Archive for category Self-Directed Learning

Using Google Alerts to Stay Up to Date #futurereadylearning

If you do an internet search your search results will include resources that have been published up to that point in time.  If you would like to stay up to date with a topic or industry tends you can set up Google Alerts to efficiently monitor the internet for new content being published.

Here is some guidance on  how to set up and use Google Alerts for research.

Once an alert is set up Google will automatically repeat a search that you have defined on a recurring schedule and email you the results.  If you are concerned about emails alerts piling up in email inbox you can set up your alerts in Feedly,* which is a content aggregation tool / reader by following these instructions.

Although the mechanism to set up alerts and direct them into Feedly has changed in the past few years, here’s an example of why and how I did this back in late 2014.

To get the most relevant results from your Alerts be sure to improve you Google search skills.

* A separate post on using Feedly is coming as part of the #futurereadylearning series.

This post is part of a series by Michelle Ockers outlining different ways of taking charge of your own learning.  It was developed following delivery of a keynote on the topic ‘Future Ready Learning’ to provide resources for participants to explore approaches covered briefly in the keynote.  Michelle can be contacted regarding keynote speaking on this theme at 


Internet Search – Improve your Google Search skills #futurereadylearning

Most of us use Google to get a quick answer to a question or problem, or to find online resources and help.  Few people are aware of some of the tips and tricks they can use to get the most relevant search results.

Refer to the following for tips and shortcuts to improve your Google skills:

Next time you need to do an internet search refer to these resources and try out one of the tips.

You can also use Google Alerts to efficiently stay up to date with a topic or field you are interested in.

If you have any more suggestions or resources to help people improve their skills using Google please leave a comment and/or link below.


This post is part of a series by Michelle Ockers outlining different ways of taking charge of your own learning.  It was developed following delivery of a keynote on the topic ‘Future Ready Learning’ to provide resources for participants to explore approaches covered briefly in the keynote.  Michelle can be contacted regarding keynote speaking on this theme at 

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Journaling for Learning #futurereadylearning

Keeping a journal is a common approach to both building self-awareness and learning from specific events or activities.  Journalling can be a regular habit (e.g. daily or weekly), or done when specific triggers occur.  Either way, keeping a journal is one of the most useful personal development and learning habits you can develop.

Benefits of keeping a journal

Writing in a journal can be what Charles’ Duhigg refers to as a ‘keystone habit’ in his book The Power of Habit:

“small changes or habits that people introduce into their routines that unintentionally carry over into other aspects of their lives.”

A keystone habit helps lock other habits into place.  As such I recommend regular reflection via a journal as a high leverage learning habit, and an excellent starting point for anyone wanting to be more effective with their personal learning.

The following articles discuss a range of benefits of keeping a journal:

More specifically, if your intent is to learn, keeping a journal is a form of sense-making; it helps you to make sense of and experience or even, see patterns and connections over time, and improve how you learn.

When to Write

You can either write on a regular schedule (e.g. daily or weekly), or when a specific event occurs (e.g a project milestone, after a recurring meeting).  Research on habit formation indicates that you are more likely to develop a habit if you identify a cue or trigger for doing the action you want to take.  For example, when you sit at your desk after your afternoon coffee, after your morning walk, after your weekly team meeting.

For many people scheduling an appointment in their calendar / diary helps to protect a block of time to write.

The time required to write in journal regularly does not need to be large.  You could invest as little as ten minutes a day to gain significant benefits over time.

What does a learning journal look like?

There is no set format for a journal.  A blank page can be daunting, so having a standard structure will make keeping a journal easier.  The following articles have some suggestions regarding structure and prompts:

One simple structure developed by John Driscoll is to use three questions:

  • What?  Describing an event
  • So What? Analysing the event
  • Now What? Identifying what you will do (or do differently moving forward)

Experiment with formats.  Combine different formats to figure out what you enjoy and find effective.

Journal entries can be made either by hand-writing or typing.  Each has their pros and cons – try both and see what you prefer.

My Personal Journal Practice

My Year 8 English teacher introduced me to journaling, and I’ve maintained this practice on and off for close to four decades.  When I commenced journaling hand-writing was the only option.  I enjoyed the tactile sensation of writing on paper, the look of my journals lined up on a bookshelf, and the ease of flicking through the pages.  However, I was always concerned with privacy as it is easy for someone else to look through a physical notebook, and this led to some self-censoring.  I’ve recently gone fully digital, including scanning a one-metre high stack of old paper journals (as shown in the photo).

I use Evernote for my journal as it synchronises across all my devices and has very good search capability. I’m interested to explore how my thinking on different topics has developed over time by searching for entries by word, phrase or tag.

I primarily use two formats – freeform writing for deep reflection and prompted entries on a daily and weekly basis using the following lists of questions:

This post is part of a series by Michelle Ockers outlining different ways of taking charge of your own learning.  It was developed following delivery of a keynote on the topic ‘Future Ready Learning’ to provide resources for participants to explore approaches covered briefly in the keynote.  Michelle can be contacted regarding keynote speaking on this theme at 

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How to Take Charge of Your Own Learning – Master List #futurereadylearning

This post is part of a series by Michelle Ockers outlining different ways of taking charge of your own learning.  It was developed following delivery of a keynote on the topic ‘Future Ready Learning’ to provide resources for participants to explore approaches covered briefly in the keynote.  Michelle can be contacted regarding keynote speaking on this theme at 

There are many ways to take charge of your own learning.  One way of identifying your options is to look at three broad approaches:

  • Learning from yourself
  • Leraning from resources
  • Learning from others

For ideas about how you can learn, tools and links to further resources choose from the list below.  Select a hyperlinked item for further information.  You can use this post as a master list to access posts on each item.

Note – I am writing these posts as a follow-on action from a keynote presentation on Future Ready Learning at a professional development conference in February 2018.  I will gradually add linked posts on all items in coming weeks.  Consider this a ‘work in progress’ which I am sharing as it is developed so that people can start using it immediately and provide me with feedback and suggested improvements.  If you have any comments or suggestions please message me via Twitter, LinkedIn or email (

The image below shows some of the ways of learning that I will add to this master list.

Learning From Yourself

Learning from yourself consists of both doing and reflecting.  They are complimentary, iterative actions.


To be added


Reflection is a powerful way to learn from our own experience.  It is a process of thinking about a past event and thinking about what happened and what you can learn from it.  We can reflect either with others or on our own.  We also have the option of keeping individual reflection private or sharing it with others.

While you can reflect in your head, it can be very helpful to make a record  both to improve the quality of your thinking and to have a record that can reviewed at a later time to gain further insight as you look for patterns and further learning.

Learning From Resources

Resources for learning come in a wide range of forms.  This list predominantly covers online resources.  It will also cover books (which can be consumed electronically or in hard copy).

Online Resources

One of the great things about the internet is that it’s given us access to an incredible amount of resources and content.  This is also one of the really challenging things about the internet.  To get the most out of online resources requires that you can find good quality content relevant to your needs.  Fortunately there are tools available to help with this and skills that you can develop to critically evaluate sources.  You will also find your online network will assist you with this both directly and indirectly through their use of common tools that enable resources to be readily shared between people with common interests.

Skills to develop:

Types of resources to explore:

  • Blogs
  • Website resources
  • Subscription sites – courses and toolkits
  • Youtube
  • MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses)
  • Webinars

Content tools:

  • Social bookmarking
  • Feed readers (e.g. Feedly)


To be added

Learning From Others

To be added


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Be Future Ready – Themes from Professional Development Keynote

Source – Shutterstock

This is a summary of key themes of the keynote presentation I delivered at the 2018 Administrative Professionals Conference at University of Wollongong.  The overall theme of the conference was ‘Be Future Ready.’  This summary will be used in an internal publication reporting on the conference.

Ongoing change is normal in today’s workplace, with much of it being driven by advances in technology.  We have entered the 4th Industrial Revolution where computers and robotics are replacing or supplementing work done by human brains.  Digital technology has already changed the way many products and services are purchased and delivered, and has radically altered industries including banking, travel, music and movies.

All occupations will be impacted by automation and people will increasingly interact with digital assistants and other forms of Artificial Intelligence to get their work done.  Besides being able to work effectively with technology, social skills which are difficult for computers and robots to replicate are becoming increasingly important – such as empathy, compassion, listening, influencing and leading people.

The employment relationship is also changing with more people being engaged on temporary contracts and short-term projects or tasks rather than being permanently employed.  Many of the conference participants indicated that they have already worked in this way as part of the ‘gig economy.’

To keep our skills relevant and be future ready in an environment of ongoing change and increasing competition for work roles it is imperative that we take charge of our own learning.  This requires us to shift our mindset to learning continuously as we work rather than expecting training courses to be adequate to maintain our skills.  Michelle explored ways of doing this by learning from yourself, from resources and others.

Michelle invited participants to recap key content from her session and access further information on learning strategies, resources and tools in the ‘Michelle Works Out Loud’ page on her website.  Everyone is welcome to follow these posts and join the conversation using #futurereadylearning on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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Future Ready Learning #futureadylearning

Toady, 15 Feb 2018, I’m speaking on ways of taking charge of your own learning at a professional development conference for Administrative Professionals at the University of Wollongong.  The conference theme is ‘Be Future Ready’ which I’ve aligned with using the notion of Future Ready Learning.

The first half of my keynote focusses on the WHY – what’s changing in the world of work and why it is now imperative for people to take charge of their own learning.  I then provide a high level overview of three approaches to stop waiting for the training bus and getting on your bike to head off on your own or with others to learn for yourself.  These are learning from yourself, from resources, and from others.

In 30 minutes I barely have time to touch the surface of the range of ways people can engage in continuous learning.  So I’m inviting the session participants to continue the conversation with me by connecting with me on LinkedIn or following me on Twitter.  Over the coming fortnight I’ll be posting more about some of the learning approaches and resources I introduce in my keynote so that people can explore them further.  I will make posts here on my ‘Michelle Works Out Loud’ page, and share them on my feed on both LinkedIn and Twitter with the hashtag #futurereadylearning so that you can search for them on either platform.

If you are one of the people who attended the University of Wollongong session please let me know via the comments below and/or by messaging me on LinkedIn or Twitter.  It’s great to see you following up on the session and eager to take charge of your own learning.


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The Power of Continuous and Consolidated Reflection

I’ve read several end of year blog posts about ‘What I Learned This Year.’  I enjoy reading them as I’m interested in how others learn, and also find that it sparks ideas for my own development.  When I sat down to write a similar post about what I learned in 2017 I made a list of areas I had developed in, and was surprised by how long it was. It’s been a year of rich learning, and I don’t have time right now to sit down and cover everything in a single post.  Actually, given my list of projects and priorities, I’m not sure when I would make time for this.

The second realisation I had was that in most instances my learning in different areas / topics is incomplete – it’s a work in progress.  This makes sense as learning is continuous, and is part of being human.  While you may protest that you know someone who never seems to learn, as humans we can’t not learn – just some people do it more consciously and effectively than others.

The continuous nature of learning is why it’s important to reflect often, and one of the reasons that narrating your work and learning is so valuable. I learn quicker and better when I think about what I am doing and how I could do it better on a daily and/or weekly basis.  Recording my narration in writing or on video (generally via Snapchat) leaves a trail that I can follow to see how I moved from one point to another, including all the meanderings, double-backs, side-tracks and dead ends along the way.  By recording my narration I create a resource for further reflection and learning.  This record helps to fill in the gaps and inaccuracies in my memory of what I did, how I did it and what the experience was like as I was doing it.  It informs my future direction and next steps, as well as my learning methods. Where I choose to Work Out Loud and share some of this with others I have the opportunity to deepen my learning via feedback and discussion.

There is also benefit in looking at my progress and patterns over a longer chunk of time.  This helps to consolidate my learning and look ahead to how I can apply this and what I want to learn and create next.  I find three months is long enough time to gain useful insight, particularly when combined with a quarterly planning cycle.  The transition from one year to the next is a point where many of us slow down a little and is a natural point in the calendar to review and plan.  This is why there are so many ‘what I learned last year’ and ‘my goals for the coming year’ style of blog and video posts.

Instead of one long post to mark the passing of 2017 and arrival of 2018 I will do a series of shorter posts focussed on one specific topic per post.  I may chunk it down even further and post about one aspect of what I’m learning about a topic….

Wait!  I think I just said I’m going to Work Out Loud on an ongoing basis.

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Learning To Learn – Easier than Ever with Learn2Learn

Arun Pradhan has recently released the Learn2Learn app.  I was excited when I trialled a development version of this app a couple of months ago, and felt this same excitement today when I downloaded the released version to my phone.  Please note that I have no commercial interest in this product. I am encouraging people to use it because sound learning skills are vital to thriving and I believe this app is a high value tool to help people to be more powerful learners.  I’ll be using it to improve my learning skills and habits – and expect to blog about what I’m learning when ‘nudged’ by the app.


Here’s a testimonial I’ve sent to Arun:

Continuous learning holds the key to staying abreast of change, identifying opportunities, adapting, and taking control of our careers.  Most of us could be more powerful learners.  Perhaps you need to improve your mindset, learning skills and techniques, take specific actions or develop better habits to boost your personal learning. The Learn2Learn app addresses all these aspects in a crisp, clear, concise and actionable way.  The beautiful visual design and easy-to-use interface make this app a joy to use. There is considerable flexibility in how you explore the content and lots of options for practical application.  With the additional references for deeper learning, and encouragement to share your learning with others via social media and an online community this app will fuel your learning on an ongoing basis, regardless of your domain.  The Learn2Learn website describes it perfectly as “a course, coach and cheat sheet in your pocket.”  Get this app, use it, stretch yourself and see yourself grow.  This is an awesome investment in yourself and your career.

Would love to know what others thing of this app.

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