Monday, February 11, 2008

Too much to learn - not enough space?!

If you are one of those folks who have an account in every possible corner of the online space; orkut, facebook, plaxo, blogger etc and boast of a "second life" or even more, I am sure you need your daily dose of scraps, pokes, walls, shout outs, gifts etc. And if, for some faint reason, you are unable to connect on a day, it may be more than 'just frustrating' for some!

Today's article in Hindustan Times (Main Paper, Page 14) - 'Eureka! My space is online!' just goes ahead and validates this and shares some facts. Some of these facts are more than just plain vanilla. For example:
- There are more than 112 million blogs online.
- As of Dec, 26, 2006, there were 45,174,930 communities on Orkut alone.
- Facebook goes through 600 million searches per month.
- LinkedIn has over 14 million users.
- In US alone, pod casts audience had reached 18.5 million by 2007.

Now all these people on all these 'social networking' sites must be doing something useful, finding something worthwhile, and enjoying their way at it to keep continuing and add to these numbers even while you are reading this! That's what I call the Hot Chocolate Fudge-type of interesting point! That is what I am curious about. In my view, that is what will make or break the learning environments of tomorrow.

In the context of what Manish has written in his blog on
Personal Learning Environment (PLE), these sites are now not limited to only social networking, these are what constitute the PLE of many of us including me. And like Manish, I have learnt more from Google, Wiki, Blogs, Podcasts, and Video Clips than I have from any paper book or a well-packaged company website.

The question is why are we learning from these environments? Why are other people interested in joining us? What keeps us coming back for more? What sustains so many of these different sites - each with its own USP?

In my view, if we are able to articulate what makes these 'tick', we have found a way to include these tools and technologies in the training environments that we design for our learners. There is a system even in this seemingly chaotic way of "learning" (I would like to call these as 'learning interventions' -the new tools and technologies for learning).

  • These technologies are intrusive and personal but only as much as you want them to be - absolute learner control.
  • These technologies are participative and encourage creative self expression - even people who you don't see chatting away with their friends and family in-person have surprisingly 'long' blogs and never miss a day!
  • By design, they are collaborative. You start the blog alone. Soon, you have a community of readers who join you, share their point of view. Each is allowed to take their stand without the pressure of conformance to the group.
  • They are motivating. You contribute; get responses, feedback, and appreciation - more fuel to encourage you to continue. There is no teacher-student situation. All are equals - but you get drawn to 'teachers' who force you to think, ignite your mind to new possibilities. The role doesn't fetch the respect - the work does.
  • These technologies help you learn without you knowing or intending to do it - easy to use, quick to learn, fun to do, no fuss -clean learning. Some of these sites are the best examples of 'usability' where it matters.
  • These technologies allow you to learn even while you are doing some other things - multitasking your way through a learning intervention!

I have just begun to articulate some of my observations on what makes these environments work and how these will become the future of learning.
If we could, as instructional designers, start to move on the learning continuum; Web 2.0 and beyond - some of the above points need to be USPs of our training design.

What do you think? Help me learn.

... Afterall, there is enough space to learn!

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