Social Media and Free Range Learning

How often, when you’re engaged in listening or participating in social media, do you catch a spark of surprise or excitement about an idea and feel that sensation of eagerness to make that next click and learn more?  All the time? Me too.

Learning fills our lives with energy (chi). It gets me jazzed, inspired and motivated. Learning isn’t always formal like a university class but it's constantly happening -- whether we’re paying attention or not.   

So, what do you call learning where you’re in control of what you learn, when you learn, who you learn from, how deep you learn and what you give back as a result of what you learn? 

Hmmm, what to call this kind of learning? I was working with a great colleague and friend Raye Shilen some time ago while her family was stationed in Washington State and we were deep in discussion one day when the IT woman, Val (yes I said woman – yeah) chimed in with, “sort of like free range chicken – less restrictive and better results”. Viola’ We finally had a name for all these characteristics we’d been mulling over. That’s how we came to call this kind of learning – free range learning.  So, Raye (@PreventionGeek) and I describe it this way:

Free Range Learning is a form of learning that is informal, dynamic, self-directed, observational, and social. It isn’t new, just has new tools enabling more of it. Free Range Learning puts (you as the learner) in control of the educational process. You decide who to learn with or from, what to learn, when to learn it and where to learn. Social media (the social web) enables this kind of learning by providing endless people and content, and it’s always available from any Internet connected device.

For more than 10 years now I’ve worked from an office in my home.  Over time what’s happened for me is that social media has replaced some of the office dynamic — it provides the water cooler connections to fascinating, thoughtful and really smart people that I don’t have the luxury of sharing an office with everyday. There’s Skype calls and Google+ Hangouts, Facebook updates and Twitter posts, Google chats and text messages — all lending to the free range learning shift.

What about you? In what way does social media and this notion of free range learning fit in your life and your work (or workplace)? What are you learning about learning with social media?