Making learning work for you

Great post from IBM’s Luis Suarez on personal knowledge management:

Well, indeed, it’s impossible to manage knowledge, even your own knowledge. However, knowledge workers can have a good chance to self manage some of that knowledge so that they can re-find and reuse it effectively and efficiently at a later time. There are a whole bunch of processes and traditional technologies that have been helping people try to figure out how they can have their own PKM strategy. And, lately, over the last few years, with the emergence of social software tools, that job of managing one’s own knowledge seems to have become much easier. Although perhaps still with plenty of room for improvement.

Wikipedia explains Personal Knowledge Management to be:

a collection of processes that an individual carries out to gather, classify, store, search, retrieve, and share knowledge in his/her daily activities and how these processes support work activities.

Luis’ post points to some resources from the excellent Harold Jarche about PKM, including some slides and an audio presentation that are well worth taking the time to look through.

Cheesey stock photo image of someone learning something

Picking up on James Gardner’s point, that I blogged about a while ago, knowledge management – and therefore our own learning – isn’t perhaps the job of our employers but is something we must take care of ourselves. What employers do have to do, though, is to provide access to the tools that work for people to actually get this done.

I’m constantly battling to find the right toolkit that works for me. This blog is where I record a lot of the stuff I think about and where I try to tease out some of the stuff I have learnt from elsewhere and to put it into the context that I, and the readers of the blog, operate in.

I save links that are of interest to me in Delicious and that provides a great method of keeping track of resources around the web. I also share items in Google Reader which are of passing interest but not necessarily worth the bother of bookmarking, and I keep a record of interesting videos on another blog.

This sounds like a lot of activity, but actually it fits in well with the way I work, through familiarity and the tech solution of good integration with my web browser.

Evernote

A tool that is becoming increasingly important to me though is Evernote, which I blogged about here. With Evernote, I can just throw stuff into it without really even thinking about it. So, if I spot an interesting quote, I can just copy and paste it into a note, add the URL where I spotted it, if it was on the web, and maybe tag the note with some keywords so it appears in searches later on.

Or if there is a whole article that interests me, like Luis’ blog post above, I can with a click of a button drag the whole thing into Evernote for later reading and reflection, adding notes and annotations as necessary.

Increasingly, everything I produce starts out in Evernote. Blog posts are drafted there, project ideas are dumped in there, even emails start life as snippets I jot down before putting them together into a more coherent form.

Even better, Evernote exists as an application on my laptop and desktop computers, and on my phone, other devices like the iPad, and of course the website too, so I can access my stuff from any connected machine. Everything is synchronised and it means I can get at it anywhere, anytime.

What about everyone else?

Anyway, enough about Evernote. The point is that I am lucky enough to work in an environment where I can be responsible for the tools I use to do my job, including my own learning activity.

Cheesey stock photo that is supposed to mean research or somethingA lot of people who work in government do not have that luxury. Many probably don’t have any easy to use tools to help them record knowledge and learning – and those that do probably don’t have the flexibility to customise them to their needs.

So what can they do? If internet access policies are reasonably enlightened at their place of work, people can try using web based tools, such as Delicious and, yes, Evernote (though I should perhaps point out that the web version of Evernote is not as fully-featured as the native applications). Indeed there are advantages to this approach as by using public sites the opportunity is there for people to connect across organisational boundaries and to share information, resources and learning increasing the likelihood of serendipitous discovery.

It may well be that your organisation does offer tools that could help you in your personal knowledge management, though – you just don’t know about them! One example is Learning Pool’s dynamic learning environment (DLE), which is used by well over a hundred public sector organisations in the UK. As well as being the place to access e-learning content, our DLE features a whole host of social learning technologies – forums, wikis, blogs, chat etc – which could be utilised as part of someone’s personal knowledge management approach.

Knowledge Hub

It’s difficult to write any post that includes the word ‘knowledge’ without mentioning the KHub. As I described in this post, the KHub promises to be the flexible, open publishing platform that can make the recording and sharing of knowledge and learning as easy as it needs to be.

The open API approach that the KHub will take should also make it easier for organisations to pull knowledge and learning back into the workplace. Workers could use the KHub as their main knowledge management platform, sharing what they find with the rest of the sector, and then also have that stuff automatically republished on their organisation’s intranet, say, meaning that even people who don’t use the KHub can still make use of the content within it.

Summing up

This has been a bit of a rambly wander around personal knowledge management and some of the issues it raises. What’s clear though is that:

  • It’s down to individuals to progress their own learning and to ensure it is recorded in a useful way
  • Systems and tools available at a consumer level are more often than not more sophisticated and easy to use than those made available by organisations
  • Organisations can ensure staff make the most of the benefits of PKM by ensuring they have access to the tools that work for them, and that benefit can be fed back into the rest of the organisation
  • The Knowledge Hub presents an interesting potential outsourcing of PKM for the public sector – if organisations and individuals are awake to the benefits

I’d be interested in others’ views. How do you manage your own learning and knowledge – is this supported by your organisation?

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