Table of contents for Personal Learning Environments
If processing is our real initial exposure in the PLE, then reviewing is where deep learning takes place. Deep learning is necessary to mastering material because it’s where we form a real relationship with it, a real understanding. It’s where we become familiar enough with the material to connect it to what we’ve learned in the past and to identify patterns and connections between concepts and procedures we know well.
So, how do you reach this stage with the material you’re trying to learn, and how does the PLE help? Interestingly enough, your teachers were right about this one – you have to study the material. You have to review it and practice it. Think of it as part of those 10,000 hours needed for mastery. That’s the only way you’ll truly come to own that bit of knowledge.
If you’ve created your PLE well, then you’re already in pretty good shape. You’ve set up useful information streams. You’ve pulled out things that look interesting or informative at a glance and then really looked at them to determine whether or not they’re truly going to be useful to you. Now, you just have to review those saved links and articles. But it’s not enough to just read through them. You have to work with the material.
There are many ways to explore material you’re trying to learn. You might rewrite it, summarizing it or organizing it into bulleted lists, fitting like concepts (and relevant connections from past learning) together in your structure. You might look at it from different points of view – putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and asking yourself how they would look at it. (If you have any formal information architecture training, this is where Personas become a useful tool.) Journaling can help you reflect on what you’re learning and help you see both past connections and potential future applications. Reviewing is also a good time to start mashing the current concept you’ve learned with past concepts you’ve learned, experimenting with mixing, form, and output.
For those curious (since I’ve been sharing how I use my PLE), I use a blend of rewriting, creating carefully categorized bulleted lists, and journaling when I hit the reviewing stage on a topic. I strive to create a reference guide as my output, something I could share with someone else asking about the topic, but it doesn’t always work out.
The reviewing stage is your chance to really play with the material, so make good use of it. This is your time to master the material and to really think about how it affects you, your work, and your understanding of the systems you’re part of.