Spiral Learning

This is just starting to form in my brain, but is longer than 140 characters so I’m putting it here.

When I studied Chemistry, each year was like walking up a spiral staircase. When you are first taught about atoms, you are taught that electrons travel in an orbit. The bigger the atom, the more orbits of electrons. Then as you continue in Chemistry, you learn that the electrons don’t travel in orbits like planets, but exist in probability clouds. The more electrons, the more probability clouds in various shapes.

When you begin to learn how atoms fit together, you start with some oxygen and some hydrogen. Eventually you go on to Organic Chemistry (how to carbon based molecules work) and Inorganic Chemistry (how does everything else fit together.) Then you go on to Physical Chemistry.

Each course builds on the previous course and often you relearn the concept. It isn’t an elevator of learning, but a spiral staircase of learning.

This is how I think people need to learn about social media.

First you learn about one type of online community, maybe blogs. Then as you learn another online community, you don’t throw out everything you learned about blogging, but you build on it. I might teach you RSS five times. First time we talk, you’ll learn about subscribing to the NY Times and Blogs. The next time about using RSS with search engines. Finally you’ll be so fed up with the amount of information coming in, that you’ll be ready for Yahoo! Pipes.

But you can’t start with Yahoo! Pipes, just like you can’t start with Physical Chemistry.

You need the first spiral, then the second. Keep building your online knowledge and don’t be afraid to relearn. Also don’t think you have to learn it all at once.

Hmm… the beginning of something… thoughts?

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