Preparing and Packing for a Social Learning Journey

As I stare at this blank WordPress post, my first post of my MSLOC 430 learning journey, I can’t help and compare it to staring into an open suitcase as I prepare for another trip. I am trying to think ahead to where I am headed and what I will need along the way.

As I stare at an open suitcase, there is a sense of excitement. Excitement for the adventures ahead. Combined with that excitement is some anxiety. I am both excited and anxious about the unknown. I am excited and anxious for the learning. As much as we can plan, we really don’t know all the detours, bumps and fun that we will encounter along the way.

In an effort to shift from a stagnant blank post to launching my learning journey, I think about what I would do to get started for an upcoming trip to start filling my suitcase. I would create a list!

Learning Journey Packing List:
Where do you hope to end up? Create a learning goal.
What do I need to pack to take with me? Define foundational language.
What stops might I make along the way? Identify questions I want to explore and would like help exploring.

Where do you hope to end up? Create a learning goal.
To help me to get my ‘suitcase’ packed for this next learning journey, I first will attempt to get clarity about where I hope to end up. To do that, I will establish a learning goal for myself and this journey.

Learning Goal: To better understand effective ways to support people learning from one another through informal learning before, during, and after formal learning events/programs by leveraging collaborative enterprise social tools and social media.

What do I need to pack to take with me? Define foundational language.
As I set out to find what language people were using currently to talk about how people learn from one another, I found that there were many different terms being used. Below are some of the terms and definitions I found online. I am also eager to hear from others, what terms are being used in your organization? How do you describe when people learn from one another?

  • Learning 2.0: 
    • As I began exploring Web 2.0 tools for class, the idea of Learning 2.0 came to mind. I had not previously heard this term, but upon some searching, this term seems to have had it’s hay day and is currently falling out of favor. 
    • I found a more direct definition of Learning 2.0 here. “Learning 2.0 is the utilization of proven learning principles applied in the context of self-directed or self-directed-hybrid learning, Web tools, and social networking and collaboration.”
  • Connected Learning: 
    • Connected learning as a term came up on a few different sites and seemed to be mostly connected within the education world and less connected with the business world.
    • Connected learning is about connecting people and ideas across space, time, and spheres of influence.” This below definition was pulled from Defining “Connected Learning” through Educational Research Literature.
    • In this post, Dan Pontefract, discourages the use of Learning 2.0 as a term and encourages the use of Connected Learning. “If ‘Connected Learning’ is part formal, part informal and part social, there will always be the act of ‘connecting’ one’s self to people, content, systems, networks, etc. during the learning process itself…”
  • Collaborative Learning
    • Collaborative Learning, as defined here, “is an educational approach to teaching and learning that involves groups of students working together to solve a problem, complete a task, or create a product.” In addition, the post explains that according to Gerlach, “Collaborative learning is based on the idea that learning is a naturally social act in which the participants talk among themselves (Gerlach, 1994). It is through the talk that learning occurs.”
    • This definition emphasizes the social aspect of learning, and in this post focuses more on in-person collaboration rather than leveraging online tools.
  • Cooperative Learning
    • As defined here, “Cooperative learning is the instructional use of small groups so that students work together to maximize their own and each other’s learning.”
    • This term seems to focus more on a formalized path to supporting people to learn from one another.
  • Social Learning:
    • Marcia Connor, co-author of the New Social Learning, in this blog post, Defining Social Learning, defines social learning as “participating with others to make sense of new ideas. Augmented by a new slew of social tools, people can gather information and gain new context from people across the globe and around the clock as easily as they could from those they work beside.”
    • Marcia, and her co-author Steve LeBlanc, in a Fast Company article entitled Where Social Learning Thrives, explain that “Social learning is not just the technology of social media, although it makes use of it. It is not merely the ability to express yourself in a group of opt-in friends. Social learning combines social media tools with a shift in the corporate culture, a shift that encourages ongoing knowledge transfer and connects people in ways that make learning a joy.”
    • Jane Hart, the author of the Social Learning Handbook, shares her perspective of social learning as well. “When we consider what social learning means inside an organization, it’s not just adding social media to instructional programmes or letting people interact with one another. It’s more about helping people learn from one another as they work together – enhanced by collaborative enterprise social tools. Learning in today’s networked workplace is not just being trained to do a task, but about learning with and from one another as we face new challenges.”

After reviewing the terms above, for this learning journey – exploring effective ways to support people learning from one another – I will use the redefinition of Social Learning above from Marcia Connor and Jane Hart to describe how people learn from one another. Social Learning combines the use of online tools with the idea of “participating with others to make sense of new ideas.”

Below are additional terms that I felt might be valuable to understand as I begin to explore this topic.

Additional Terms:
  • Connected Learner
    • As defined here, “connected learners develop networks and co-construct knowledge from wherever they live. Connected learners collaborate online, using social media to interact with colleagues around the globe, engage in conversations in safe online spaces, and bring what they learn online back” to their organizations.
  • Informal Learning
    • As defined in the Analytic Quality Glossary, informal learning is “(1) learning that derives from activities external to a structured learning context; (2) unstructured learning within a structured learning environment.”
    • Often informal learning is paired with social learning. As there are definitely overlaps, this post helps to explain the difference between the two.
  • Formal Learning
    • As defined in the Analytic Quality GlossaryFormal learning is planned learning that derives from activities within a structured learning setting.”
What stops might I make along the way? Identify questions I want to explore and would like help exploring.
  • Why is social learning an important part of the learning process?
  • What does it mean to be a connected learner? How can we support the development of connected learners?
  • What environments help to support a connected learner in their social learning journey? What tools are people using to create these environments? What are essential cultural elements to create a supportive environment for social learning?
  • How can informal/social learning be best integrated and utilized in conjunction with formal learning?
Learning Journeys Are Best When Shared With Others
As I sit here, embarking on this new learning journey, I am hopeful that the #MSLOC430 community will help to support and engage in my exploration. I’d like to invite you to join me on this learning adventure as I begin to explore effective ways to support informal social learning before, during, and after formal learning events/programs by leveraging collaborative enterprise social tools and social media. 

To start, here are a few questions I have for the community:
  • Regarding the terminology above, what terms are being used in your organization? How do you describe when people learn from one another?
  • What examples of trainings have you observed, participated in or produced (in-person or virtually) that effectively support social learning?
  • What collaborative enterprise social tools and/or social media do you use or have you experienced using in conjunction with formal learning programs?
  • What skills do you feel are essential to becoming a connected learner?
  • What are essential factors in an organization (culture, values, leadership) to help support a social learning environment? 

2 Responses

  1. Melinda Turnley says:

    Great start to your journey! I just came across two sources that resonated with the terms you shared, especially connected learners and social learning. An article on how health care executives manage their personal knowledge infrastructures to “stay in the know” http://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/staying-in-the-know/, and another on how users can leverage diverse Twitter networks to enhance innovation http://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/how-twitter-users-can-generate-better-ideas.

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