This month I had the wonderful opportunity to be selected by Microsoft to be one of ten community reporters from around the world to cover various stories and do interviews with people at Microsoft Ignite, the largest technology conference in the world that was held in Orlando Florida.
As part of the opportunity, they included free registration to the event and which meant that when I signed in, I received an excellent high quality back pack, a water bottle (which I love and use daily) and this awesome black tee-shirt that is now THE MOST FAVOURITE PIECE OF CLOTHING IN MY WARDROBE.
I mean look at it.
It’s design is GENIUS.
It tells a story – a story that I, along with many people my age can recall about the use of tapes.
Whoever designed this tee-shirt, if you know who they are, please please please pass onto them that they’ve successfully created something that I have resonated with – and which captures the nostalgia and where we are at with technology at this point in time.
Trust me, it’s going to get a lot of wear from me. This tee-shirt is me. It speaks to me.
So let’s explore the design in detail.
It’s a tape deck. You know those things that we spent HOURS using and listening to in the 80s.
Look at the title. It says “Learning Mix, Volume 1” and the tape has been stretched to create a love heart.
When I saw this design, it’s depth of what this is showing hit home.
Here we are with a design that immediately connects me with the most wonderful time growing up and listening to music on these things. I spent HOURS creating my own playlists – curated songs from the radio station where I would listen to the station in the hope that they’d play my favourite song so I can hit ‘RECORD’ fast enough on the tape recorder and NOT include the pesky radio announcer’s voice over it.
(Radio announcers knew that kids like me were taping the songs and I swear deliberately spoke over the start of the song. It would annoy me no end).
Now my music tastes were eclectic to say the least.
I liked the weird music – the quirky stuff. I also loved movie soundtracks. I would sit there for hours creating curated playlists of my favourite songs so that I wouldn’t need to hassle my parents to buy me the actual tapes from the store (besides, I was never interested in the other songs on them) for fear that they’d insult my musical tastes (which well, they did). “Why are you listening to that crap? Why aren’t you listening to Rachmaninov, I’ll give you something to listen to, etc” (You get the drift).
So hours were spent in my room and I remember the day when we had a DUAL tape deck. Remember those?
Finally, I could borrow tapes from friends and create my own playlists of songs that I could listen to and dream of what teenage girls dream about. Well for me it always involved some form of running away from home or being in the movies. (I was pretty nerdy – no interest in boys whatsoever – not when there’s a life out there to explore).
Sometimes, I would give out my curated tapes to my girl friends at the time but as my songs were quirky, a lot of them simply returned. Stuff from Weird Al Janokovic and Mel Brookes is not what 15 year old girls were listening to if you get my drift. Certainly not soundtracks to Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, ET etc. Oh well, My music tastes were eclectic to say the least.
I got to thinking about this tee-shirt design. Look how it says Volume 1.
It means that there’s anticipation of many more volumes.
That this is only the start…of you.
Who knows how many more playlists you’ll create and who you’ll end up being like as a person at the end of it – if it ends at all?
The design for me speaks about POSSIBILITIES brought about through LEARNING TO LOVE LEARNING.
Like music, we need to consider creating our own Playlists in our life and start to map out what we need to do and develop in to keep ourselves current in our work and our life.
Work, life and society is changing so quickly, that we need to be the people who create our own learning playlists – curate these in their own ways and means – and then undertake them so that we become better versions of ourselves.
This is the only way we can keep up with the changing world around us. Embrace continual and lifelong learning.
So How Can We Start?
Personally, I’d like to roadmap a plan out for some performance, knowledge or skill gaps I have.
For example, currently an area I want to explore is “Community Management” but I also want to delve into learning more about Microsoft’s “Project Cortex”. These two things are top of mind for me at the moment.
In the past, before I worked with a Microsoft partner, I used Trello to create Boards around my Learning and Skill Gaps then create tasks and checklists to go through to map a plan out to close these gaps. Of course, now I use Microsoft Planner (which I LOVE) which does the job.
The areas I focus on are:
- What is the performance/skill/knowledge gap I need to close?
- What do I need to achieve? (specific to a goal; for example with community management, my aim is to build to 100 member in my community by end of 2020 so learning focuses on ideas for community building). Making your learning goals specific means that you’re not going to be side-tracked).
- Who can help me close those gaps (exploring my Personal Learning Network across social networks to introduce me to people who are experts in this area)?
- What is available online with regards to FORMAL education (focussing on online courses, MOOCs, LinkedIn Learning or Lynda; community education; paid classes; institutions?)
- What is available online with regards to INFORMAL education (focussing on meetups; community groups; volunteering opportunities; books; free courses; resources access from the web and national and international libraries; curated reading lists from experts (what are they reading/doing/part of what networks? Reading and reference lists that institutions make available for free.
Once I have all these, I create a Planner board and put down the tasks I need to complete in all of the above and give myself little challenges that aim to be ‘proof’ or evidence of what I’m learning and doing. For example:
- Share the list of curated references around what I’m learning and reading in the spirit of working out loud and showing my learning openly
- Create a video about what I learned
- Read the research paper and then summarise the key points in a mind map or a Tweet thread (then save it to be incorporated into a blog post)
- Create a curated collection (eg Wakelet; or curated collections in Feedly Pro)
- Write a blog post of what I learned or about my experiment
- Volunteer for an activity related to the skill and be part of it (for example in the past, I submitted to be part of an Intergenerational Film Project in my local comunity and which I won which helped me improve my video creation and story telling skills; similarly, volunteer to write a chapter in a book for someone in your network which helped with my writing; or volunteering to be part of a community group which helped in my networking and relationship building skills and put me into contact with local business people and community groups).
- Add these projects into your LinkedIn CV and profile and build upon it
- Capture the testimonials of people and projects you’ve worked with into LinkedIn (and link to these projects)
- Share what you’re learning, experimenting and doing on social media OR your enterprise social networks because MORE opportunities and leads will come to you this way because your network is looking out for opportunities for you too.
There’s so much more to write here an in all honesty, sometimes it’s hard to explain the sheer VOLUME of what you can be doing here but ultimately, there’s no right or wrong way to do this. Many people will give you a framework or a strategy but ultimately it comes down to:
- What is it that you want to do?
- Who can help you?
- Where can you find the information? (go broad, go deep)
- What are the resources you can use? (cherry pick the ones aligned to your goal)
- How much time do you have?
- What activities do you need to undertake (and then DO them).
- How are you going to make sense of it all (incorporate reflection and sense making through some form of blogging or vlogging or creating new knowledge/value)
- How will you share what you learned so that others can benefit from it (and also FEEDBACK to you for further improvement)
- How can you ‘evidence’ this learning?
- What is the next step?
Once you’ve done all that, you can SHARE your learning playlists – share your boards, or your tasks or your process IN WHATEVER WAY you want.
However, like the tape deck, remember that some people would follow it but many will simply use it as a guide. Like the music, learning is an individual activity and everyone has their particular tastes on what works for them. You’re going to find that there are people who are just happy to listen while others are happy to be the creators of playlists.
Be the latter.
The only caveat I would say is that don’t FALL INTO THE TRAP OF ONLY LISTENING TO SOMEONE ELSE’S TAPE DECK THEY CREATED and think that’s all you need to do. Or worse, copy it song for song and repackage it as your own.
That is, don’t just CONSUME what they’ve created when it doesn’t align to your own needs. (Remember my Weird Al Jankovic and Mel Brookes story above? That’s what happens in real life and it’s what I’ve seen when I explored things like video, Snapchat, ukulele and my knitting – initially it didn’t make sense to people that I was learning this stuff because to them it was irrelevant – but to me, I was making connections in my own mind and exploring possibilities of what these activities would help me achieve in my own work such as building new networks, learning a new skill like video etc).
You need, you MUST create your own playlist around your own learning needs.
So this tee-shirt design, wonderful as it is brought some lovely memories that ties in so nicely to the story of learning to love learning and becoming new and better versions of ourselves. We can stay at Volume 1 but the possibilities will be endless if we continue.
Day 3 of #MSignite commences and I’m wearing this fantastic tee-shirt with one of the best designs I’ve seen in a long time. (I like tapes – I’ve spent hours compiling playlists in my teens waiting for specific songs on radio to come on to hit record. Remember?) pic.twitter.com/ksowXr7bv1
— Helen Blunden #AlwaysBeLearning🤔🧠🦉📚🥇 (@ActivateLearn) November 6, 2019