A Reflection on Networked Professional Learning | Beth's Blog

A Reflection on Networked Professional Learning


Black-Crowned Night Heron

Many years ago before digital cameras and children, my husband and I used to spend many hours combining two past times: birding and photography.   Over the holidays, we picked out some of the  best to scan.      Looking at these photos reminds me of how much focused attention we gave to setting up the shot,  shooting during the best time for light, debating the rule of thirds, taking photos at different angles, f-stops, and timings, etc.      There was a slowness to it that we don’t have with digital photography (perhaps because the slide film was expensive and we didn’t want to waste money).

Over the holidays,  I took an all too brief  social media break to spent time with family.   It gave me some reflection time away from the daily fast-paced, always moving forward world of social media.

This morning I came across a Tweet from Debra Askanase who writes the Community Organizer Blog which lead to a conversation on SocialButterfly’s blog “Name Two Blogs That Get You Thinking.”     I’ve been giving some mindful attention to my system for capturing and sharing professional learning online, using social media – and blog reading habits are definitely a part of that system.   Debra posed a very good question frame question about how to pick blogs to follow:   Does the blog offer consistent insight and education about an area I want to learn about?

This made reflect on my professional learning system captured in the MindMap below:

My system supports my learning goals:  One path results in a product and the other is a process.      Product-driven learning usually has a predefined  specific topic that I need to research with the end goal of creating a presentation, training materials,  or writing an article, report, book chapter or book.

The product-driven learning is mindful, mostly linear, and focused.   I use knowledge trees, outlines, and focused thinking to identify what I need to learn and questions I need to ask.  I identify the key SME experts and immerse myself in their thinking.  (Since I’m working on an array of subjects over the past five years, I have a lot of them in my RSS reader and Twitter lists or I find them via keyword scans.)   Key skills and tools may include search on Google, social media channels, and bookmarks.

Process-driven learning is about  seeing  patterns and the identification of these patterns may or may not lead to a formal learning product, although I may blog about it.   This is the listening and scanning for patterns that I do through a  listening post (blog feeds and keyword searches) and daily email subscriptions.     This process is full of  serendipity – not pure randomness, but orchestrated.

Personally, I need both kinds of learning and the challenge is balancing it.  Too much serendipity and I don’t feel like I accomplish anything.  If I don’t have a good system,  I ended up with information overload.  Too much product-driven learning, and I don’t discover new ideas and end up in a rut.

Getting back to Social Butterfly’s question what about  bloggers that make you think.    It was hard for me to answer because I keep a folder in my reader of must read blogs called “Circle of the Wise” a trick I learned over four years ago from Vicky Davis whose blog always make me think.    The feeds in my “Circle of Wise” is always changing.   I discover and rediscover bloggers who make me think and add them to my “Circle of the Wise.”  I allow no more than dozen and if I find someone new,  I remove one.   (I don’t unsubscribe, just remove from the folder which sits at the top of my reader and gets my attention).   My goal is to do better real time news curation.

  • Aliza Sherman is not only is she a superb writer, but she obviously reads widely and links to a wide number of sources.   She recently wrote a post about how much time it takes to do social media based on some thinking from a post I wrote in 2008.    Her blog posts certainly get me to think!
  • Stephan Downes writes a blog and daily newsletter of links with some pithy, thoughtful commentary on them.    Here’s a post about social networks that not only is a topic of interest, but also illustrates this idea of networked professional learning.

What is your system for professional learning?  What role does social media play in it?

11 Responses

  1. I love when conversations evolve like this one. I’m going to have to think a bit about my “system” for learning. Mainly, one of my hopes for 2011 is to have more of an organized system. So, I’ll be borrowing your “Circle of Wisdom” strategy. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Beth says:

    Alex: Getting organized is what prompted by reflection … it seems like this maintenance is part of the process …

  3. Beth,
    This post is just another example of serendipty. For me, the fact that Social Butterfly answered with such a profound statement changed my thought process around constructing a blog post about best blogs to follow.

    I love that it took yours in a direction, too. Reflecting on the process vs. product-driven learning system, I think it would be fascinating to read about how others would draw that diagram. It’s an interesting challenge I might take on as well (illustrating that this is the process part of blogging!) My initial thought is that, for me, I would tweak your professional learning system to reflect that product-driven learning (presentations, client research, etc.), “pure research”-driven learning (truly scanning blogs that are out of my area of expertise but of interest), and focused learning about an area that I think will expand and even focus my knowledge in a specific area. The idea is that they all ideally connect in some way. That’s my initial thinking on it, but I’m going to brew on this for a while and test it.

    I have a system similar to your “circle of the wise” and it works quite well for me. In addition, if there is an area that I really want to immerse myself in, I’ll make that blog my home page for a while.

  4. Bill says:

    I think that you need to cast a very wide net. For me it has become less about specific blogs and more about shared resources on my twitter stream. I follow a large number of interesting people on twitter. (one led me to this blog post.) in this way I can get exposed to many new sources that I wouldn’t ordinarily find.

    Managing this wealth of riches is daunting. I have started using the service paper.li to generate a daily summary of the links that are shared.

  5. Elmi says:

    Thank you for this mindful post. Many years ago when I was still teaching information retrieval I came across the analogy of ‘grazing’ and ‘hunting’ as information seeking process, which resonates with the product-driven learning (hunting) and scanning (grazing) modes.

    I do like the addition of another mode by Debra – that of focused learning.

  6. […] blogs that I read.  Beth Kanter picked up on Social Butterfly’s blog post and wrote an excellent post about networked professional learning […]

  7. […] it was my post “Reflection on Networked Professional Learning” where I linked to a post on Social Networks from Stephen Downes.   In the post,  he describes […]

  8. Becky says:

    Beth, do you have a public RSS reader?

  9. […] Many years ago before digital cameras and children, my husband and I used to spend many hours combining two past times: birding and photography.   Over the holidays, we picked out some of the  best to scan.      Looking at these photos reminds me …  […]