At the beginning of the year, I’d made a commitment to learn 10 new tools and blog my findings. A quick review of this blog shows that I didn’t meet that goal.
To this, I’ll swiftly blame a busy schedule. There’s the family (of course), and work (don’t get me started), and the internet with all its shiny baubles.
But there’s also this: it’s challenging to learn a new tool well. Take, for example, my Google Hangouts post. It indicates that I’ve learned how to use the tool. But have I adopted it as a tool in my personal learning network? Have I used it to support any of my training sessions? No.
And as I checked Jane Hart’s list of tools, I realized that there are quite a few on that list that I use poorly. I have a Twitter account(#1 tool for learning, according to Jane Hart). I subscribed to blog feeds via Outlook once upon a time, and switched to Google Reader when I realized I could access the feeds on my more convenient mobile devices, then switched over to Feedly(#19) out of necessity. And I’m on Facebook(#9), and Google+(#10), and Tumblr(#65), and*… I think I once had a Diigo(#21) account, or a del.icio.us(#60), or both. I was basically subscribing to information overload, and thus ensuring I paid little attention to any of my feeds.
So the latter half of the year I’ve focused on consolidation and organization.
I once believed that I needed multiple accounts for most of my information services: one for “business,” one for “personal” pursuits. With the advanced search algorithms available in email, and the prevalent use of hashtags, and other advances in the tools we use, no more. So I’ve consolidated:
- I’m directing all correspondence to one email account;
- I’ve transferred all those folks I follow into one Twitter account (I once managed (poorly) three of them);
- I’ve given up on the news aggregator accounts altogether.
- I’ve mothballed my personal blog; my whimsical posts on Facebook fulfill that need to boast about my kids to family and friends.
- I have done away with about 7/8 of my e-newsletter subscriptions. Goes a long way to reducing my Inbox clutter.
I’m not doing away with my information feed. Rather, I’m working to refine my personal learning network so I can get to this information readily. All that talk about mobile learning? The way I see it, it’s really key for informal learning.
For most of those e-newsletters I’d unsubscribed from, I’ve been able to add them to a blog feed. Of the rest, many of these topics get repeated in my Twitter feed, or Google +. And if not, well, I’ve learned that I don’t need to read everything that crosses my path. I’ve done fine. I’ll do fine.
My primary source for articles to read will be Feedly, which I’ve sorted into lists: Training, Work Related, Corporate News, etc. My other feeds, such as Google +, will probably fall into dis-use (although that’s a tough call as I’ve found some fairly intelligent discussions there), and I’ll sign into Twitter rarely — to join one of the Twitchats I appreciate, for example.
Most of these decisions are about time and mental bandwidth. I have so little of each. But again, it comes down to learning the tools. Each social media account I’ve opened, I’d done so because I’d gotten caught up in the press. But I’d never tapped into their potential.
One of the tools whose potential I should harness is LinkedIn. These posts feed there automatically, but LinkedIn is about managing your professional presence, and a wayward post or two a quarter doesn’t do it. It’s likely that I’ll be more participative in some LinkedIn groups in the coming year.
For the other tools, I’ll need to ensure they align with what I’m trying to accomplish. Twitter is a perfect example. Most of the people I follow primarily post links to articles that they believe are interesting. Well, I’ve already subscribed to feeds of articles I believe should interest me. Which do I spend my time on? I may benefit from honing the people I follow in Twitter. I may benefit from better application of lists. I may do just as well to chuck Twitter altogether, and focus on the lengthier discussions available in Google +.
At the end of the year, I find that I appreciate Jane Hart’s challenge. It showed where my personal learning gaps were — not with new tools, but with the resources I’d already signed up for.
* and there was Plaxo, and Ning, and Posterous, SlideShare, ScoopIt, Yammer, Klout…