While being an effective Mutant Learner will not require all your time and energy, it will demand discipline and dedication because mutating requires a concerted effort and ongoing adaptation. The five steps to creating your Mutant Learning lab are:

Why share? Sharing what you have learned is an essential part of Mutant Learning. Not only does it reinforce what you have learned, but it places that learning fragment into the online space where it can be accessed and modified by other Mutant Learners, creating a more robust fragment that is perpetually growing and contributing to the community at large.

With regards to the Five Links model, you may have noticed that in the first four steps we were primarily participating as Learners and Initiators. We were learning how to build and perform our Mutant Learning Labs, and initiating contact with relevant learning resources, networks and people. In this last step, we are engaged as Wanderers and Creators. If you remember, Creators are dynamic contributors of knowledge, and Wanderers are the active contributors of knowledge, but both are contributors, not just consumers of knowledge.

This is the last and most important step in building a vibrant Mutant Learning Lab, because it contributes to the community, keeping it alive and flowing.

Contributing, as opposed to just consuming, can be compared to two prominent seas in the Middle East, the Red Sea and the Dead Sea. Both can be found in fairly close proximity to the other (380 miles) and are surrounded by arid land, desert and semi-desert. While there are some similarities, even in their names, they are actually bipolar opposites. The Red Sea is alive with a thriving reef system while the Dead Sea lives up to its name and is void of most water life. It is dead.

Why are these two seas so starkly different when it seems they have every reason to be similar? Simply put, the Red Sea gives as much as it receives, while the Dead Sea just takes and consumes everything to itself. Both the Red and the Dead Seas have inlets that feed it fresh water, but only the Red Sea exchanges its water with the Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean via the Gulf of Aden. It gives back by passing water along, contributing, and therefore flourishing. The Dead Sea, on the other hand, consumes fresh water, but because it doesn’t have an outlet or a way to contribute, it poisons itself and dies. It’s a Zombie Sea.

This is why this last step is so important. It is not only acceptable to consume knowledge, but, as we have seen in the first four steps, it is essential to our growth; it is also imperative to then share that knowledge with others. Once we share what we have learned, the Mutant Learning process complete. So, let’s see how you can contribute to the online community as a creator or wanderer by looking at the Contribution Continuum.

  1. Duplicate. To duplicate is to copy. It is to share a learning fragment in its original form, completely unchanged. Duplication is a common Mutant Learning practice. For example, a Mutant Learner will re-tweet or link their learning fragment to a source website, blog, or research paper. Mutant learners also give attribution and credit where it is due. We have all witnessed this form of contribution recently in the wake of worldwide natural disasters and uprisings. Information (or news) has been shared, re-tweeted and linked to by millions of people. Not just experts or journalists, but even the average Shane and Sheila can contributing to the knowledge base of the online community. In some cases, the duplication of information has resulted in the major overhaul of governments, like in the case of the Egyptian Revolution, or the ruin and tainting of famous brands like Kenneth Cole, who tweeted out an insensitive comment about the aforementioned revolution, which then led to a negative smear campaign ironically using the same social media tool. Clearly, the power of the Mutant Learner is greater than ever. While it has been said that “The pen is mightier than the sword” (Edward Bulwer-Lytton), in light of what we have recently witnessed, we propose that the CLICK is mightier than the sword, or can be mightier than the sword. (We all know how much wasted time and energy can be spent clicking on distractions and wasted activities.)
  2. Amalgamate. When you amalgamate, you combine your opinion, comment or perspective to the original learning fragment, creating a composite result that is a fuller, more robust form of the original. Some mutant learners may have expertise or experience they can contribute to a knowledge fragment that would enhance the learning experience for others who are also interested in that topic. This is how Mutant Learning flourishes and continues to grow.

A prime example of this form of contribution is Wikipedia—the free online collaborative encyclopedia. At first, some questioned the validity and accuracy of a system that encouraged the average Joe to add to a knowledge base. That paradigm soon changed as numerous studies concluded that the combined wisdom of the community was as accurate, if not more so, than a hardbound encyclopedia or traditional academic expert.

Wikipedia and its army of average Joe’s has now become a full-fledged, highly accurate research site thanks to the very active participation of the aforementioned academic experts, who also see the value in the amalgamation of knowledge. In most cases, the community will not tolerate mistakes or inaccuracies, and takes the initiative to either fix the inaccuracies or report them.

Reminder: Anytime you are citing someone else’s data, be sure to always give proper attribution and credits. For example, on Twitter you can add or cite the user’s handle, and on blogs you can cite the study and/or link to that site.

3. Innovate. To innovate in the Mutant Learning Lab means to produce and introduce new ideas, insights and learning fragments into the online community. Innovators are the subject matter experts (SME’s), the thought leaders, authors, scholars and imaginative souls who spend their time wondering what is possible and then set about making it happen. Being an innovator can take time, but thanks to the web, anyone with an imagination, drive, and brains can contribute. For example, you can easily group some of the amazing blogs written by stay-at-home mothers into this category. These “diaper warriors” are innovating how to be a mother and how to run a household and then contributing their newly found knowledge to an online community of learners who can benefit from their sharing. These bloggers may not have an advanced degree or have authored a book on the subject, and while they aren’t seen in the traditional sense as experts and don’t spend their days in university lecture halls, they are experts to many because of their experience. If you find the right mutant experts to follow and collaborate with, the quality of your learning experience can rival that of a private institution.

Sharing Action: Identify where you spend the majority of your learning time—duplicating content, amalgamating it or innovating new ideas.

Series summary – Once you have connected to the relevant few, created effective systems to access relevant learning fragments and blocked out at least fifteen minutes five times a week, you are ready to start mutating. Actively perform your Mutant Learning Rituals for the first week so that you know how many learning fragments you need to scan and review before finding the real nuggets. And ensure that you always look for ways to contribute to the communities you are connected to.

In other words, embrace your inner Mutant.

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