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Thanks to You, We Won America's Giving Challenge

Leaderboardfinal_5 Thanks to all of you who responded to my calls over the past few weeks for donations to support the Sharing Foundation through America's Giving Challenge.  Although they still have to do a final audit, the leaderboard says that we finished in FIRST PLACE with 1710 unique donations totaling $40,733! That means if the standings hold and we remain in the top four (which anticipate will happen), we'll have raised over $90,000 to help educate poor children in Cambodia! Now children like Mon Channy  will be able to get an education and a ticket to a better life.

Everyone's support of this campaign has been amazing, a real testament to the power of online networks--and the obsession of Beth Kanter, who I'm fairly certain has not slept in the past month. She's also been sharing what she's learning in the process, so she's a giver all-around.

Thank you everyone--you're great!

Making Your Work Life More Manageable

All_work For many of us (myself included), managing your career is partially about finding that elusive balance between your personal and professional pursuits and goals.  Rosetta Thurman has a wonderful post up about how she's using The Not So Big Life: Making Room for What Really Matters to get more work/life balance.  In this post I'm going to share some of what Rosetta's been doing, along with some additional advice and thinking on how to get your life under control.

What Really Matters to You?
Getting your life down to the most important elements begins with being clear about what matters to you. This means you need to ask yourself several key questions:

  • What are your most important values? These are things like "Family" or "Achievement" or "Independence." If you aren't sure what values are most important to you, take this values quiz, which also helps you prioritize your values.
  • What activities do you need to engage in to live out those values? How would you structure your life to be in alignment with the things that are most important to you?
  • What activities bring you the most joy and fulfillment?
  • What are your greatest strengths? Particularly when we're talking about careers, it's important to focus on doing work that builds on our strengths, not work that plays to our weaknesses. If you don't know your strengths, try the VIA Signature Strengths Finder developed by Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania. Then think about whether or not the work you're doing is playing to those strengths.
  • What activities and people drain you? How can you minimize these or--better yet--remove them from your life altogether?

In last month's career retreat, these were some of the issues we explored, but this is certainly something you can do on your own. Make sure you take the time to really think through these questions. If you're a blogger, these make great blog fodder. You can also write about them in a journal or even record your thoughts to listen to later.

Re-Structure Your Job
Based on what you discover about yourself, now it's time to sit down with your boss and have a chat. Here's what Rosetta did:

I decided to eliminate all the work I do that drains my energy by the end of the day. For me, that meant sitting down with my boss and having a real frank conversation about restructuring my role to focus on my strengths and getting rid of the tasks that frustrate me because I basically hate them and pretty much suck at. It was a hard conversation for me because I was fully prepared to walk away from this job if I continued to perform the work of 5 positions for one salary. But you know what? It worked. My boss got the drift and we're now working together to transition my duties to others where it makes the most sense. And already I feel so much lighter and ready to take advantage of the room I'm making for what really matters in my life.

Of course, not all bosses will immediately warm to your new plan, but having the conversation and talking about how it will benefit your organization is a good start. It's always in an organization's best interest for someone to be doing work that capitalizes on what they do best and about which they are passionate.

Slowly you can start to transition out of these things that just aren't working so that you can really focus on the things that are. And if that transition is impossible, consider whether or not it might be time to break up with your boss.

Set Boundaries
Another reason that work can start to overwhelm us is that we aren't setting and enforcing the right boundaries.  This is a real issue for me, since I work from a home office where it's very easy to heed the call of my desk at all hours of the day or night, but honestly, it's an issue for most people I think.

Anne Zelenka of Web Worker Daily has a great post on boundary setting at work that can help. It includes these tips:

  • Choose flow-inducing hobbies that really engage you and draw your mind away from work.
  • Set goals for your personal and professional life.
  • Schedule dates with other people for non work-related activities.
  • Use tech boundaries to separate your work from the rest of your life.
  • Decide your "no"s in advance.

Setting boundaries between work and professional life is a critical skill to learn. It takes practice, though, and constant vigilance I've found.

Go on an Information Diet
Oh the irony of me suggesting this as I look at the hundreds of feeds in my feed reader, but I know that reducing the flow of information coming into me to a manageable level is critical to keep from being overwhelmed. Some of the key strategies:Desk

For Email:

  • Check email only a few times a day. 

For Feed Reading:

  • Periodically prune your feeds, trying to keep them to the 20 or so most important ones.
  • Use the rule that for every new feed you add, you have to take one away.
  • Give new feeds a tryout. For the first week or so, keep them in a "try-out folder" to see how useful they are to you. If they aren't, then junk them.

Getting a regular flow of new information is an important part of learning. At the same time, we need it to be a flow that allows us time to absorb and reflect, not just wash over us like a tsunami of data. Learning how to manage our information flow is another key strategy for making life more manageable.

How Do You Make Work Manageable?
These are some of the strategies I use to try to keep my work life focused and "not so big." I have greater success with some over others, of course, but I keep working on implementing and trying new ideas to help keep my work life from overwhelming me.

What do you do to make your work life manageable? What are your tips, tools and strategies?

Photos via cinefel and arialamanda

We Desperately Need Your Help to Win America's Giving Challenge

Leaderboard_130_6   We have a little over 24 hours left in the America's Giving Challenge Contest (which ends January 30 at 3 p.m. EST) and as you can see from the leaderboard, the Sharing Foundation has the number 2 spot. But we're in a VERY tight race with numbers 3 and 4. To win the $50,000 we MUST be in the top 4. For the past three weeks we've been in either number 1 or 2 and it would be a real shame if we lost in the last 24 hours. Here's how you can help.

We need to have the most unique donors giving at least $10 to the cause. So the key here is to spread the word as widely as possible and get new people to donate.
We only need $10 per person--the cost of a lunch.

  • If you haven't given, please consider doing so by clicking on the widget in my right sidebar or by visiting my Sharing Foundation page.
  • If you've already given, then I need your help in spreading the word. Send a link to the widget to everyone you know. If you're on Twittr, send out a tweet to your network. If you blog, please consider blogging about the fundraiser and asking your readers to donate. Share the link with people at work and with your family and friends. Get the link out to as many people as you can and ask them to give just $10.

We NEED your help to win the Challenge. If we do, it will mean almost $75,000 will go to the Sharing Foundation. That money can help support things like sending Pharoth to school and  using Web 2.0 to help educate a new generation of Cambodian children. If you love learning and want to bring that joy to other people, please help us in this last 24 hours. And to those of you who have already contributed, thank you so much! 

The Perfect Storm of Opportunity for Learning

Social_knoweldge Great article in Educause--Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail and Learning 2.0. Some key quotes:

The world has become increasingly “flat,” as Tom Friedman has shown. Thanks to massive improvements in communications and transportation, virtually any place on earth can be connected to markets anywhere else on earth and can become globally competitive.1 But at the same time that the world has become flatter, it has also become “spikier”: the places that are globally competitive are those that have robust local ecosystems of resources supporting innovation and productiveness.2 A key part of any such ecosystem is a well-educated workforce with the requisite competitive skills. And in a rapidly changing world, these ecosystems must not only supply this workforce but also provide support for continuous learning and for the ongoing creation of new ideas and skills. . .

It is unlikely that sufficient resources will be available to build enough new campuses to meet the growing global demand for higher education—at least not the sort of campuses that we have traditionally built for colleges and universities. Nor is it likely that the current methods of teaching and learning will suffice to prepare students for the lives that they will lead in the twenty-first century.

The article goes on to argue that

. . . various initiatives launched over the past few years have created a series of building blocks that could provide the means for transforming the ways in which we provide education and support learning. Much of this activity has been enabled and inspired by the growth and evolution of the Internet, which has created a global “platform” that has vastly expanded access to all sorts of resources, including formal and informal educational materials. The Internet has also fostered a new culture of sharing, one in which content is freely contributed and distributed with few restrictions or costs.

Learning 2.0--learning with blogs, wikis, open source content, etc.--these are the tools that we need to build a 21st century workforce and keep people engaged in lifelong learning. These tools have also transformed the ways that we learn, from "knowledge as substance and pedagogy as transfer of learning" to "we participate, therefore we are--knowledge is socially constructed." The heart of the article (for me) is this:

There is a second, perhaps even more significant, aspect of social learning. Mastering a field of knowledge involves not only “learning about” the subject matter but also “learning to be” a full participant in the field. This involves acquiring the practices and the norms of established practitioners in that field or acculturating into a community of practice.

That is, to be truly proficient, we must not only have certain knowledge, we must know how to be a full participant in the community of practice that builds up around that knowledge. We must not only know the skills and knowledge associated with being a social worker or a doctor or a teacher, we must also know what it is to BE those occupations--the habits of mind, the approaches to problems and learning, etc. These are types of knowledge that we can foster through Web 2.0 tools and the social learning and connections that we build.

Great stuff--worthy of further reading and discussion. I'm out the door to a meeting, but if you get a chance to read this, I highly recommend it and would love to know your thoughts.

Learning with Lists

List One of the more popular blog posting formats is the list post, probably most famously seen in the various memes that periodically go around, like the "8 Random Facts About Me" meme from a few months back. What I'm finding, though is that lists are really effective for learning, particularly when we use the "X Things I Learned from Doing X" format. This is a strategy you can use whether or not you're a blogger, although if you blog your list, you're likely to learn some additional things from comments. You also get to help other people learn from your experiences.

I see two big ways in which lists can help:

  • To debrief yourself on an event, project or activity.
  • To get yourself in the learning habit.

Use Lists to Debrief On a Project
I find that lists work particularly well as a way to debrief following a specific activity, project or event. For example, last week I blogged about the 9 Lessons I Learned From Running My First Webinar and after the 31 Days to Building a Better Blog Challenge, I came up with 31 Lessons I Learned from the experience. Lori Reed of Library Trainer has done the same thing with her 10 Lessons I Learned from Running My First Synchronous Training Session.

The other day I ran across a great Lifehacker post on how to move on from a big project. It has a ton of great questions you should ask yourself at the end of any assignment, each of which lends itself to some learning lists. Some of the questions include:

  • What were the best and worst parts of this project?
  • What were the good and bad outcomes?
  • What did I learn about myself?
  • What connections and contacts did I make that I could use for the future?

So the next time you complete a project, go to a conference or attend a workshop, try using a list format to debrief with yourself on what you learned.

Use Lists to Get Into the Learning Habit
Another key way to use learning lists is to get yourself into the habit of asking "What did I learn from that?" Try ending your day with a list of the three things you've learned in the past 24 hours or ending your week with the top 10 lessons. This could fit in well with your weekly GTD review if you're a Getting Things Done kind of person. You might also try ending meetings with a short list--each person could share two new things they've learned.

Your lists don't have to be long or complicated. Something as simple as "I learned that I need to leave 5 minutes earlier to get to this meeting on time" will do. The point is to use lists as a way to keep asking and answering the question "What Am I Learning?" It's also a good way to make sure that you ARE continuing to learn. If you find you consistently don't have things to put on your list, then that tells you something about the activities going on in your life. If you find that you're "learning" the same lessons over and over again, then you may need to re-think how and what you're really learning.

These are two ways that I've used lists to learn. Have you used lists in other ways? Any good examples to share? How do you think lists can help with learning?

Photo via arimoore

Guest Post and Podcast on PLEs for Blog Cascadia

On Friday, I had the fun of recording a podcast with Aaron Munter and Christine Martell for ASTD-Cascadia on personal learning environments. I also did a guest post for Blog Cascadia on how technology has transformed my professional development. If you're into learning, you should definitely subscribe to the BlogCascadia podcasts--they're always filled with interesting info. You might also want to check out their first webinar recorded last week on an Intro to Social Learning. They're really getting into how technology and learning intersect.

A New Mission for the Bamboo Project

Bamboo I’ve been writing The Bamboo Project for almost a year and a half now.  In the past few months I’ve been aware of a feeling that there is certain work I love to do and other work that interests me less.  My recent posts on the social media helix have been helping me clarify a lot of my thoughts. My experiences last month with the Beyond the Glass Ceiling Career Retreat added additional grist to the mill. Ultimately where they've led me is to a new understanding of what I do and where I want to focus this blog and my work going forward.

After a few weeks of mulling things over, I’ve arrived at a new mission for The Bamboo Project, one that’s probably more evolutionary than anything else, but I still feel the need to be clear. Here it is:

This blog is dedicated to helping individuals and organizations use best practices and social media tools to construct life-long learning and career development systems. We are all knowledge workers who must continually respond to a rapidly-changing world. We cannot afford to remain professionally stagnant or isolated from others who could help us learn and grow.  New technologies empower us to take charge of our personal and professional growth in ways we've never experienced. I want to facilitate understanding about the role of social media in supporting career development and lifelong learning and empower people and organizations to develop the skills to use these resources.  I'm using this space to stimulate discussion on how social media transforms professional development and to share examples, tools and tips. In the process, I'm also modeling how I use social media for my own growth as a knowledge worker.

What I'm realizing is that while there's a lot to be discussed in terms of using a blog to market an organization or a wiki to collaborate on a project, that isn't my own personal passion. That stuff interests me, but I'm not passionate about it. What gets me going is helping individuals and organizations set up systems that support ongoing professional development and growth. This means using my background in career development and learning, as well as my knowledge and experiences with technology. These are my best skill sets and this is the work I enjoy the most.  I also love modeling this behavior because it forces me to practice what I preach. Writing about my personal learning experiments--forcing myself to engage in personal learning experiments even--this is exciting to me and helpful in ways that I think many people need.

You'll see that to better communicate this more refined direction, I've changed the look of the blog a little, as well as my tagline. You'll also see in the sidebar that I've added some new sections on services as I'm planning to focus my ongoing work more in these directions. If you know of anyone who's interested in what I'm selling, let me know.

So my path is changing a little here, but this isn't something completely different from what I've been doing. I'll continue to write about technology and learning and career and professional development best practices. What I won't be writing about anymore are ways to use technology tools to do other things, like marketing or fundraising or customer relations. I also will be broadening the context of my writing--this is stuff I think benefits everyone, not just people in the nonprofit sector. I hope that this is a path that most of you can relate to and that you'll continue with me in this journey of understanding. I really do feel like we're poised on the edge of an incredible new world and I'm excited to play a part in it.

Venturing Outside of My Web 2.0 Bubble

Works_on_my_machine_2In my earlier post on getting out of the blogging box I mentioned that I'd been doing some more research into my questions about how to leap the chasm between early adopters of social media tools and the rest of the world. What I've realized was that I've been living in World 2.0 and have forgotten what it's like for those who haven't yet made the leap. This has created some fundamental flaws in my thinking.

Yesterday I was looking again at Jane Knight's Top 100 Tools--the list of technology tools that she developed after surveying 109 learning professionals (myself included) last summer. Coming in at number one on the list was the Firefox Browser. It's what everyone I know online uses and when I saw Jane's list in August, I never really questioned Firefox as a browser of choice.

But this time I started thinking about the people I know in "real life" who aren't as tech savvy as I am. They don't use Firefox. In fact, they actively resist switching when I suggest it. None of the organizations I work with uses Firefox either, despite my encouragement. What are they using? Internet Explorer, of course. In fact, many are still using IE 6 and haven't upgraded to IE 7 yet because they're comfortable with what they have. Actually, to my astonishment, since I've been living in World 2.0, 75% of Internet users are still using Explorer, with less than 16% using Firefox!

Why does the browser you use matter? Because your browser is quite literally your window into the Internet. What happens in your browser is your experience of the web. If you're using Firefox, you're using tabbed browsing and cool plug-ins and the RSS feed icon appears in the URL bar for sites with feeds so you can get the feed from there. Sites look a certain way and you learn to navigate in particular ways.  But if you're using IE6 (as 35% of people still are--more than double the number who use Firefox), feeds are not even on the radar and you're still opening a new browser window if you go to more than one site at a time. In fact, if you're using IE6, you may actually avoid going to more than one site at a time because it's so jarring to have a new window open up.  It's a qualitatively different way of using the web and it's no surprise that there's a chasm that continues to exist.

This got me thinking about the other ways in which we early adopters are different from the rest of the world. The differences are pretty interesting and I think they're issues we need to remind ourselves of as we think about teaching people how to use social media tools.

Google vs. Yahoo--Tech-savvy users, myself included, are in love with Google. We love Gmail and how it lets us control our inboxes. We're all over Google Docs and Google Calendar and most of us have switched over to Google Reader for our RSS feeds. But guess what? Not everyone is hanging out on Google. In fact, a LOT of people are still on Yahoo, using My Yahoo as their start page and Yahoo mail towers over Gmail.

I keep thinking that everyone loves Google because most people know about Google search. But in reality, I'm not sure this is the case. At least in my corner of the "real world," people are still using Word and Excel for documents and when they use online calendars, their calendar of choice is . . . Yahoo. They also use Yahoo Groups (not Google) and most have never heard of a Google Alert. But I forget this in my time online apparently.

Feed Readers--We power users of the web love our RSS feeds and have our favorite tools for reading them. We write long posts on how to organize and prioritize and filter our feeds and how to use Google Reader and Bloglines and Netvibes to rapidly and effectively manage all that information coming into us. We see the power of feeds, and we want to bring it to others, so we think they should use the same tools we use. I mean if we're reading 100s of feeds per day, why wouldn't everyone else? At least this is the way I've been thinking.

In my research into the browser wars and the Yahoo vs. Google usage debate, however,  I found out a couple of interesting things. Guess what--Internet Explorer 7 has integrated RSS feeds right into the browser, so you can easily add the feed into Favorites. This strategy isn't a power user's dream--not enough functionality for us--but for the regular user, more than enough. And it relates to what they already know--having a folder of Favorites.

My Yahoo is the same thing, with tabs and feed reading similar to Netvibes, but in an interface that's more familiar to someone who may have been using Yahoo for years and it doesn't require them to learn a new tool . Again, the feed reader in My Yahoo may not be as powerful and function-filled as Google Reader or Bloglines, but for the vast majority of people who won't be following every single blog on the planet, this is a more than good enough solution.

The Good Enough Solution
This idea of the "good enough" solution  might be the biggest difference between early adopters--the power users of the Internet--and the rest of the people online. Power users are looking for the best solutions because we're so engaged by being online and all that it has to offer. This behavior has really exploded with the growth of so many online applications. But the rest of the world sees the web as a place to visit to get certain things done, not a place to live. So they look for the "good enough" solutions--the things that will get them in and out and on to the next thing. It's what Jakob Nielsen calls "satisficing" and from my experience, it's how most people seem to use the Web.

They also look for solutions that fit with the ones they're already comfortable with.  In the time I've been reading feeds, I've experimented with Bloglines, Netvibes and Google Reader. The average user isn't going to do that. They want something that fits in with what they already know, with what they're already using. They don't necessarily want to learn to use several different new tools, so helping them to read feeds may be about teaching them to use My Yahoo or IE7, not teaching them how to use Google Reader, even though Google Reader is a lot more powerful.

All of this isn't to say that I don't want to teach people how to use new tools. It's more to say that I'm realizing how easy it is to forget what it's like to be a newbie and how, quite literally, they are experiencing the web in very different ways than I am. I need to do a better job of thinking like a beginner and not get out so far ahead of the curve that I'm not even speaking the same language. If you're going to try to create a bridge between two cultures, you need to be sure you know and understand what it's like to be in both.

It's easy to forget this in the excitement and engagement of being online. But I can't forget because in doing so, I'm losing the ability to connect with people where they are at. I'm somehow expecting them to come to me rather than realizing that I need to go to them. If I'm going to help people learn, I need to keep reminding myself of how their experiences aren't my experiences and that I can't assume we're even speaking the same language. It's the curse of the expert and it doesn't serve you very well when you're trying to help newbies learn.

Living in a Blogging Box and How to Get Out of It

Telescope_2 Over at the Building a Better Blog community, Danielle B and Sue Waters have been talking in the forums about how easy it is to get yourself stuck in a blogging box, only reading those blogs that are related to your professional field or the topic you've chosen to blog about. This is a natural tendency I think because we generally blog about our passions and interests and we tend to want to connect to other people who share those interests. Besides, there's so much out there to read, it's one way to cut down on information overload!

The problem with blogging in our comfort zones, though, is that we narrow the possibilities for learning and creativity that come from exposing ourselves to new and different perspectives. If I stay in the edu-blogger community or the technology community of bloggers, with little contact with anyone else, it's easy to get sucked into the sort of group-think that naturally evolves when any community of people comes together. It's similar to what we do in real-life--staying in our own neighborhoods and never really experiencing what's happening in other parts of the world. As a result, we tend to think that most people are like us and think like us. Or maybe that's just me.

Although of course we can learn from others in our field, there's additional learning to be found when we move outside of our comfort zones and put ourselves into someone else's shoes to learn about how they view the world. In business, innovations often come when companies explore how other industries are doing business and adapt those practices for themselves. This is true in the nonprofit sector as well where microlending and social entrepreneurship are clearly linked to the idea of bringing business principles into NPOs. Learning about how others outside of our immediate communities of practice do things can be profoundly transforming.

I've become acutely aware of this issue in the past few weeks as I continue to think through my social media helix and how to cross the chasm from early adopters to early majority users of social media tools. I'll be writing a separate post on this, but one thing I realized in the past few days is how differently we early adopters of social media think. How do we expect to help people who don't use social media tools to cross over if we don't fully understand their experience of the web and how it's so different from our own? But because I've surrounded myself online with a community of people who "get" social media and how to use it for learning, I've developed a certain mindset and approach that  isn't at all helpful to my thinking about how  to help people who aren't living in my corner of the blogosphere. I need to get out more, is the point.

A few ways I've tried to expand my exposure and thinking in general (although these don't help me in addressing my social media issue, since many of these people aren't blogging):

  • I use StumbleUpon to find new blogs and sites and have gone pretty broad in the categories I tell StumbleUpon to show me. This exposes me to a lot of information and materials that I wouldn't normally find in my daily reading.
  • I'm letting more of my personal interests bleed over into the professional arena. Sue Waters will be happy to know that I've taken the leap and started using Google Reader to read my feeds. Previously I used Netvibes, where I had everything tabbed into different topic areas and would read through by topic. With Google Reader, I just go through all my unread feeds in a continuous, un-segmented stream, which allows me to make some serendipitous connections between the art and personal development stuff I read for my "personal" life and the technology and learning blogs I read for my more professional thinking. My interests are fairly broad, so I haven't been as boxed in as I could have been. What's different is that I'm letting these worlds touch each other more and that lets my brain work on things from new angles.
  • I've been exploring Google Alerts results that seem "irrelevant" at first blush. I have some pretty broad Google Alerts set up right now--"Generation Y" for example. I could have refined that search to "Generation Y" and "work," but I decided to keep it open right now because I wanted to see a fuller spectrum of blogs and news stories. It's a little less targeted information, but it has led me to some interesting articles and blogs that have helped me expand my viewpoint.
  • I try to make a special point of reading blogs from other countries. I'm acutely aware of the fact that I tend to be Ameri-centric in my thinking, so I try to read blogs from other parts of the world to get a sense of how they approach various problems and issues. If I spoke something other than English, I could expand even more. I could also use something like Bablefish to translate, but honestly, that's probably more than I can handle right now.

I'm sure there are other strategies I'm missing here, so I'd love to hear from you. I'm also curious to know about your blog reading habits--do you tend to stay within your corner of the blogosphere or do you expand out? If you do, how do you do it? How do you find other kinds of blogs and resources? How has it changed and informed your learning?

Blogging When You Hate to Read or Write

Blogging_tips It occurs to me this morning that one of the reasons I love blogs and blogging is because I'm a reader and a writer. I can consume vast quantities of information quickly because I've learned how to scan and dip in and out of posts. And I love maintaining my own blog because for me, writing is often the best way to process what I'm learning.

I would venture to guess--and perhaps I should do a poll on this--that the vast majority of people who are online and active in Web 2.0 right now are people who love reading and writing, too. But what of the millions of people who don't process information that way? How can they join in the learning to be gained through blogging? I have a few thoughts on that . . .

Start with Tumblr
For those less inclined toward a more "traditional" blogging experience, I think that Tumblr  may be a better option for a platform. It's a "microblog" meant to contain short "bites" or hits of information. You can post text, audio, video, photos, quotes, etc. As a learning tool, it may be perfect for the blogger who doesn't like to write because it lends itself much more to the multimedia approaches I'm going to suggest below. That's not to say that a blogging platform can't help with that too. I just think that Tumblr has a look and feel that might be vastly more appealing to this kind of blogger.

For Visual Processors
A lot of people are visual learners--they like to draw their way to understanding. They're the mindmappers and the chart-drawers, the ones who solve problems on the back of a napkin or on a whiteboard. For them, blogging might look like this:

  • They scan their drawings and then upload to Flickr where they can organize and engage in conversations around what they've drawn. They can create Flickr groups and find others who share their interests, just as bloggers do.
  • With, they can create mindmaps that can be shared with friends or embedded in a blog.
  • Video is another option, for those who want a more elaborate means of getting visual. Set up a video camera, draw on your real-life whiteboard, and then post to your blog through YouTube.
  • With Tumblr, visual learners can also quickly link to other visual media they find online. I suspect their tumblelogs will be stunning visual feasts.

For Verbal Processors
Many, many of us learn by talking. While I tend to process information by writing, one of my clients, for example, MUST talk her way to her main points. When I do work for her, I have to let her talk to (at?) me for hours, taking notes and asking questions, and then I go away to turn what she said into a written document. Blogging would not be an option for her unless I was doing the posting. Clearly people like my client need another way.

  • For verbal processors, podcasting seems to make the most sense, of course, but not in any heavy-duty kind of way if the purpose is to podcast for learning. I see blogging for this group being something like using G-cast, a free service that lets you record a podcast by cellphone, with hosting on their site. This frees people from having to record at their computers, so learning can take place anytime, anywhere. Your G-cast can then be uploaded to your Tumblr microblog where others could comment.
  • Voicethreads might be another option, one that could be great for visual learners as well, actually. With Voicethreads, you can engage in conversations--verbal and through text--around documents, videos and graphics. So the verbal processor might upload a document and then talk through their understanding of it.

For Those Who Don't Like to Read
The other side of using blogs to learn is reading other people's blogs. But what if you're not much of a reader? Well there are always podcasts, of course, but you'll still miss out on reading other people's blogs. One potential solution is vozMe. Simply cut and paste the text of a blog entry into the vozMe window and then click on the "create mp3" button. vozMe will create an mp3 of the entry and then read it to you. You can also upload the mp3 to your site. Admittedly the vozMe voice is a little like listening to Hal's less accomplished computer brother, but it's still a way to get past the reading hurdle for those who really hate it.

I'm feeling like it's important to explore alternative means of using blog-type activities to process learning because I'm recognizing that one of the barriers to people using Web 2.0 to reflect is that there's such a heavy emphasis on tools that are appealing to readers/writers. But there are lots of tools available that make it easier than ever to reflect and post thoughts through a variety of media. We just have to think about how these could be used and start to acquaint people with the possibilities.

What do you think? What other ideas do you have to support blog-type reflection for people who aren't into reading and writing? 

Photo via andyp uk.