“Tweeting during a conference helps me consolidate my thoughts and capture key insights. Facebook helps me share resources. LinkedIn is a useful professional tool. However, it is blogging, such as this post, that is by far my strongest form of learning, as it involves a number of things that are all supported by researched learning theory, and which improve memory and recall:
- Interleaved and varied practice
- Spaced practice
What do you do to make sense of your learning? As Donald notes, sharing and posting on social media are weaker forms of learning than longer form blogging can be. However, low utility activities like retrieval and archiving can provide the fodder for higher utility sense-making skills such as generation and elaboration. Mastery comes through varied and spaced practice, supported by reflection. Using social media for learning requires an understanding of how each tool or platform can support your own sense-making.
For example, I use Twitter for quick generation and broad sharing. I archive with Diigo social bookmarks [now Pinboard]. Social bookmarks are but one aspect and one way to keep connected online, and one of the easiest ways to get started with web social media. Getting your bookmarks out on the Web where you can easily access and search them definitely can help with personal productivity. It’s just easier to find things. However, it is only after some time when you have a number of pages marked with your tags and comments and when you have connected with other people that you realize that social bookmarks are more than just a heap of personal links. Other people start connecting to your network and they can annotate a link for members of their network. Suddenly, who you know becomes as important as what you know. If someone in your network knows that you’re interested in an area, perhaps they’ll find and mark a reference that you would never have found. Serendipity can happen, but only once you’ve engaged in the social space.
I reflect on my social interactions every fortnight with my Friday’s Finds posts. But writing my blog posts forces me to spend some time putting thoughts and ideas together. Over time I have become better at this. Blogs are for longer thoughts while Twitter is where I can feel the pulse of the action and am able to follow the most conversations. Social media are the medium by which we can make work learning, and learning work.
As our water coolers become virtual, social relations online will be the glue that connects us in our increasingly distributed work. Every little tweet, blog post, comment, or like online shares our individuality and humanity. These actions help us be known to others in the digital surround. They help us build trust to get things done, be productive, and innovate. However, we cannot benefit from professional social networks unless we engage in them. This requires more than merely mastering the technology. It means being social in our work. Not using social media to connect, contribute, and collaborate is like sitting in a closed office all day.
But a word of caution. When you consider how quickly social media platforms can change and how some go from good to evil overnight, it’s best to hedge your bets and own your data. Be flexible, keep your social media in perpetual Beta, and keep on learning.