With the use of social media in learning by learning professionals still relatively young, there are only a handful of books written on the subject. To be honest, several of them overlap somewhat in the content provided, leaving me to ask after reading the third one in the span of a month “Do I really need another book to tell me what a wiki or a blog is about?” My answer to that is a resounding “No!” It is, therefore, with pleasure that I recommend to you Jane Hart’s Social Learning Handbook (©2011, Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies).
Several excellent attributes make this book stand out, but the two which impress me the most are (1) the enormous quantity of references scattered throughout the text which can open doors to marvelous additional exploration beyond these pages, and (2) the investment of a significant portion of the text to the bigger picture of social media and its impact on workplace learning, social training vs. social learning, and social learning strategies to implement whatever tools are ultimately selected.
The importance of what I read in any book is clearly marked by the highly sophisticated method of a dog-eared top corner of the page. While I underline many things while reading, if I turn down the top corner of the page, that tells me “this is a page I expect to come back to in the future.” Hart’s book – especially part 1 of 2 “Understanding Social Learning in the Workplace” – has more turned edges than any book I’ve read in a couple of years. Figures such as “Formal and informal learning in the workplace,” “Social Training v Social Workflow Learning,” “Impact of social media on workplace learning,” “Stages of Workplace Learning,” and tables like “Uses of social media,” “Use of social media for 5 categories of learning,” and “The SMARTER Approach to Workplace Learning” make Part 1 intellectually stimulating while answering the important question of “Why consider using social media for learning in the workplace?” That is a question all too frequently skipped in the rush to answer the question of how to use specific tools that probably won’t even exist ten years from now.
The field needs a foundation to survive and Part 1 of Social Learning Handbook provides a solid one.
Part 2 (less than half of the book) addresses the more common question of how to use various tools available to enhance workplace learning via social media. It is arranged into seven categories of uses and 30 specific ways to use social media across those categories. As is true of any technology-related book that dares to be specific, the tools mentioned in the 30 ways will eventually be outdated, but the wisdom in the writing is in the grouping of the seven categories that will not expire as new technology comes along. And given the publishing and distribution method chosen by Hart, it is my guess that she will not allow editions to gather much dust before updated ones are available as needed.
Social Learning Handbook is an extremely worthwhile investment of time and thought for the individual charged with advancing learning in an organization today. It will challenge conventional learning and development teams who are almost exclusively dedicated to formal learning to reconsider how they spend their time and allocate limited resources. To the open-minded learning professional who has the learners’ and the organization’s success as higher priorities than the training department’s status quo, this book can help redirect efforts down a more productive path.
The book was published in January 2011 as a 178-page paperback available here. You’ll also want to check out Hart’s Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies (C4LPT) with its wealth of additional resources (many of them free). You can follow her on Twitter @C4LPT and @JaneHart and on Facebook or LinkedIn as C4LPT. Jane is also a Principal of the think tank Internet Time Alliance along with members Jay Cross, Harold Jarche, Charles Jennings and Clark Quinn – all worthy of your attention in their own right.
One of Hart’s more recent initiatives is a Yammer Social Learning Community available by invitation from Hart. You can request an invitation via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ve been listening (a.k.a. lurking) in the Social Learning Community for weeks now reading every word of the daily digest email summaries that come to me, and after a few more weeks of active participation in the conversations I will devote another blog entry to that experience. Suffice it to say for now that the depth and quality of conversation and people in that community is no less than amazing. More to come on that…
Bottom line: Buy Social Learning Handbook, peruse www.c4lpt.co.uk, send an email asking to be invited to the Yammer Social Learning Community, and be prepared to step up your game into the next practices of social learning.