Monday, September 06, 2010

The New Social Learning

I've just finished reading The New Social Learning: A Guide to Transforming Organizations Through Social media, by Tony Bingham and Marcia Conner.  It's an easy read, full of examples of how organizations have done it. 
  • I can see how social media tools can greatly support ambient awareness and individual learning in the sense that it can help anyone stay current professionally.  It's great for personal knowledge management (if you incorporate reflection time).
  • The new social learning helps you connect to a great variety of people you would not have connected with otherwise, but does it really help you in the daily work routine.  For some positions and organizational functions (if your work involves attending a lot of conferences, if you work in the public affairs office of an organization, the knowledge management office, etc), social media is transforming the nature of work.   I'm not sure this is the case for the majority of jobs.  It has also transformed personal knowledge management and informal professional development for everyone.
  • How do social media tools affect group / team learning?  I will probably have to take a closer look at the book but I didn't see a lot in there about how social media support small teams and group learning. I can see how it supports learning in a very broad and general sense, but I am more interested whether social media can be applied effectively in small group settings and how. The book doesn't seem to pay a lot of attention to the difference between social media tools that support global connections vs. enterprise 2.0 tools that are really more internally oriented (with some connections to external partners). I have a feeling that many organizations are still struggling with just that and are having to define or redefine how enterprise 2.0 is not just getting employees more connected to the outside world but also more connected internally . Some social media tools are much more appropriate than others for group and team learning.  I'm thinking of the potential of wikis in particular.
  • The amount of space dedicated to countering possible detractors is telling, but the critics are not specifically targeting the learning aspect of social media, they're targeting social media in general.  The authors don't claim that learning through social media replaces all learning, but they also don't touch on how this new social learning fits in with other types of learning (such as "learning from experience").
  • In my current place of employment, I have recently attended two sessions on social media, both of which were entirely focused on the use of public social media and offered a very PR-oriented approach (how do we get the word out about our wonderful work).  There is nothing wrong with that but I fear that if our collective understanding of social media doesn't go beyond that, we'll be missing out on the greatest opportunities.
  • You do have to read all the examples offered in the book with a grain of salt.  There was one particular example that made me raise an eyebrow because I knew something about it first hand and... well, the best way to put it would be to say that I have a different interpretation of how successful it was.
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