Friday, April 01, 2011

Informal Learning via Social Media: An Example

Explaining the power of informal learning via social media to non-believers can be challenging because in most cases, the non-believers are not social media users and therefore it's easy to revert to "you just have to try it, then you'll understand."  That simply doesn't work with some people.  You need to give them something more tangible to get them to try it.

I had two very specific examples of tangible benefits this week.  One example involved the use of Twitter at a relatively small in-house conference and was 100% work-related.  The other example belongs to the critical gray area of professional interest that s not directly work-related.  I am documenting both, but I'll focus here on the second on.

I recently purchased The Working Smarter Fieldbook.  I've been following the authors from a digital distance for a while, whether on blogs, Twitter or other channels and I purchased the book or rather, the PDF file.  As I started reading through it on my Kindle, I noticed little black squares and my first thought was that some images were missing.  Something must have gone wrong with the PDF, I thought.  After all, this is an unbook, it's not meant as a perfect final product.  I didn't think too much of it.

A couple of days later, I am attending an in-house conference (the same one where I had that other informal learning experience via Twitter) and one of the presenters has an image of the funny little black squares on his slide.  He must have said only two words about it but that was the trigger.  It wasn't a missing picture, it was content I was missing out on because I had no clue what it was.  Now I knew it had a name, it was a QR (Quick Response) code. Armed with that information, I googled QR, ended up on the Wikipedia page.  The next challenge was to get back to the book I had first encountered them in and figure out how to "read" them. Post a question about it on the Yammer Social Learning Community, simultaneously google QR "reader", find the free iPhone app, and that was it, I was all giddy about my discovery.. so excited about it I had to tell a colleague about it later in the day.  Checked the Yammer Social Learning Community later on and there were a dozen or so messages with links to additional information, examples of how people use QRs, etc, etc..  One post specifically answered one of my remaining questions.  If the QR in a book is just taking you to a website, why not just put a standard URL?  The answer is that a URL doesn't change and you'd have to reprint your book or document if you change the URL.  The QR doesn't change.  You can set it to change where it takes you.

Connected the whole thing to a presentation I had seen months ago about Augmented Reality.
Started noticing QR codes at the mall, tried one  -- the first hand experience remains key in understanding what it does.
Started writing this blog post, which took me to additional resources, including the video below.

Resources collected in the process:

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