learning environment + personal learning network. The 23 Things Program was the first widely distributed example of a personal learning solution. Participants used a blog to keep track of their learning, participants connected with other bloggers, and participants learned a lot about Web 2.0 and technology that was new to them.

In many ways PLSs are ideal for library staff who must manage lots of information with a limited amount of time. The following slides were used this week for a presentation for LibraryLinkNJ. Take a look at them to learn more about PLSs.

View more presentations from Lori Reed
My PLS has and will continue to change over time. Initially it consisted of thousands of RSS feeds in Google Reader. But then I got tired of seeing the count of 1000+ unread items. My true unread count–Google can’t even count as high. Next I navigated to Facebook and Twitter where I made more personal connections with other trainers and library staff. I like that the information is instant, timely, and doesn’t give me a read versus unread count. If I miss something, I can be sure that someone else out there will share the information. This past summer I migrated towards having all my information come into my Gmail account where I set up filters to organize and file the information. Your PLS will be unique to you and it will and should change over time.
If you are creating or thinking about updating your PLS, I’d encourage you to start with the end in mind and think about your goal. No one can keep up with everything. Is your goal to be a better trainer? To stay informed on local, community events? To learn more about one topic? To keep up with the latest tech news? Or to keep up with library news in general? Start with a specific goal and add more content only when you feel comfortable with the amount you already have.
In the following weeks as I embark on a new job and new phase in my career, my learning and information needs will definitely change. As I transition from a focus on “training” to a broader scope of customer relationships and end-user experiences, my information needs will look very different. With my thousands of feeds, I’ve decided to delete them all and start over fresh with a limit of 100 feeds. By effectively filtering information as it comes in using Google Alerts and Twitter Searches I should be able to keep my list of feeds to a manageable size. I’m reminding myself daily that quality should be chosen over quantity.
As we enter to into an early Spring, at least here in North Carolina, I invite you to do some early Spring cleaning and take stock of your information consumption by doing the following:
  1. Mark all your RSS feeds as read. I hear stories of people who get stressed just thinking about the number of unread RSS feeds they have. Remember that technology is here to serve us not the other way around. If you miss something important your sure to see it again from another source.
  2. Prune your RSS subscriptions to an amount that is manageable for you, or delete your feeds and start over.
  3. Know when to subscribe to RSS versus when to bookmark a site. Do you really want to read every post? Or do you want to make sure you can find the site again? Delicious and Pinboard are great bookmarking tools.
  4. Use lists in TweetDeck to manage the people and information you follow. Set up groups based on how much you want to see from the people in the group. The smaller the group, the more you will see. Add keyword columns to search on topics that are relevant to you. Twitter can easily get unmanageable without tools to manage lists.
  5. Unsubscribe from people who complain or are just generally negative all the time. Why surround yourself with negativity.
  6. Unsubscribe from people who post little of value to you. The information may be great, but as your needs change so should the people you follow. Get over the Twitequette that says you need to follow back anyone who follows you.
  7. Learn to use Facebook’s lists feature. You can create lists of coworkers, personal friends, family, librarians, or just about any list imaginable. The benefit is two-fold. First, you can click a button and see only the updates from those most important to you–close friends and family. Second, you can post updates that only specific lists of friends can see. If I’m posting about my cat or children, I may not want all 500 of my friends to see the post. Likewise if you are at a conference, you don’t want to overload your non-library friends and family with ALA totebag posts.
  8. Schedule time each day for online information consumption. 30 minutes should be adequate for most people. If you are in a PR, marketing, or role that requires you to keep track of more information, then adjust the time accordingly. If you are a manager who expects your staff to stay current on library news and information, make that expectation clear and schedule time for staff to do it. If it’s not scheduled it won’t happen.
  9. Schedule time each day to play and set a timer! Facebook is a time suck! Acknowledge that and do something about it. If you are ok with spending hours each night playing Words With Friends or preparing a new crop for Farmville, and it doesn’t affect your personal life, great! But if it interferes with your family relationships or causes you to neglect other parts of your life, do something about it and set a timer. Did you know that inpatient centers are popping up to treat Internet addiction? Internet addiction is real and is more prevalent than you might realize. If you are using the Internet to escape some part of your life, get help. Life is too short to live in a virtual world like the folks in the movie Wall-E.
  10. Don’t forget to take time to participate in your networks. Comment on blogs. Post links to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Add to the discussions taking place. If you don’t have anything to add, offer encouragement to someone having a bad day. This is your social network karma.

I hope this information and tips are helpful. I’d love to hear from you in the comments? What does your personal learning solution look like? And how are you controlling the overload of information?

UPDATE: If you are looking for a tool to manage multiple social media accounts. Check out this great review of three products from the Social Media Examiner.

Merci Montreal!

Today I gave the opening keynote for the Quebec Library Association Annual Conference whose theme was libraries as learning organizations. Here are the slides from the presentation.

Montreal is a beautiful city and the people are very friendly. I’m amazed at how easily everyone transitions from French to English in conversations. We should strive for this level of personal bilingualism in the US.

Learning in Hard Times: Thinking Out Loud With George and Joan

If you have about 16 minutes listen to this thought-provoking podcast by Joan Frye Williams and George Needham. They echo many of our thoughts and concerns about training and learning in libraries.

For instance when times get tough training budgets appear to be an easy mark. But is that the best solution?

Addressing one of the fears many organizations have about training: What if you train them and they leave? But what if you don’t train them and they stay?

Whose responsibility is learning? The professional or the institution?

What is learning? Does watching a YouTube video count or talking at lunch?

If learning is important are we modeling that?

I hope you enjoy listening to this as much as I did!

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