My head spins when I think back upon how my learning has been influenced by social networking.
- Google Reader: I don't need someone to tell me what to read. Traditional newspapers and magazines just don't make much sense to me. Who gives them the right to tell me what to read? Why do they get to pick what's on the front page? Google Reader allows me to tailor my own personal newspaper with the RSS feeds from my favorite blogs.
- Twitter: It's so important to find like-minded colleagues, but the laws of probability tell us that you have a better chance finding them if you look amongst billions of people virtually than a handful of people physically. Our workplaces simply can not expose us to a large enough population - Twitter has provided me with the opportunity to find my tribe.
- Diigo: I come across a lot of information in a day. In fact, too much. Quite often, I can't read everything I'd like to but Diigo allows me to bookmark all my stuff with tags. In other words, Diigo is my virtual bookshelf where I place my stuff, and on that bookshelf, I have labels that allow me to easily retrieve anything I've come across. A real life example of this: for the last few years, I've tagged stuff about math, and for the first time in my career I now have the opportunity to teach math, so when I went back to my Diigo, I had 20+ resources to look at. As I read through my stuff, I knew that I had not read them when I tagged them then, but I was sure glad I had them now.
- Posterous: I use posterous to capture excerpts, pictures and videos that I come across that I wish to comment on. Often I might get around to blogging about these in a more sophisticated manner; however, I really like the idea of sharing with others my thoughts on the stuff I come across on a daily basis. I can think of a handful of people whom I would love to have a live subscription to their daily research, viewing, reading and musings.
When I share this with others who have yet to engage in social networking, their first reaction tends to be something like this "How do you have time for all this stuff?" While I will I agree that I do spend time and effort at this, and that getting this social networking thing "figured out" can initially take a lot of both, it ultimately is one of the cheapest, most efficient and effective ways of gathering such a quantity and quality of information to support my learning.
And it's fun.