Category Archives: learning2.0

#3 & 4 Blogging

Time to blog about blogging!  Things 3 and 4 are all about blogging as the original Learning 2.0 programme used blogs as a way to track the progress of participants and encourage them to reflect on their learning.  All participants were required to create a blog and register it and all participant blogs were listed on the main blog to encourage participation and support.  Bloggers were allowed to be anonymous as long as the programme administrators knew who they were.  For me this is a fascinating part of the learning 2.0 programme as reading these blogs is a great insight into what participants felt while actually participating.  I’m sure this was much more valuable than trawling through piles of evaluation forms at the end of the course!  There is an obvious downside in that many people feel as uncomfortable about ‘public writing’ as public speaking and making that writing compulsory, even anonymously, could be very intimidating.  I came across at least one programme that made the blogging optional and used commenting on a main blog as a record of progress.  Much as I have enjoyed reading the blogs I think I’d be tempted to go with the optional blog and use commenting more.  I can see the value of using blogging as an assessment but if participants only have a limited amount of time to complete each task there could be a danger that more time is spent writing and rewriting the blog post than playing with and enjoying the tasks.

But what has blogging got to do with libraries?  Explaining blogging is never as difficult as explaining the value of blogging.  As always, the CommonCraft team have a great video on blogs to help  but I think many people still view blogs as slightly dodgy amateur ramblings that are only read by people with far too much time on their hands.  The only way to get past this has to be by demonstrating useful blogs full of great content.  The Orange County Library System were able to use their own blogs for ‘Introduction to Blogs‘ including their Library Director’s blog ‘Library Leader‘ but there are plenty of great library related blogs out there to choose from.  For anyone talking about public library blogs in the UK & Ireland I’d recommend The Manchester Lit List or the Galway Public Libraries Blog as good examples of sharing ‘official’ library blogs. But although news blogs are great for sharing information they can be nothing more than an easy way to produce an RSS feed and may be best kept for the RSS section of the programme.

My favourite blogs are the ones that challenge me to think and participate in the discussion.  Since I’m interested in libraries and technology they tend to be library related blogs but now that blogging has been around for a while there are blogs to interest everyone and the Technorati Blog Directory can be useful for demonstrating this.  Discussions can be difficult to demonstrate as they can take place over a number of blogs as writers link and respond to one another.  Gaming in libraries is a great topic for provoking debate so I’d have to recommend The Shifted Librarian for examples of blog commenting and discussions.

Finally, what do you do when you have too many blogs to read?  Start writing a blog weeding policy?  I don’t think there’s an easy solution to this one although it certainly gets regularly addressed as a problem.  Library and Information Update now has a regular column called ‘Blogwatch’ providing a summary of some key topics from library related blogs but I’m not sure they’re still hot topics by the time the print copy of Update comes through my door.  I’d love to hear if anyone has come across an online equivalent, a blog that summarises what’s hot in library blogland?  Or if you only had 10 minutes a day, what key blogs would you choose to keep up to date with library issues?  Hmmm… off to think about that one!

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#2 Lifelong Learning & L2

‘Thing’ number 2 on the original PLCMC list is “Discover a few  pointers from lifelong learners and learn how to nurture your own learning process.”  This is a deceptively simple task that asks people to think about why and how we continue to learn throughout life.  The exercise is to view an online tutorial about the 7 ½ habits of highly successful lifelong learners.  The reflective part of this exercise is deciding which of those habits is easiest and hardest personally.

I highly recommend viewing the online tutorial.  It’s just under 15 minutes long and is designed to make you think about learning goals and obstacles.  If you’d rather just skip to the list of habits, here they are:

1. Begin with the end in mind

2. Accept responsibility for your own learning

3. View problems as challenges

4. Have confidence in yourself as a competent, effective learner

5. Create your own learning toolbox

6. Use technology to your advantage

7. Teach / mentor others

7½. Play!

The tutorial goes into these habits in much more detail.  For me the hardest of these habits is number 1 – begin with the end in mind.  I love learning and playing but have a tendency to flit from subject to subject.  The internet is often my downfall here as I will read something intending to find out about a particular subject and then a phrase mentioned will prompt me to search for new information or click a link to another page.  Before I know it I’ve started down a new path altogether and the original subject has been abandoned.  I find blogging a particularly useful tool in tackling this problem.  A goal in your mind, or scribbled on a piece of paper is easily abandoned.  A goal that you have stated to the world online in writing… not so easy to forget, especially if people read and comment on that goal!  Maybe I should create a blog for all those tasks that get easily abandoned, does “Sarah’s housework blog” sound tempting?

Deciding which habit was the easiest took a little longer, but I think ‘accept responsibility for your own learning’ just about wins although ‘play’ comes a very close second.  When I train people I always find it most difficult to train those who want to be spoon fed information.  Not because I resent doing the feeding, it’s usually easier to give simple step by step directions than to answer the difficult questions and challenges that more active learners can come up with, but because it’s so different to the way I learn personally.  If I want to learn how to use something I will read the instructions and play.  If there are no instructions or they don’t answer my questions I will then ask specific questions, usually by searching online!  I’m the first to admit that this makes me an impatient learner.  As any of my music teachers or driving instructors can testify, I am not a fan of practising and learning practical skills that do not come naturally.  This means I have great respect for people who spend a lifetime perfecting a particular skill… and a certain amount of envy for everyone who has passed their driving test!

On a less personal note here are some other thoughts from the tutorial.

“Take pride in your learning or accomplishments”.  At school we had a ‘record of achievement’ that we were encouraged to fill with certificates and other records of academic accomplishment.  Achievement records are often used in formal learning to track goals and results but how many people have a lifelong ‘record of achievement’?  Carrying out staff appraisals every year it is surprising how often people will say that they haven’t really achieved anything or learned anything just because they haven’t been on a course.  Once we start to talk about what has happened generally in the department or service they start to realise how much they have actually achieved and having those achievements written down and recognised can be really encouraging (I hope!).  Unfortunately these formal records tend to be filed away and forgotten.  The original Learning 2.0 programme asked participants to start a blog and write posts about what they had learned and how it affected them.  Blogging can be great way of recording achievements, simple and life-changing, and sharing those achievements with the world.  Although many of the blogs started for Learning 2.0 programmes seem to be abandoned after (or even during) the programme I’d be interested to know how the process of charting and sharing achievement helped people to feel proud of that achievement and encouraged them to go on learning.  Every year we see a huge number of children enthusiastically take part in the summer reading challenge.  What makes this challenge more appealing than just borrowing books from the library?  Recording every book read and having that achievement acknowledged by others and being encouraged to take pride in that achievement.  If libraries are expected to take a lead in encouraging lifelong learning then could they have a role to play in helping people to record and take pride in that learning whatever form it may take?  I sense a whole new blog post coming out of that idea…

“Determine a goal and develop a plan to achieve that goal.”  I’ve already mentioned that this is the habit I find most difficult.  There are so many things to learn and if you’re not doing a specific course it can be difficult to take a goal through to completion.  The tutorial recommends writing a learning contract which seemed a little OTT to me until I looked at what they included in this contract and why.  The contract included ‘obstacles I may face and how I will overcome them’; things needed for a personal learning toolbox; details of people to ask for help and finally a signature.  The tutorial pointed out that we sign ourselves over to many different things but never to ourselves and by signing something we represent the fact that we are making a commitment.  Not sure just clicking an ‘I agree’ box can replace a signature on this one!  But certainly making a goal public and signing a name to that goal could be a way of making a public commitment.

A short tutorial has triggered all sorts of ideas and challenged me to think about my own personal learning style and habits.  Why not watch it and see what learning habits you have?

#1 Learning about Learning 2.0

Learning about the ‘Learning 2.0 Program” turned out to take much longer than I had originally planned.  The original programme by PLCM took place in 2006 so I thought I’d have a look at some of the programmes that have happened since and what the most common changes were.  The original 23 things are available on the Learning 2.0 Blog and participants were given 9 weeks to complete them.  Although this seems like a mammoth task, not all of the 23 things involved learning and using something completely new.  Each week had a theme and sometimes one of the things was simply discovering the new tool and having a play.  Participants were required to set up a blog and record their progress on the blog and often the ‘thing’ involved posting their thoughts or uploading something they had found.  The key idea is that this is learning not training and that learning should be fun.  It’s not about finding the correct answer but exploring a new idea or tool and thinking about how it might be useful.  Obviously this is the sort of learning that some people love and others hate – a marmite style perhaps?

To look at how the programme had developed I headed over to the full list of learning 2.0 libraries on delicious and had a look at just some of the 265 libraries who have registered.  Many of the basic tools appear throughout, Bloglines is popular even in later programmes probably because it is so easy to produce a public view to share feeds although Google Reader is often mentioned as an alternative.  What surprised me was how much some libraries packed into the programme.  Introducing 2 or 3 new tools a week may not sound too bad if you’re already the sort of person who enjoys playing and exploring online but if you have never looked at blog before, only have 30 mins a week at work and don’t have a computer at home I can see how you would soon be overwhelmed.  Orange County Library System offered different levels of learning – eXplore activities for each week which were mandatory for anyone who wanted the completion prize and then additional Adventure activities which were optional and rated according to difficulty.  The Orange County programme also covers topics such as music copyright and creative commons and has obviously been designed to appeal to frontline public library staff but I’d be interested to know how much time they expected each topic to take.

Wake County Public Library ran their programme over 9 weeks but only included 13 things and although participants were told how to create a blog they only had to leave comments each week to qualify for a chance to win a prize.  This programme had a more relaxed feel to it and it was made very clear what people needed to do ‘for credit’ as opposed to optional exploration.

Apparently I’ve chosen a good time to look at the Learning 2.0 idea.  The latest issue of Library & Information Update (December 2008) appeared in my letterbox today and on page 6 I discovered an article about Lewisham Libraries and their Library 2.0 training!  Unfortunately the article is only available to CILIP members but the Lewisham Web 2.0 Blog and Lewisham Web 2.0 Wiki are publicly available.  In addition Lewisham have a presence on Facebook and MySpace, images on Picasa and even a YouTube channel!  The article mentions that the team chose to provide more support for learners after hearing about low completion rates for some 23 Things courses and they are offering 1.5 hour training sessions on a variety of topics.  I loved the quote from Information & Heritage Manager Julie Hall “Staff are eager to learn and want to develop Web 2.0 skills, but need support.  Start small, keep it practical and let people go at their own speed and don’t be surprised when they come up with better ideas than you have on how you can use Web 2.0 in your service.”  The best part is that this isn’t just being seen as an isolated training programme.  Julie mentions the idea of Library 2.0 champions drawn from staff across the service and developing ongoing projects.  Hmmm, wonder if I could commute to Lewisham…

So how do I decide what my 23 Things are?  I’ve decided to follow the themes of the original programme and refer to a couple of other programmes for activities.  I’ve started a ‘Life List’ on 43 things and number 1… is done!