Can we Learn from Social Media?
One thing that amazes me is the lack of acceptance in the Learning and Development world of Social Media. At a conference workshop last year, out of 40 people only three used social media for learning.
Sure some organizations are setting up LinkedIn groups, Ning or other groups and forums for people to share ideas, but that is in many ways an extension of networking or action learning that already exists, just migrating to new platforms.
Learning through social media
While many of the social media and networking tools are great communication and connection vehicles, they should not be looked at as tools to replace formal learning strategies. But they can complement them.
Social learning is said to be open, informal, direct and easy. Open, because everybody or a preselected group of people can follow what you are doing. Informal, as it is about the “here and now”, a gestalt approach. It can be more structured if for example you search for specific content, or a reaction to something someone else has just written about that has inspired you to find out more. Direct, because people can connect to you, through the channel that the original communication was made – blog, Twitter, FaceBook etc. Easy, because new technologies such as smart-phones, are making it easier to stay connected to your social media tools and update them wherever you are and whenever you want. Social learning has the effect of demolish walls and building watchtowers to scan the horizon for new opportunities.
Leslie Madsen-Brooks in her blog says:
“Social media is an excellent medium for professional development because
- It allows for both synchronous and asynchronous participation.
- Participants are active learners—that is, they are actively engaged in the construction of knowledge, not just passive receivers of it.
- Social media usually can be captured, thus providing not only an archive of the learning experience, but content that can be repurposed for future symposia, seminars, or courses.
- In learning to use social media within the context of professional development, staff learn new ways of engaging with audiences for their institutions.
- Engagement with social media involves multiple learning modalities and intelligences—visual, aural, textual, and more.”
Twitter as an Informal learning Tool
Ever since I “found” twitter in November 2008 I have found it a powerful tool for finding out people thoughts, views and applications of models, theories and approaches to learning, leadership and many other topics around which we operate.
As a practical example, Dave Lester (@digitalhumanist) used Twitter to learn about mobile media and share what he learned:
If you follow the right people on Twitter, you can learn a lot on a diverse range of topics, not least it can stimulate you to research material you did not know existed previously.
To find useful and interesting Twitterfolk (or “Tweeps”), go to Twitter Search and enter a search term. Once you locate some interesting tweets, “follow” their authors and check to see whom these authors are following.
Kindle, iPad & other e-readers
From a formal learning point of view, if each individual were issues with a Kindle or other e-ink reader, a company could ensure that each person had instant, anywhere access to policies, procedures and how-to’s. This approach would work equally well in retail, engineering or service sectors. Once a week or so the individual would plug their reader into a network point and BANG! they have up to date manuals etc – and its environmentally friendly too.
For informal learning a company could make training texts and other learning tools available for those that wanted to improve themselves in an informal way.
One of the problems with the iPad is cost. With most e-readers being 89-199 each they are much more cost effective mass solutions.
The new tool on the street is the Google Android based Tablets, the power of the iPad (more actually) with the cost nearing the e-reader. Sure battery life is considerably less but its a move towards on-demand, interactive anywhere learning. With Android systems being open source, it also means that it is easy for a company to commission its own apps without breaking the learning and development budget!
Many of these platforms allow comments, notes etc from both a formal and informal approach to be shared with colleagues thus taking social media off-line and into areas e-learning has not been able to penetrate.
Social media opens the doors and empowers individuals to learn if they so choose. As organizations it will be difficult to drive it – but we can empower people and show them how to learn.
Informal learning for personal and career development is at last coming of age – thanks to social media and low cost portable technology.
If you have any stories of how you have used social media for your own personal development please add them below, I would love to hear about them.