One of my first jobs out of university was with a publisher. As part of my introduction to the business, I spent the first week visiting each of the different divisions learning a little about how each contributed to the overall business. It was a great opportunity to not just meet many of the people that I would be working with, it gave me an opportunity to hear them talk about their jobs in their own words. You could really hear and feel the passion.
But one of the things that amazed me was that some of the senior people had worked in the same job for their entire working life. There was a real sense of a “job for life”. A tidal wave of change swept through publishing a couple of years later and many of these people reskilled, retired or moved to new employers – it was the end of an era. But one of these men, an early mentor of mine, explained that no one will ever care about my career as much as me. He suggested that I should actively build my skills and manage my own career.
Since this time, the concept of “personal learning” has developed. We have also become much more aware of the different ways in which learning takes place – and with the rise of Web 2.0 tools, it has never been easier to take control of your own learning – and one of the best ways is to create a “Personal Learning Environment” (PLE).
Before you get started with your own PLE, there are a few things that you may want to consider (start by reading Building the Future: Considerations For YOUR Personal Learning Environment on this subject). How do we:
- Gather information and knowledge
- Filter and process this data
- Act on the knowledge that we have acquired
In this blog post I will look at the first step – gathering information and knowledge and suggest ways to streamline this process.
Some Web 2.0 tools
Many freely available Web 2.0 tools can be used to help you construct your PLE. To start with you will need to establish some accounts on a number of Web 2.0 platforms (if you haven’t already) – alternatively you can manually collate notes, links and ideas in a moleskin notebook or similar. Useful sites include:
- Delicious for bookmarking and categorizing useful information
- Google Reader for gathering and categorizing blog feeds
- Tumblr or Posterous to write notes and organize information
- iTunes or similar to manage your podcast subscriptions
- Netvibes or Pageflakes to create your own portal
Now you will want to start gathering content, links and materials to begin populating your PLE.
When it comes to gathering information, one of the best sources of new knowledge are blogs. You can certainly start by taking a look through the blogs that are published across the SAP Community Network. Let your interests and passions lead you in the right direction and you will soon find writers who “click” for you. You can start with:
Be sure to then extend this list of readings. Look to technical and business publishers as well as to other bloggers who write on SAP and related enterprise topics.
One of the most convenient methods, is to use a feed reader. I use Google Reader to both subscribe to blogs and to categorize them. There are plenty of similar tools. But Google Reader also provides other benefits which I will cover when it comes to Filtering and Acting on the information that you have gathered.
Consider also building a solid reading list. You can start with Amazon and begin building a wish list. Check out the titles available through SAP Press. And for those BPXers, don’t forget to delve into Process First (the collaborative book created by Marco ten Vaanholt and the BPX Community). There are a couple of online book tagging tools that can also help you manage your reading list – including Shelfari and BookTagger.
The good thing about these “social” tools is that they use recommendation engines to suggest other books that may be of interest to you. Make sure you take a few moments to check out the suggestions and, importantly, to rate and review the books that you have already read. This is a simple way to begin You Are What You Contribute.
In any personal learning environment, it is also important to build formally recognized skills. This can mean attending a course, taking a virtual live class or doing some eLearning. Conferences such as TechEd are great skill accelerators (and also provide a great way to network with your like minded SAP Ecosystem colleagues). Consider also the wider skill set that will be required to make you successful – think project management, soft skills (such as negotiation and communication) and office software skills.
Ad hoc learning
As you begin researching sources of content, you will also find a variety of free or ad hoc learning opportunities. This can include whitepapers or thought leadership articles on a variety of topics, webinars, recorded seminars or even free classes via iTunesU.
At this stage of building your PLE, it is all about identifying and gathering. Don’t stop to read through the details. Identify information that you think will be useful, categorize it using tags or Delicious bookmarks and then move on.
My next post will be about how you filter and manage this information in a way that directly focuses on your skilling needs and your career aspirations.