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By Dennis Callahan / September 2011

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"The way we describe something can affect the way we perceive it and way we perceive it can affect the way we use it." —Whorf, Korzybski, Thaler, Ross

The Internet is rapidly evolving from pages (web pages, static, one way) to streams (conversation, real-time, two way), bringing with it changes in the ways we learn and share our learning. "Learnstreaming" can help you (and others) make sense of your online learning experience by publishing your learning activities online for the benefit of you and others. Keep in mind learnstreaming requires that you have a learnstream. This article offers an overview of learnstreaming and ways new tools and technologies can support it.

Learnstreams Have a Time and Knowledge Axis

Time is represented across the horizontal axis ranging from the present moment to the past. Depth of knowledge or information is represented along the vertical axis and has two layers:

  • Flows are near the top of the stream and are always moving and changing. Information in this section is timely and has context. It contains items that are closer to the present than the past (e.g., conversation, micro blogging, sharing).
  • Stocks are near the bottom of the stream and are more stable. This is where you store information that is organized and can be retrieved as needed (e.g., articles, wikis, books).

Now that we've seen the structure, let's look at how learnstreams are fed and how they connect to other learnstreams.

Learnstreams Connect to the Learnscape

Jay Cross's concept of the learnscape fits perfectly with learnstreaming. A learnscape is a learning ecosystem, which is a community of connected people learning and working together. We connect in the learnscape using our learnstreams. Harold Jarche says that "learnstreams are the water that allows learnscapes to grow."

Learnstreams Have Three Major Actions

Listening. This is the input into the learnstream where we listen to the learnscape. We listen through multiple sources and have control over some of the content entering our stream. Content is either filtered or unfiltered:

  • Filtered - content entering your stream where you have defined some criteria for entry: RSS type (e.g., Google Reader); alerts (e.g., Google Alerts); social streams (e.g., Twitter, Facebook); or offline (e.g., Person to Person, books, TV).
  • Unfiltered - content entering your stream where you have less control and choice of entry (e.g., e-mail, voice mail)

Thinking. This is how we purify the information entering the learnstream. We process, refine and create content by applying thinking processes (e.g., critical and creative thinking) to existing content or we create new content.

Speaking. This is how we output into the learnscape and is based on many factors including:

  • Responses to conversations, blog posts, social streams
  • Releasing new content (e.g., blog posts, white papers, video, audio)

Tools for Learnstreaming

Learnstreaming is not about the tools, but we need tools in order to participate within the learnscape. Most of the tools require a username. If you're just getting started, you may want to check your preferred user name for multiple tools or services at once using either namechk or knowem.

Here is a list of basic tools to help get your learnstream flowing:

Function Tool/Service Purpose is to Listen, Think, Speak
Bookmarking Delicious/Diigo Save and share bookmarks L, T, S
Blog-lite Tumblr/Posterous Easily create blog posts or share other web content on your site L, S
Contacts LinkedIn Create and maintain business and industry relationships L, S
Social Networking Facebook/Google+ Connect and share with friends and colleagues L, S
Microblog Twitter/Yammer Communicate and share using short messages L, S
Photo Repository Flickr/SmugMug Store and share photos or other items converted to an image L, S
RSS Reader Google Reader/Netvibes Read many sites and pages from one location L, T, S
Url Shortner Reduce the size of a url to make it easier to share and view S

If you already have the basic tools and are looking for more, see the tools below. For a comprehensive list of tools, see Jane Hart's Directory of Learning Tools.

Function Tool/Service Purpose is to Listen, Think, Speak
Comments Disqus Tack your blog comments in one location L, T, S
Communicate Skype Communicate (voice, video, instant message) L, S
Presentation Slideshare Create, share, store and view presentations L, S
Documentation Scribd Create, share, store and view documents L, S
Mind mapping Mindmeiser Diagram to help draw ideas, concepts, tasks T, S
Posting Update many social services from one location S
Wiki PBWiki Create collaborative website T, S

About the Author

Dennis Callahan works with organizations in achieving their business goals by helping people improve their performance through learning. He is an award winning learning professional and has held training leadership positions with multiple Fortune 100 companies. He also writes about learning on his learnstreaming blog. You can reach him on Twitter @denniscallahan


  • Thu, 27 Oct 2011
    Post by Dennis Callahan

    Hi Andrea - good observation. I think all of the tools require some form of T (thinking). My actions column describes the output of the tool. I'll re-think and adjust based on your comment. Makes sense.

    Thanks for the comment. Dennis

  • Sat, 01 Oct 2011
    Post by Andrea Marcante

    Very interesting model and classification but I can't understand why you consider as "LST" just bookmarking and Rss Reader. I think blogging and social neworking require more T-time than bookmarking or reading Rss. Maybe it's not clear to me how you describe thinking activities. So I can agree that slidshare is just LS but I think Skype is LTS: every communication process needs T and I think Skype is a tool requiring T-activation, while the actions slideshare requires does not activate T.