Posts Tagged ‘Social Learning’

Social Media for TrainersThose in need of information need it–and need to know how to find it–in the moment, not when the training department happens to offer it. And they have learned to find that information from one another, rather than depend on traditional, slow, inefficient, and often inaccurate top-down means. It is critical, if workplace trainers intend to remain viable and credible, that they understand how to participate in the networks and use the social media tools to extend their reach and enhance the development of the employees they are charged with developing.”

So begins the book Social Media for Trainers by Jane Bozarth. She is not one to dance around topics or to hesitate to express her opinion, afraid of stepping on anyone’s toes. In this book Bozarth combines her passion for learning and meeting learners’ needs, her knowledge of effective use of a host of social media tools, and her concern for training and development professionals and their profession to offer practical advice on leveraging such tools which she rightly recognizes to be “critical to the future of training departments.”


Social Learning HandbookWith 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.


question markAs I reflect on the state of social learning and the use of social media in learning, I am well aware of the fact that I have more questions than answers. I suspect it will remain that way. Some questions will be answered in time, but they will be replaced by more questions than are answered. That’s a good thing. It makes us think and discourages any know-it-all attitude that is quite unbecoming for anyone who actually deals with real, live human beings. We can be certain that the field or discipline or whatever it should be called is dynamic not just because technology changes – that’s a given – but because the center of it all is people, and people are more complex than simplistic answers ever capture.

After about 30 years of work in adult education in a variety of contexts, and with the past 2+ years focused on informal, social learning and collaboration, I have some questions I really want to explore, such as:

  • What features and functionality (if any) are missing from today’s social media tools (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs, wikis, etc.) that, if present, would improve their use and general public acceptance as tools for learning? Is the answer different for typical users vs. learning professionals? Is a learning professional the only one who would ask such a question because the typical user doesn’t make those distinctions?
  • Which learning theories are the best foundations for this journey into the future? I’m a big fan of connectivism and its primary proponents George Siemens and Stephen Downes, but you shouldn’t discuss social learning without also knowing about Albert Bandura. Is the most appropriate theory maybe one that hasn’t yet been articulated? Does learning theory matter, or is that just something else learning professionals get all knotted up about when the learner just wants to get on with his/her business?
  • When will we get past reading explanations of wikis and blogs and microblogging and get on to actually using such tools for effective learning and performance improvement? When will we see substantive case studies and research findings that convincingly demonstrate effective and ineffective use of social media in learning?
  • Will millennials really do things that differently regarding social media and learning when they inherit the keys to the corporate kingdom or will competing influences of current culture and human nature influence in the direction of the status quo for the foreseeable future?
  • What will it take to change the mindset of today’s corporate learning and development departments away from their focus on controlled, formal learning experiences to one that values in deed, time and budget the informal, social realities of how their people prefer to learn and actually do learn every day?
  • What is enduring about social learning regardless of the technology of the day? When will that be common knowledge among learning professionals and baked into how they approach their support role with those they serve?
  • What will it take to move the discussion from the extremes of “classroom training is dead” and “social media is a fad” to an ability to know the gamut of what is possible and to do what is most effective in a given situation?

Those are some of my questions. I have more and others will come that I have yet to consider. From one who cannot imagine a day without learning, I enjoy that tension of living with more questions than answers. To quote a line from KC & The Sunshine Band: “That’s the way (uh-huh, uh-huh) I like it (uh-huh, uh-huh).” Ok, that’s a little out of context, but you get the point.

people with questionsPerhaps you have other questions to add to my list. I’d like to know what they are. You are welcome to add them in a comment at the bottom of this page and to take a crack at answering these and other pertinent questions. We will learn more together than alone.

Thanks for joining me on this journey to discover next practices. As the subtitle of this blog used originally read, “today’s best practices in social learning aren’t enough for tomorrow.” I’m not sure of the final destination, but I know I’ll enjoy the ride.

If you haven’t yet checked out the other pages “Why This Blog?” and “About Jeff Ross,” I encourage you to do so.