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Boiling it down to the good stuff

March 27, 2012

Yesterday, I had a lovely conversation with Lou McGill, in which we discussed my participation in #change11, #cck12 and #ds106 as part of the study on self-regulated learning in moocs.  For me, the process seems comparable to boiling sap into maple syrup at this time of year.

The Daily newsletter does such a masterful job of tapping hundreds of learning trees for me, from a variety of facilitators, presenters and participants who tag their contributions appropriately.  The Daily collects and delivers that networked knowledge to the smokehouse of my email inbox, where I can filter through the contents of each of the buckets (presenter resources, discussion threads, blog posts, social bookmarks and tweets).

Normally, it takes 40 units of sap to produce one unit of sweet, pure, decadent maple syrup. That ratio feels about right for how many learning objects I might explore in a networked experience before condensing them into something I deem worth keeping, applying and/or sharing.

“The finest syrup can only be made from fresh, clean sap. The collected sap is boiled down into syrup….The sap will deteriorate if not attended to quickly. The sap must be boiled the same day it is gathered, so a hot and steady fire is kept going at all times.” – Mike Poulin

This description resonates with me.  I’ve realized that I need to attend to my mooc learning fairly quickly after receiving The Daily newsletter or participating in a live session.  If I don’t, then the newsletters pile up and the newly presented ideas are lost in the shuffle of other daily requirements at home and at work.

Any kid who has dipped a finger into a bucket of sap knows that it’s just slightly sweetened water.  It’s thin, runny and transparent with little taste or value.  Real maple syrup is sticky and concentrated, with a warm glowing colour that adds great flavour to any dish that it graces.  The taste is unique and recognizable.

And so it is with managing knowledge in a complex experience such as a mooc.  I’m responsible for boiling down a large volume of information into the handful of items that I will actually recall, use and share with others who are interested.  If I didn’t have a system for harvesting and condensing my own learning, as well as the contributions of my fellow moocers, then we’d all just be pretty trees standing beside each other, not producing much of lasting value.


From → Smarter worker

  1. E Kenney permalink

    Sounds like a good strategy for managing email. The longer a message sits in my inbox, the less likely I will get to it. I tend to pick only those most recent off the top of the list – like icing off a cupcake.

  2. VanessaVaile permalink

    I keep folders, which may be more like sweeping under the rug, but they are there and more findable should they return to mind. Over the years (many of them), I’ve notice that what most interests me stays in the back of my mind, keeps popping up to the surface. Sometimes it’s taken as long as 20+ to get back to it, approaching infinity in internet time. I usually do though and if not, consider it a form of filtering. By now I’m running out of that kind of future time, but you get the idea.

    • Thanks, Vanessa, I agree you’ve got a form of filtering there with deep roots and staying power. I’m starting to find a similar pattern of things popping up in various ways over the years from diverse sources. I’d like to think there are some knitting needles in the back of my mind working to piece them all together. Hopefully, I’m better at mental knitting than the real thing. 🙂

      • VanessaVaile permalink

        They are there and working, but on their own schedule. Just bear in mind that mental knitting can take a while… then there are those items we think we ought to learn but aren’t really that interested in… dropped stitches.

        • Absolutely! Am reading A.J. Jacobs “The know it all” at the moment, in which the author reads the Encyclopedia Britannica from A-Z and realizes that there are actually a few items in there that he learned many years earlier. A little nudge and it comes to the surface again. Keep well and happy long weekend! 🙂

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