Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Social Learning Zone follow-up


   Here’s some reflections on the tweets from yesterday’s webinar (I’ve not yet had a chance to review the comments made over Citrix Online).


What is social learning?

There were some great suggestions on this:

  • Michelle Kaye: learning from others
  • Abi Signorelli: all about collaboration, building on learning from each other
  • J Keith Dunbar: the merging of individual knowledge and skill into a holistic body of knowledge in real or near-real time
  • Julian Summerhayes: not monologue but dialogue (Brian Solis)
  • Charlie Elise: learning by accident (I learned a lot at #trulondon and other events just by meeting others)
  • Andrew Watkins: this is an example.


I suggested it’s the water cooler conversation, plus use of social media, and describe the (and my) use of blogging / microblogging, audio / video podcasting, web conferencing, social networking, social bookmarking, gaming and virtual worlds etc.

It’s the mix of these two things to me – real and virtual, analogue and digital.  I liked the way Arie Moyal put together peer to peer coaching and wikis.  And Abi and Suraj Sodha are spot on – it’s not about tools – it’s all about behaviours and social interaction.  I also liked Kate Graham‘s summary of this bit: when talking social learning in your organisation, don’t sell social media – it’s not how people learn that matters, but if they learn.

Re the tools, Julian suggested the additional use of Foursquare and Gowalla.  Umm.  I don’t use these myself* and while I understand their role in facilitating connection, am unsure how they’d be used for social learning.  May be one for me to study.

Dhruv Devasher asked whether video podcast (as an example) is a one way conversation or a multiple voice dialogue.  Good question.  Podcasting is often seen as part of new vs social media.  Its new media because it’s part of this group of new, easy to use technologies that encourages participation and employee voice.  But it’s not really social media, as it is generally one-way.  You can comment, but only really using a different mode – writing vs video, which I think reduces the likelihood, and impact, of these.  But I’d still say it’s social (even if not social media), in the same way as I described web conferencing can be social.  If lot’s of people are using it, it results in a conversation, in social dialogue, even if you can’t track the threads of the conversation that easily.

There were a couple of comments about wikisMichelle noted correctly that wikis only work if people join in – a point that applies to all social tools.  And Abi questioned my view that wiki’s aren’t very social.  I guess it depends on what we mean by this.  I agree that wikis are social vs new media, as they’re not just about the use of new, easy to use technology, they are fundamentally about people sharing and working together.  But they’re about collection of information, not connection between people.  That’s what I meant by my point.

And I will moderate this.  Social connection still helps wiki usage too.  But the focus, on large wikis at least, is building a shared view and output about something.  I think the emotional and social context behind the information people are adding and the updates they are making is less important than in other (more) social tools.

Nicola Strong asked when I think virtual worlds are a practical environment for social learning.  Yes I do, and increasingly so.  I’d also respond to Tony Bhambra‘s note that it’s not very easy to identify emotions in virtual worlds by noting that this is also changing – technologies are getting much better and displaying facial and physiological features which will help this considerably.  And there is already some research to suggest that some people at least can develop more meaningful relationships online than they do in real life.  It seems the cues we take from peoples’ faces and body languages are replaced with others from the virtual media.

And in response to Kate, no, I don’t think chat rooms are passe – they still have an important role to play.

Ishmael Burdeau noted that a lot can be done with mobile devices eg ipod, mobile.  Absolutely.  I meant to mention this but think it was one of the many points I had to drop.  As an example, Michelle  suggests she finds finding time to listen to podcasts is a problem for her.  The way I do it is by using itunes on my iphone.  Same for RSS (which Julian also notes is his best way of sharing – getting bigger every day).  A train journey, a tube journey, between meetings – I, and I think most of us, have so much down time, that RSS feeds and podcasts can usefully and entertainingly occupy – through the use of mobile devices.

And I thought Martin Couzins made a good point – it has to be a mix and you learn what works best for different groups.  And I’d again agree with Abi – you need to offer a blend of social and non-social (non social media I think you mean?) approaches so that people have a choice.


* I believe I have some valuable insights in social collaboration, learning etc – I don’t seek to pass myself off as an expert in social tools.


I’m going to look at your comments to my other 3 questions in a later post.  Sorry – other (proper) work to do!



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