Learning is the Work | Beth's Blog

Learning is the Work

Social Media Policy

Last month, I had the pleasure of participating in National eXtension Conference which was amazing for many reasons.    I first did several professional sessions with this network back in 2007 and an online class on knowledge sharing and online collaboration – so it was great to long-time colleagues.     The highlight was a master panel with Dave Gray,  Harold Jarche, and Jane Hart on connected learning and culture change needed to embrace this type of learning.  We used Dave Gray’s “Board Thing” online tool to crowdsource questions to discuss from the audience.   You can find a storify of the curated tweets and links here.

What was most exciting for me was to finally meet three people  in person after following their writing, blogs, and books for almost a decade.   If you are not already familiar with their work, you will learn a lot about online collaboration, knowledge management, informal learning, and networks by following them.

Dave Gray:   Dave Gray is a guru on the topics of design, innovation, culture and change. He’s written two books – Gamestorming and The Connected Company.    I first discovered Dave’s work through colleague, Eugene Eric Kim, who recently shared this great story about Dave and his work.

Jane Hart: Jane has been blogging for many years and writes about informal and workplace learning .   She is one of the leading voices of  “social learning practice” which is about self-directed and informal learning from your online networks.  She’s written a book about this, “The Social Learning Handbook.”   She has a wonderful Twitter stream called “Learning Flow” that is a continuous learning stream of short activities (15-20 minutes) a day.   She also publishes the Top Learning Tools Index, a crowdsourced list of the best technologies for networked learning.

In her keynote,  Jane gave us the big picture and framework about what social learning is and why it is important.   Jane described social learning as “learning the new” to keep up with our industry.     It is about digesting a steady flow of information from a diverse online professional network.   “It is about constantly looking around you and at new resources to learn new things.”   She used the metaphor of white river rafting.

Why is learning the new important?  She pointed out that an individual’s knowledge and skills will be out of date within 5 years and a college degree will be out of date long before the loan is paid off.       This means we need to build the skill of learning the new and this means building online social network competence.  Most importantly, it is about building a professional network of peole in your industry or professional area  (external experts and others) and interacting with them to keep up to date.

What does learning the new mean for organizations?  She explained that “learning or teaching the old” is about training, knowledge transfer, and structured, directed learning.   Teaching the new is not structured because it is social learning. She points out that you can’t teach people to be social, only to show what it is and help facilitate it.   She also talked about a new role called “Social Learning Practitioner,” someone who encourages and enables and supports knowledge sharing and learning across the organization.

Harold Jarche: I’ve been reading Harold Jarche’s blog for many years and was thrilled to finally meet in person.  He is a network consultant and recently wrote an e-book, Seeking Perpetual Beta: A Guide Book for a Networked Era.    In 2011, I read about his  “Seek, Sense, Share” framework for personal knowledge management and adopted this approach for a year which was an invaluable for learning.

After Jane’s keynote,  Harold lead a master class with practical exercises on how to “learn the new” or manage/design and use a professional learning network.

Mapping Your Professional Network Exercise:

He asked to think about this question:    Who are the people with you have most frequently communicated with in order to get your work done?  He asked us to list them.  Then asked us to do analysis based on:

  • Age
  • Organization
  • Gender
  • Hierarchical Position
  • Area of Expertise
  • Geographic Location

He asked to reflect on our network map.  Is your professional learning network diverse enough?  Diversity correlates with innovation?  Are you getting new ideas from your network?  If you find Twitter boring, perhaps you are following wrong people.   This sparked an excellent discussion about how we identify people to follow – how do we tune our network?  Here’s a blog post from Jamie Seger summarizing some of the ideas into practice.

He also shared some points about how you need to filter your professional learning network.  The illustration above is Jarche’s “Seek, Sense, Share” model that integrates  Five forms of filtering by Tim Kastelle.    The filtering approaches fall into two categories:   Human Judgement Based or Mechanical.

The most important takeaway was to understand how to use human filtering in your professional network.  You can identify the recognized experts on a topic, especially if it is a side topic to what you need to know and follow them.    But if the topic is the core of your work, you need a network expert filter – this is multiple perspectives on the topic.    This is about being intentional about selecting who you follow to build your ability to learn.


5 Responses

  1. Beth says:

    The title is a quote from Harold Jarche – here’s there reference https://twitter.com/hjarche/status/456467432270340096

  2. Judi Piggott says:

    As one whose life-long career has straddled the community sector, adult education, human resource development and technology, it’s delightful to see the synergy in this event. I feel less and less like an anomaly (I call myself a catalytic interloper) and find my weirdness more and more welcome as divergent thinking seems to be shifting to convergent and design thinking. Yay! and thanks to you all for keeping me going over the years.

  3. Karen Jeannette says:

    Beth – thank you for coming to #Nexconf. It was a thrill to have you there, along with Harold, Jane, and Dave Gray. You all have been invaluable to me and others in modeling and sharing what you are learning and what you know.

    In eXtension, we’ve used the editorial calendar ideas in many groups, worked with/through some of your evaluation ideas, and have found your engagement webinars really helpful for breaking us out of old broadcast models, to one where we are engaging people in real-time.

    When we manage to engage people more fully or in new and unexpected ways through webinars, blog posts, or simply follow up to share their ideas forward, we always see people delighted with the results (whether it’s with internal teams or ‘customers’).

    For an organization with a 100 year history, it’s exciting to see us move into a era of networked participation. Thank you for being a catalyst for helping us see and realize new and engaged ways of working through social networking.

  4. Beth says:

    Hi Karen,

    Great to hear from you and thank you for your kind words. I look forward hearing more about your success stories engaging your community!

  5. Beth, what a great opportunity! I’ve admired the work of David, Harold and Jane for some time, as well as your own of course. Isn’t it great that when you meet face to face after long on-line interaction it seems like you are meeting a long-life friend!