While speaking at a conference over the weekend, I noted that I haven’t participated in a lot of formal professional development over the past few years. Maybe I’ve attended a class, workshop, or conference here or there, but the biggest chunk of my learning has happened informally, and mostly on the Web. That got me thinking about the tools I use the most these days for learning. I hope you’ll comment to share your own with other readers, but to start with, here are the five I use most:
Google is the starting point for pretty much everything. And when I land on a blog, Web site, or wiki that looks like a good resource, the search box is often the first place I go. I also set Google searches as one way of tracking a topic or issue.
My RSS reader is pretty much my own little personal learning management system. I’m subscribed to hundreds of feeds (I really need to do some clean-up!), and I’ve got these feeds organized into folders and tagged in all sorts of ways. (Not real clear on what RSS or an RSS reader are? Check out Commoncraft’s brief, entertaining, yet highly educational video on RSS in Plain English.)
A colleague gave me an iPod a while back in appreciation for some consulting I provided, and I have been addicted ever since. I regularly listen to podcasts across a wide range of topics. I also learn a lot by creating the Radio Free Learning podcast, which I plan to kick back into gear in the next couple of weeks. Favorites? Marketing Over Coffee, Duct Tape Marketing, pretty much any TED talk, and Sound Opinions (okay, that last one is more for personal pleasure than professional development – but I do learn a lot!).
I have no idea how many bookmarks I have at this point. A lot of them are local to my laptop, but I’ve gotten more and more in the happen of putting them on Delicious. This is the main way I find my way back to things I would otherwise forget. It is also an area where I need to improve my habits some – e.g., being better about writing descriptions for bookmarks and also spending more time revisiting and mining my bookmarks on occasion.
I put blogging last because it is the tool that plays the biggest role in transforming all of the above into learning, at least as I define it. For me, nothing beats having to write about a topic or issue for really consolidating my knowledge and reaching higher levels of learning. I write a great deal more than actually winds up in my blog posts, and I also post on the blog on my personal Web site as well as on the site for my company, Tagoras.
I use Twitter to tag (#learningmonitor) items (and encourage other to tag them) that I might include in the monthly Learning Monitor newsletter as well as to share other resources I come across. More importantly, I learn about a lot of new things from following other tweeps. One of those tweeps is Lindy Dreyer. You might want to also check out her brief list of good people to follow if you are interested in informal learning (provided by Jeff Hurt). Who knows, Twitter might bump one of the other tools above out of the top five at some point.
How about you? What are the key tools in your learning mix? I’d be truly grateful if you would comment and share with other readers here at Mission to Learn.
Mission to Learn
P.S. – If you enjoy what you read here on Mission to Learn, I’d be truly grateful if you would consider subscribing to the RSS feed.
I am an avid lifelong learner who writes and speaks frequently on the critical role of learning in our fast-changing world.