10 Ways I Use Technology to Learn

Talking to smart people at Startup Weekend SFO

During the NYTimes conference this week a tweeter got frustrated with the old white men on the stage, “One last time: Would the panel mind talking about how they themselves use technology to learn?”  So I thought I’d respond.

  1. Write a blog worth sharing with the world every day (or at least a couple a week).  Try to figure out what you learned today.  Try to explain how the world works.
  2. Find or create a focus for learning.  Clients and projects usually do this for me.  Use search to investigate and keep refining your search as you learn more.
  3. Read influential 10 blogs every day. Use iGoogle or an RSS feed to drive them to your desktop.
  4. Find and monitor 10 twitter hashtags in areas of interest.
  5. Create a facebook discovery community.  Lisa Neilson (Innovative Educator) created one about innovative learning which has received hundreds of responses to her prompts.
  6. Talk to smart people.  Ok, this isn’t high tech, but go to conferences and stand in the hallway engaging smart people. Try to do the same online with blog comments, twitter and facebook interaction, and webinar interactions.
  7. Less news, more opinion.  Skip the headlines and go straight to Opinion.  Explore and benefit from diverse expert filters.  Think about the mental models behind the opinions expressed.
  8. Read less, skim more, look for frames.  A good report or book will have a magic table/figure that will explain 60% of the content.  Get better at pattern recognition.
  9. Build models, make predictions.  Turn your mental model into a spreadsheet.  Start with some baseline data and growth rates.  Make some predictions about something you know about and write about it.
  10. Post a favorite list every week.  Take 30 minutes on Saturday to think about what you accomplished and learned over the last seven days; turn it into a blog or a blast.

My learning with technology strategy isn’t very high tech: word processing, blog, search, email, social networking, and a spreadsheet.  It’s a very connected version of reading, writing, and talking to smart people.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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Todd A. Hitchcock

These are excellent! One more - use Zite... it is a smart app that gets smarter as you use it and pushes more of what you want to learn about (learn something new every day!).


Tom Vander Ark

will try Zite.com for iPad. Thanks Todd

Linda Aragoni

I have some concerns about recommendations 7 and 8.
One of the problems I have with blogs is that bloggers don't read the material they write about. I saw a research report about sports participation being hyped this week. When I tracked down the research, it wasn't about sports participation. Sports got a couple sentence in a lengthy journal article.
I'm firmly in support of using technology to learn, but not if you make up what you learn. (Incidentally, I have two blogs and a website.)


Tom Vander Ark

Thanks, but in neither case am I suggesting that folks should write about stuff they don't know about or haven't read.
#8 (read less, skim more) is a suggestion that people get exposure to more content. I'd rather have folks skim 5-10 nonfiction books than read one cover to cover. By reading the Table of Contents, the intro, conclusion, finding the magic table/figure, you can usually get 60-80% of a books content.
#7 is encouragement to read opinion pieces and think about the mental models and filters that experts have developed.

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