What’s a “To Learn” List

Posted by Gina Rosenthal in big question | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

This month’s Big Question over on the Learning Circuits Blog is about To-Learn lists. Here are the specific questions:

  • If you have a to-learn list and are willing to share, and willing to share how you work with that list, that would likely be helpful information.
  • As Knowledge Workers, work and learning are the same, so how does a to-learn list really differ from a to-do list? How are they different than undirected learning through work, blogging, conferences, etc.?
  • Are to-learn lists really important to have? Are they as important as what Jim Collins tells us?
  • Should they be captured? Is so how?
  • How does a to-learn list impact something like a Learning Management System in a Workplace or Educational setting?
  • What skills, practices, behaviors do modern knowledge workers need around to-learn lists?

I don’t have a specific to-learn list. What I do have is a skills-I-need-to-get list. It’s not written down. I have my eye on a career shift of sorts. To make it happen, I have been looking at job ads for this particular place I want to get to in my career. From the job ads, I take note of the common skills or accomplishments a person in that position would have. Those common skills go on my skills-I-need-to-get list.

Then I work on ways to get the skills:

  1. Is there a way to get attached to a project at work that will give me the skill
  2. Do I need to take a class to beef up my skillset? I felt a Master’s degree was something I needed, so I am in grad school
  3. Can I get the skill from volunteering? There are a couple of organizations where I volunteer my time, and they always appreciate the sort of work I do (techie stuff, training, web stuff)
  4. Can I get the skill by practicing it at home? I blog, I play with code, I set up websites…etc. Practice Practice Practice

Here’s something I think would be cool. This is actually part of my entry to EMC’s Innovation Conference. What if there was a way for me to traverse opportunities in my company, and compare the skill set needed for that position to my current skill set? Then I could make an action plan, at work, to advance my career and fill needs in the company. I wouldn’t feel I need to leave the company to advance, and the company wouldn’t loose their investment in  me.  We’re all happy, we all grow together.

I think knowledge workers need that sort of feedback – a snapshot that shows where they are right now with skills, and a road map of how to get to where they want to be at the next level.

If you had all of those sorts of skill sets attached to every open position, wouldn’t that lay bare all the training gaps in your organization? You could attach a way to learn to every skill set in your LMS.

One Response to What’s a “To Learn” List

  1. Ken Allan says:

    Tēnā koe Gina!

    Ah! The ‘to learn list’.

    Many years ago I went on a course on manual writing. I’d just become a computer trainer and my boss sent me on this course – she thought I needed the skills. She wasn’t far wrong – but I found some of the course fascinating.

    To cut another epic comment-post short, one of the key tips for starting writing a manual was:

    Write the contents page – neatly.

    No kidding. And y’know. It works. It’s the psychological effect it has on making that starting leap. Clearly, the manual almost wrote itself after that momentous task was done.

    A ‘to learn list’ works the same way. Different from a not-written-down skills-I-need-to-get-list 🙂

    It’s the immediacy of the thing, like writing instructions on a work sheet for kids.

    It’s not “see if you can write a poem on . . .” but “Write a poem on . . .”. There’s a whole Britannica difference between one approach and the other.

    The “to learn list” will have a number of A1 tasks on it, for sure. Now an A1 task deserves to be written down, if only to focus the mind.

    But it’s more than that. It puts it firmly in the mind. How often has one written the shopping list and got to the supermarket to find it’s still lying on the kitchen table? I’ve done that so often, but, y’know, I race home after the shopping’s done to check the list. Most times I get the lot. I wonder how successful I might have been if I’d just not bothered to write the list at all.

    So. Yep. The “to learn list” is one sure fire way to make sure you’ll get it all done. And don’t just scribble it.

    Take a clean lined sheet of refill. Sit at the writing desk, and in your best copperplate writing, draw up your list – with a pen. Pin it to the noticeboard when you’ve finished, sit back and wait for the learning to happen 🙂 .

    Ka kite
    from Middle-earth.

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