Social Media and Learning: Implications

I’m continuing on my theme of capturing what we learned during our Work Literacy online workshop in 2008, before Ning pulls the plug on us. Previous posts have discussed several aspects of what we learned and I’d like to review some of the summative commentary.

What questions still linger? Jason Willensky – “Will we be forced to chase hot tools and social platforms to stay competitive… is this an ever-expanding universe of tech goodies? How can these tools help quiet participants be more interactive during a training class?”

Thinking about learning. Catherine Lombardozzi – “One of my favorite quotes is from Kent Seibert: ‘Reject the myth that we learn from experience and accept the reality that we learn by reflecting on experience.’ My experiences in this experiment underscored for me how important it is to reflect “out loud” – if not by engaging online, by taking some of what you’re thinking about and talking about it with others. These kinds of tools make it possible to compose and share your thoughts on what you are learning, to ask questions, to get feedback from others (many of whom you have never met). Tools also make it possible to learn from others… following their bookmarks, for example, or using the tools to make contacts, simplify your own research, and more. They expand our learning support system is fabulous ways.”

Workshop Design:

Virginia Yonkers – “The design of the course itself and even the question of how to measure the learning has posed a number of questions that I did not have coming in to the course (questions are good).

Specifically, what are some design options for courses that might be “open ended” that the social networking tools allow? How should we be reconfiguring course designs to support student learning, learning assessment, student support needs in their learning, and administrative planning requirements? How can we make learning both flexible, yet in line with administrator’s (organizations, schools, universities, etc…) goals and needs for accountability?”

Jeff Cobb – “I think one question a “course” like this raises is “Does it end?” It may taper off, but it seems to me the seeds are here for a continuing discussion, ongoing contribution of case studies, exploration of tools not examined here, etc. That kind of thing can, of course, simply continue out in the blogosphere, but it is helpful to have a more focused community.”

Immediately after the workshop, I wrote, So what did I learn or what was reinforced?

  • A loose-knit online learning community can scale to many participants and remain effective.
  • Only a small percentage ~10% of members will be active.
  • Wikis need to be extremely focused on real tasks/projects in order to be adopted.
  • If facilitators can seed good questions and provide feedback, then conversations can flourish.
  • Use a very gentle hand in controlling the learners and some will become highly participative.
  • Design for after the course, using tools like social bookmarks, so that artifacts can be used for reference or performance support.
  • Create the role of “synthesizer”. I found it quite helpful when Tony and Michele summarized the previous week’s activities.
  • Keep the structure loose enough so that it can grow or change according to the needs of the community.

Having worked with many other online communities in the past two years, I would say that the role of “synthesizer” remains important, and it is a critical part of being a good online community manager.

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