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Peer Learning



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When we can be face to face (F2F) there are many opportunities and ways to learn together. We go to conferences and learn formally from each other in the sessions, hands-on in workshops and many of us learn the most over lunch and coffee in informal conversations with peers.

Most of the time our peer learning is restricted to our colleagues who work in our same library, library system or town. We are tied to our desks, our buildings, our work, so these may not be enough. Now we can learn with peers using online tools - you probably already use email as one of your essential learning tools.

This wiki page is to help remind us of the diversity peer learning opportunities. There are specific pages that go into more depth about online and offline settings. Once you have an idea of what you might want, you can go to the relevant pages on the wiki.

Here are some examples:

When is it useful to use online tools and methods for peer learning?

  • For quick, informal interactions with peers, regardless of where they are. Examples include asking and answering questions, identifying and sharing resources, brainstorming and problem solving via email lists or online discussion spaces.
  • For more structured online gatherings to focus on a topic, have an organizing meeting, share experiences, debrief, or other structured interactions when people can't do this F2F due to time, cost or distance. (An hour together online is shorter than getting in a car, driving hours to a meeting, having an hour meeting and driving home again!)
  • For smaller group online communities of practice, people may use a variety of online tools to stay in touch and be available to each other. Instant messaging tools, email, even new "microblogging" tools like Twitter and Yammer (an internal type of Twitter tool.)
  • To tap wider networks, email lists, microblogging and blogs can help share and harvest information and peer interaction online.
  • Don't know what all these technical terms mean? Be sure to check out the  Learning Path #7: Stewarding Online Technology for Peer Learning page!
  • To understand the implications of privacy and personal identity when interacting online, see Digital Identity workbook

When is it useful to do peer learning face to face (F2F)?

  • When we can "piggy back"  our gathering and learning on existing F2F meetings. Before, during and after conferences and other meetings, trade shows, or even smaller, unrelated events that allow us to be in the same place at the same time.
  • When we are dealing with  sensitive issues - we benefit from the F2F body language that can often be missing online.
  • When being in the context of the actual work makes a difference. Trying to reconfigure a library space, for example, benefits from being IN that space.

What about mixing online and F2F?

In reality, most of us use a blend of offline and online strategies to learn with and from others. We pick up the phone with a friend. WE set up lunch at a conference. Most of us find the mix of the two is rewarding. We often feel more social and connected with each other when we have met F2F (though some of us form strong relationships online, for sure!). When you think about your own peer learning, consider what blend works best for you.


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