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How to Use Social Media and Personal Learning Networks for Self-Directed Learning

personal-learning-network3

One benefit of formal education is that students are provided guidance throughout their learning process via the curriculum of their studies.  Students are given materials and resources to study from and good teachers not only provide the knowledge and expertise but act as mentors in the education process. Self-directed learners, those who are motivated to learn on their own outside the structure of formal education, face challenges students in formal settings may not necessarily have to deal with. They also have the freedom to design their learning experience that may not be available to students in formal institutions. I am one of those self-directed learners. Using social media and personal learning networks, I have been able to teach myself about topics related to student affairs including student development theory,  technology in student affairs, higher education issues, technology, instructional design, social media and management and leadership.

In the course of learning about these topics, I have had to also learn the process of learning itself. I have had to figure out how to use technology, including social media, and my personal learning networks towards my goal of learning about the aforementioned topics. When I joined twitter on August 9, 2010, I could not have imagined the power of personal learning network and powerful social media are when it comes to informal learning. I have learned a lot since then and the learning process included adjustments along the way. Based on my experience, here are some ideas to consider:

Identify areas of study to pursue. For example, I wanted to learn about student affairs but I didn’t know where to start. I reviewed several student affairs graduate programs online to determine topics to study. In addition, I also regularly monitored topics being discussed on #sachat and #highered.  Monitoring the two hashtags provided me a sense of who are the credible contributors/thinkers which led me to reading their blogs.

Experiment with learning resources and adjust accordingly.  When I shared a diagram of my “social learning network” on twitter, there were a couple of folks who couldn’t believe the number of social networks I use. The diagram actually includes social networking sites I experimented with but may not use regularly. I had to figure out which sites are best suited for learning specific topics. There are sites like Quora and Google+ I rarely use now since I don’t find these sites as valuable as twitter and blogs when it comes to learning about student affairs and higher ed. In the last year, I discovered e-books (kindle) and added them my learning resources. I also started using Evernote as a site to store pretty much anything including notes, photos, web clippings, etc. The beauty and danger of the web and social media is that while there are so much information to consume, it’s easy to get distracted and waste time reading materials not relevant to your areas of study. I think part of digital literacy is the ability to recognize which resources are credible and which ones should be filtered and ignored.

Have a plan and a self-imposed discipline to go with it. There are no deadlines to meet and professors to nudge you to keep learning. Having a plan, including what areas of topics to learn and when to focus on them, is very important. However, be flexible enough in your plan to allow opportunities for experimentation.

This post was meant to provide some general approach to using social media and personal learning networks for self-directed learning. I hope you were able to get some ideas you can apply towards your informal learning. What other ideas would you add?

image credit: http://jfondas.wordpress.com

My Social Learning Network + Entertainment Using Social Media, Cloud, Mobile

Update: I presented on the topic of Alternative Professional Development to the UCSB NASPA Undergrad Fellowship Program (NUFP) on April 6, 2012 which included the materials below. Presentation on slideshare.

I wrote about the benefits I have gotten from social media here,  Powered by Twitter: Social Media Experience of a Student Affairs Techie. These benefits include meeting colleagues in student affairs and technology professionals from all over the United States and Canada as well as learning from others via blogs, twitter, facebook and now google+. Below is a diagram how I access and manage contents I come across from different social media platforms as part of my personal learning network and for entertainment. Image below links to the pdf diagram.

 

What of these social media sites do you use? How are you using social media as a personal learning tool? Any other sites you could recommend for me to use?

Powered by Twitter: Social Media Experience of a Student Affairs Techie

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/viridian1

This post is about the role of  social media, specifically twitter, in my professional development as a student affairs technologist.  It is about how I have benefited greatly in the short amount of time I have been on twitter from the information I learned and professional connections I have made, resulting in opportunities I could not have imagined.

I envy those in student affairs who are able to attend annual professional conferences and other regional events/ trainings to network and learn about what other universities are doing. Personally, the closest I could be at these conferences are through twitter backchannels where attendees provide some glimpse of what’s going on, what issues are being discussed. This morning, I came across this article by Eric Stoller about alternative professional development on InsideHigherEd.com that talks about professional development opportunities in light of budget constraints. I am very familiar with the challenges of not being able to attend trainings and conferences. The last time I attended a week-long professional development conference was an Educause Institute Management Institute a few years ago (maybe 2007) . Because I have not been able to attend conferences/trainings, social media (including twitter), has been my primary tool for professional development.

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