I love Twitter for its ability to connect me to valuable information in an often serendipitous manner, but I more appreciate its ability to highlight good creative thinking in my area of expertise and the people who do that thinking. To me it’s a critical part of my daily informal learning, and it’s the source of much fuel for my learning fire.

How I find interesting things

I spot things on Twitter in a number of ways, but the most common for me is through people I follow. The links tweeted by those I respect are good places to start. I also use a plug-in for my Chrome browser called Tweetings (http://www.tweetings.net/site/chrome/).  This application turns my Twitter feed into a set of pop-up boxes in the lower right-hand corner of my desktop. They appear for several seconds, giving me the opportunity to follow a link or not before disappearing. While some might find this constant pop-up activity distracting, I like it and it’s become a part of my daily routine. Sometimes it’s a series of words that catch my attention, although more commonly it’s a tweet by a person I follow that I simply pay more attention to than others. These typically include a link to something of potential interest, often a blog article.

I’m a bit of a procrastinator by nature, so I prefer to jump immediately to a blog article to see if it’s truly of interest (knowing I’d never get back to it later). If it’s awkward to read or disorganized, even if the ideas are unique and have merit, I tend to close it and move on. It’s not that I have the attention span of a gnat, but rather I have more important things to do than guess what the author means. On the other hand, a well-written article reads beginning to end in a surprisingly short amount of time.

If the article turns out to be valuable, especially for others, I’ll tweet about it myself. If it’s valuable for me, I add it to my favorites. I’m also not above favoriting my own tweet to remind myself what about the article I found interesting.

In a way, this is all a bit of pre-curation for me, but there’s one other thing I do which is a form of curation. My blog is based on WordPress and I added it’s “Press This” tool (button) to my Web browsers. When I find something useful, I click that button which opens a small dialog box. The link to the article is automatically taken care of, but now I either paste a brief abstract or write a simple description of why I find that site of interest, pick a category, and save it to my private blog. It’s actually an idea I’m looking to expand on, encouraging others to do the same and share the collections.

Where I get interesting ideas

I wrote before about the power of learning socially, that interaction with others taps more into the large body of non-conscious knowledge (estimated to be at least 70% of what a person knows) by triggering creative thought. Interacting on Twitter is one of the most common ways I get interesting ideas today, because so many knowledgeable people are just 140 characters away.

Twitter chats can be useful as well, although it’s important to recognize and address the consensus thinking that occasionally results. If you’ve never experienced a Twitter chat, it’s a group activity at a scheduled time when people engage through a prearranged hash tag on a particular topic. Questions are posted by the organizer using the hash tag and participants tweet responses. You’ll know if your position is unpopular or popular almost immediately – participants indicate agreement with re-tweets, while disagreement comes promptly in the form of a direct mention. Keeping an open mind allows you to learn from either. More importantly for me, the thoughts of others often release thoughts that were trapped in my non-conscious knowledge.

Where I narrate

As Harold Jarche indicates, narration is an important part of knowledge sharing and promotes transparency in the workplace, but it’s also a critical part of the overall learning experience. I learn in the process of writing; it’s said if you can’t explain an idea clearly, then you don’t really understand it.

I blog in two places: in the public space (here) and behind the firewall in my workplace. The two are similar in content, but quite different in purpose.

In the public space, I blog for discussion. As I synthesize ideas and thoughts, stimulated by things I’ve read or experienced, I blog about them. Some people say blogging should be for yourself and that the writing itself is a useful exercise. I agree, but just as social learning taps more into knowledge than asocial learning, discussion about blog posts is far more useful and interesting to me.

Behind the firewall, I blog for awareness. It’s important for me to establish my position among my colleagues and influence the future of workplace learning. I’m looking to transform the learning and development function from its focus on traditional instructor-led classes or e-learning methods into more of a dynamic organization helping individuals learn from the workplace. Initially I’m targeting formal learning, but more and more we’ll be providing support for informal learning as well as providing guidance on improving performance at the time and place it’s needed. It’s a work in progress, and I anticipate my new blog effort will be a big part of it.

Thanks for reading! @tomspiglanin


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