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.

I’m Joining the Team at NoveList

If you’ve been following my blog you might have noticed subtle changes to the site over the past few weeks. The logo for Lori Reed Learning Solutions has been replaced with a different header. Posts have become a bit more personal in nature. When I transitioned to full-time consulting last summer, I anticipated remaining self-employed for life (or at least a few years). I enjoyed working with a variety of libraries and library cooperatives. I loved teaching classes and receiving feedback from participants about how much they learned. I also enjoyed being home with my kids after school and having more flexibility with my schedule. So it’s bittersweet to announce that I taught my final workshop as an independent consultant today for LibraryLinkNJ.

Next week I begin a new position at NoveList® as the Customer Relationship Coordinator. The opportunity to work with the fabulous team there was too good to pass up and I’m looking forward to working with many different libraries in this capacity. As happy as I was to begin consulting full-time, I’m even more excited about working with the talented, creative group at NoveList®.

If you have a training need, please contact me and I will be happy to connect you with another consultant who is a good match for your needs. I am available for a limited amount of speaking engagements and look forward to presenting a full day preconference on training skills for non-trainers in May at the Maryland Library Association Conference and a keynote about coping with change as well as a breakout session about working with multiple generations in October at the UW-Madison SLIS-Continuing Education Service Conference for Circulation Managers and Staff.

I’d like to take a moment to thank the following people who were instrumental in my success as a consultant by serving as mentors, advisers, and trusted colleagues: Pat Wagner, Paul Signorelli, Nicole Engard, Andrew Sanderbeck, Polly-Alida Farrington, Chad Mairn, Dick Handshaw, and Guy Wallace.

Thank you also to everyone else who has followed me online through Twitter and Facebook and offered support and encouragement this past year.

So what happens to my blog? This site has transitioned since 2005 from one of the original 23 Things participant blogs, to Library Trainer, to my own domain name. Writing is a great way for me to reflect and share things I’ve learned. I searched for the right name for months and finally out of frustration made a joke on Facebook that I should just call this “A Work in Progress.” Ironically since my passions are personal and professional development, the name stuck. I plan to write about a variety of topics that relate to libraries as well as other organizations but mostly information that is relevant to you on a personal level. I envision this site as becoming the Oprah of library blogs. :) Much of what I share will be practical advice or information mixed in with personal stories. Look for upcoming posts about dealing with information overload as well as what it is like to work as a consultant. If there are topics you are interested in, please contact me. I look forward to sharing this new journey with you.

Feel free to also connect with me on:

Twitter: http://twitter.com/lorireed

Facebook: http://facebook.com/lorireed

LinkedIn: http://linkedin.com/in/loribreed

Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/russandlori

 

Upcoming Online Workshops

An Introduction to E-Readers for Libraries

In this four hour class taught in two, two hour increments on consecutive days, participants will first examine the history of e-text and free sources for e-content as well as digital rights management. Next we’ll examine the variety of e-readers on the market today as well as the pros and cons of each. On the second day we will discuss ideas for circulating and programming with e-readers and look at examples of libraries with successful e-reader programs.

Learning Outcomes

  • Understand the basics of digital rights management.
  • Be familiar with at least three resources for free e-content.
  • Be able to recognize a Barnes and Noble Nook and Amazon Kindle as well as discuss the pros and cons of each.
  • Know what needs to be considered in planning to circulate or plan a program with e-readers.

Lyrasis, Tuesday, January 24 and Wednesday, January 25, 2012 10am-12noon EST

Register here: http://www.lyrasis.org/Classes%20and%20Events/Catalog/A/An%20Introduction%20to%20EReaders%20for%20Libraries%20Live%20Online.aspx

 

Cultivating a Culture of Learning in Your Library

How much time does your library spend on “training?” Statistics show that most learning takes place on the job or with a coworker, yet as trainers we spend an inordinate amount of time preparing for and delivering classroom training. In this webinar you will learn why you need to get your staff out of the classroom and instead focus on creating a culture of learning in your library. We explore:

  • The differences between training and learning
  • The benefits to libraries for creating a culture of learning
  • The key elements of a learning organization
  • Tips for creating a culture of learning in any size library

NEFLIN, Tuesday, January 26, 2012 10am – 11:30am EST

Register here: http://neflin.actevapsn.com/view_my_events.php

Free for NEFLIN members. Anyone outside of Florida should contact register@neflin.org for fees and registration procedures.

 

Building a Personal Learning Solution

Learning never stops and no one person can know it all, do it all, or learn it all! Get help fast, when you need it, by calling on experts in your personal learning network. Take advantage of additional opportunities to learn from your network of peers, with tools like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. By the end of the session, participants will develop an action plan for creating their own personal learning solutions.

In this session, participants will be able to:

  • Crowdsource answers to questions big and small from your personal learning network
  • Employ tips from learning professionals to stave off burnout and information overload
  • Create their own personal online learning environments
  • Develop strategies for cultivating and using learning networks

LibraryLinkNJ, Tuesday, January 31, 2012 3-4pm EST

Register here: http://librarylinknj.org/content/building-personal-learning-solution

Free for New Jersey library staff.

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