the learning process, by rubyblossom on flickr, creative commons attribution

the learning process, by rubyblossom on flickr, creative commons attribution

In January I presented to The Victoria Business Moms at the invitation of the group’s organizer, Heather Solomonson. The topic I spoke about was non-traditional ways to create professional development opportunities for ourselves.

At the delightful Crumsby’s cafe in Victoria – the schoolhouse site up near Royal Oak – a few of us got together for the session. I led participants through a discussion about how we can and do learn – both face to face and online – in informal ways. We then talked about how we can reflect upon and record our learning to show others if we wished.

One of the things I highlighted is that we all have many options available to us for professional development that don’t involve going to a traditional workshop or course. Don’t get me wrong, I love formal learning opportunities and see real value in them, but I also think we need to place more emphasis and value on engaging in informal learning. It’s something that we do without even realizing that that’s what we’re doing!  Having Skype meetings, reading blogs, or following Twitter hashtags, Learnist or Pinterest boards – these are all examples of how we can learn online according to our own time schedule. And we can’t of course forget face-to-face meetings with mentors, forming Mastermind groups or becoming a member of professional associations. (These are just a few of the things we discussed that night – there are many more options of course!)

As Jane Hart says, if we spend just ten minutes a day engaged in informal learning over the course of a year that amounts to eight days’ worth of professional development. A few conferences’ worth! Surrounding ourselves with a personal learning network of people both in person and online is a way to keep abreast of things in this world where knowledge is increasing exponentially every second.

It was from a class with Jane Hart that I learned more about the concept of professional learning portfolios. If you are interested in recording and reflecting on your learning – both formal and informal opportunities – there are numerous applications out there that you can use to develop an online portfolio. Course participants were experimenting with Mahara, WordPress, Folio for me, FolioSpaces, Portfolio Communities and more. We spent time discussing the benefits and drawbacks of showing our learning plans and achievements online. Fascinating.

Thanks again to The Victoria Business Moms for allowing me space to bring these ideas to others. It was another informal way to learn for all of us there – myself included.


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