Now that the kids have gone back to school, maybe it’s time that we did too; because there’s so much new to learn every day. The pace of technology has accelerated so rapidly in the past year—even the past weeks—that the term “Internet speed” seems somehow antiquated.

Next month marks the 40th anniversary of the connection of the first two nodes of what would evolve into the Internet. Since then, we’ve seen Web 1.0 change the underpinnings of the world’s information resources; Web. 2.0 change our relationships to business, government and each other; and Web 3.0 change our vision of how all these relationships intertwine.

The upshot is that Facebook this fall is significantly different from Facebook last spring. Twitter, which is still a mystery to large portions of the population, is being used now by engineers for real-time data updates , by customer service departments to respond immediately to service issues and by PR firms to replace news releases. Your mobile phone recently has become a primary entertainment center for live video and cool applications that you hadn’t thought even to add to your computer.

The world will leap ahead of us more quickly than ever unless we conscientiously make the effort to keep abreast of the changes speeding past us. How do we stay in touch, stay on top and stay out front of all that’s happening?

Perhaps the best way is to use new tools themselves. Perch yourself on Twitter and confront Facebook. Follow Airfoil and join its fan page, while you’re at it. Search for topics of interest, and invariably you’ll find someone (or hundreds) tweeting or posting about them. You’ll learn from the community about new ways they are using online technology.

Create an account with YouTube or Vimeo or any of 10 different video-sharing services and see what businesses are doing with the medium. Throw some photos up on Flickr and play “tag” with the community.

In other words, leap before you look to get your feet wet. The best way to sort it all out is immersion and relying on your new-found community to keep your head above water as change floods our lives.

— Steve Friedman