I am social (and so can you)!

April 21, 2008

(This post is part of a Working/Learning blog carnival hosted at Manash Mohan’s blog: Life, The Universe and Everything about eLearning and Content Development)

What are social learning technologies? Someone asked me if they are the same as “social media” and “social networks?” For sure there’s a whole lotta “social” going on. It’s easy to get confused.

My definition of social learning technologies includes networking and, in the context of human systems, connections among people. Instructional content is shared among connected, networked people. It is interactive and collaborative.

The platforms of social learning technologies include text, images, audio, and video submitted via blogs, social networking services, podcasts, wikis, video, VoiP, and others. The social connections are made with information published on the Internet. People find content, share it, and interact with it.

Have you noticed how quickly social learning technologies are changing the way we learn at work?

The “old media” of workplace learning are one-way lectures, binders full of information, the static Intranet, and even static e-learning courses. The “new media” of workplace learning are online networks where connections among individual learners support learning. These can be, and often are, blended with other formal learning activities. But it’s not all about “new.” The old and the new co-exist. I think it’s important to remember that.

Consider these quotes from a presentation I ran across:

• “[This Device] appealed at once to the eye and to the ear, thus naturally forming the habit of attention, which is so difficult to form by the study of books. Whenever the pupil will not fully understand [it] will have the opportunity of enlarging and making more intelligible.”
• “[These instruments are] not uncommon, but are little resorted to by the teacher.”
• “The teacher almost knows as little how to use [it] as his pupils.”

They were talking about the chalkboard! The new social learning tools we talk about are just as “disruptive.”

It’s helpful to view this disruption through the eyes of the learner. This is a re-run slide show from a prior post:

When you look at the new 2.0 learner, don’t think it’s out with the old in with the new. Your challenge is to utilize the best and most useful aspects of your current learning environment while adding those social learning technologies that support learning.

I think these new social learning technologies require rethinking pedagogy by rethinking instructional strategies, delivery channels, and styles of instruction.

What do you think? Are social learning technologies changing the way you learn at work?

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com/tomwerner Tom Werner

    Hi Janet, I think that the mind-bending thing about social learning technology is that its content wouldn’t look like traditional training content (shaped by traditional instructional design).

    I might be interested in your blog post, you might be interested in my PowerPoint, we both might be interested in Fred’s bibliography and Mary’s YouTube video.

    Now we can find each other’s infostuff using our social learning technology. And you, Fred, Mary, and I can find each other and talk to each other.

    But no one is trying to shape any of that infostuff into instruction/training content (the way a traditional trainer would).

    I think this is very good.

    (All of us who receive very little formal training know that our learning comes through Google searches, blogs, feeds, e-mail newsletters, etc. And we don’t feel the need for someone to package this information into instructional modules for us.)

    But it’s a change for professional trainers.

    Social learning technology, in essence, creates a network among SMEs, and cuts out the trainer as the middleman.

    I just want to read Fred’s stuff. I don’t want a trainer to interview Fred as an SME and then build content for me.

    This is mind-bending switch in roles.

    We’ll have to talk about trainers will do in the future.

    Should the training department become the Google of their organization, installing the next infostuff tool for everyone to use?

    Or should the training department focus on the traditional course needs that can’t really be covered by people’s searching and scanning and networking?

    Or both?

    Interesting times…

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com/tomwerner Tom Werner

    Hi Janet, I think that the mind-bending thing about social learning technology is that its content wouldn’t look like traditional training content (shaped by traditional instructional design).

    I might be interested in your blog post, you might be interested in my PowerPoint, we both might be interested in Fred’s bibliography and Mary’s YouTube video.

    Now we can find each other’s infostuff using our social learning technology. And you, Fred, Mary, and I can find each other and talk to each other.

    But no one is trying to shape any of that infostuff into instruction/training content (the way a traditional trainer would).

    I think this is very good.

    (All of us who receive very little formal training know that our learning comes through Google searches, blogs, feeds, e-mail newsletters, etc. And we don’t feel the need for someone to package this information into instructional modules for us.)

    But it’s a change for professional trainers.

    Social learning technology, in essence, creates a network among SMEs, and cuts out the trainer as the middleman.

    I just want to read Fred’s stuff. I don’t want a trainer to interview Fred as an SME and then build content for me.

    This is mind-bending switch in roles.

    We’ll have to talk about trainers will do in the future.

    Should the training department become the Google of their organization, installing the next infostuff tool for everyone to use?

    Or should the training department focus on the traditional course needs that can’t really be covered by people’s searching and scanning and networking?

    Or both?

    Interesting times…

  • Pingback: I am Social: over Web 2.0 en Enterprise 2.0 | MartinKloos.nl()

  • http://joanvinallcox.wordpress.com/ Joan Vinall-Cox

    I like it! The contrast makes the changes very clear. Thanks!

  • http://joanvinallcox.wordpress.com/ Joan Vinall-Cox

    I like it! The contrast makes the changes very clear. Thanks!

  • http://joanvinallcox.wordpress.com/ Joan Vinall-Cox

    Oh, and I love the Colbert reference;->

  • http://joanvinallcox.wordpress.com/ Joan Vinall-Cox

    Oh, and I love the Colbert reference;->

  • http://www.daveswhiteboard.com/ Dave Ferguson

    Janet, I remember a presentation by the late Claude Lineberry, ages ago. He was trying to set CBT in context (“CBT isn’t the answer; CBT is a delivery decision”).

    At one point he moved from the overhead projector to a flipchart. Stopping suddenly, he turned and said, “Notice — this presentation is now multi-media.”

    I do have a quibble with the notion that we don’t “need” someone to “package information into instructional modules.” That phrasing seems to imply that “packaging” is bad, when in fact we all process and interpret what we come across.

    Social learning depends on the needs or interests of one party, and the understanding and interests of another. By way of analogy, this explains why one Wikipedia article is exemplary, and another reads like the prize entry in last week’s Unemployed PhD Death Match.

  • http://www.daveswhiteboard.com Dave Ferguson

    Janet, I remember a presentation by the late Claude Lineberry, ages ago. He was trying to set CBT in context (“CBT isn’t the answer; CBT is a delivery decision”).

    At one point he moved from the overhead projector to a flipchart. Stopping suddenly, he turned and said, “Notice — this presentation is now multi-media.”

    I do have a quibble with the notion that we don’t “need” someone to “package information into instructional modules.” That phrasing seems to imply that “packaging” is bad, when in fact we all process and interpret what we come across.

    Social learning depends on the needs or interests of one party, and the understanding and interests of another. By way of analogy, this explains why one Wikipedia article is exemplary, and another reads like the prize entry in last week’s Unemployed PhD Death Match.

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com/tomwerner Tom Werner

    Hi Dave, “need” was maybe a poor choice of words on my part.

    What I meant was that those of us who don’t receive formal training know that we are still learning, so we are learning without someone providing us with objectives, assembled content, exercises, and so forth.

    I think your point that we all process and interpret what we come across is exactly the logic of social learning technology: that if I have a tool that connects me to my colleagues and their information, then I can (and want to) do my own packaging/assembling/processing/interpreting.

    My point really has to do with the future role of the people in the training department.

    The packaging/assembling/interpreting/processing is what the trainer traditionally does (or did). For example, at any training conference you’ll find a workshop on “How to Create Engaging Content.”

    I think “information is not instruction” and “training ain’t telling” are some tribal beliefs that we have in the training field.

    But I think social learning technology ignores those beliefs and connects people right to the information and the telling.

    I could be wrong; maybe trainers look at social learning technology and say, “No problem. I see that as performance support. And I’m comfortable with performance support and my role in performance support.”

    But I think there’s at least some culture shock there for trainers. You can get a pretty good debate going among trainers on whether doing a Google search is considered ‘learning.’

    And I think if we stood up at a conference and said, “The future of the training department isn’t creating engaging content. It’s overseeing this Google/Facebook/tags/feeds/bookmarks/wiki social learning technology. The raw content will be naturally and automatically engaging because it will be what each learner is looking for,” we’d have some lively discussion.

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com/tomwerner Tom Werner

    Hi Dave, “need” was maybe a poor choice of words on my part.

    What I meant was that those of us who don’t receive formal training know that we are still learning, so we are learning without someone providing us with objectives, assembled content, exercises, and so forth.

    I think your point that we all process and interpret what we come across is exactly the logic of social learning technology: that if I have a tool that connects me to my colleagues and their information, then I can (and want to) do my own packaging/assembling/processing/interpreting.

    My point really has to do with the future role of the people in the training department.

    The packaging/assembling/interpreting/processing is what the trainer traditionally does (or did). For example, at any training conference you’ll find a workshop on “How to Create Engaging Content.”

    I think “information is not instruction” and “training ain’t telling” are some tribal beliefs that we have in the training field.

    But I think social learning technology ignores those beliefs and connects people right to the information and the telling.

    I could be wrong; maybe trainers look at social learning technology and say, “No problem. I see that as performance support. And I’m comfortable with performance support and my role in performance support.”

    But I think there’s at least some culture shock there for trainers. You can get a pretty good debate going among trainers on whether doing a Google search is considered ‘learning.’

    And I think if we stood up at a conference and said, “The future of the training department isn’t creating engaging content. It’s overseeing this Google/Facebook/tags/feeds/bookmarks/wiki social learning technology. The raw content will be naturally and automatically engaging because it will be what each learner is looking for,” we’d have some lively discussion.

  • http://www.daveswhiteboard.com/ Dave Ferguson

    Tom, I don’t think we’re in much disagreement — I’ve been musing a lot lately about what value deliberate organization brings (in general, and with instructional design in particular).

    I do believe that for newcomers to a given field (I’m trying to avoid “body of knowledge” as if it’s some gargantuan chunk of Spam), it can make sense to find some basic skill and knowledge arranged in such a way that the newcomer can accomplish some end without excessive guesswork. But I also think that such knowledge and skill is more in the behavioral/declarative area.

    So, for example, I don’t think many Marriott employees are going to learn the basics of the hotel reservation system via social learning. (That’s not to say that just any formal training would be superior.)

    When it comes to more complex clusters of skills — helping a customer plan a complex trip, resolving customer problems, coordinating with other departments to host a conference — then it’s harder and harder to create, deliver, and assess formal training.

    I do see the social stuff as a form of performance support, though I agree with you than many people, particularly those who see themselves as “trainers,” do not. Bob Mager, Tom Gilbert, Joe Harless and many others taught long ago that the cause of most on-the-job performance problems is not a lack of skill or knowledge.

    But that’s not as easily sold a message as “ten tips to jazz up your PowerPoint,” “sure-fire icebreakers,” or a software package to create yet another Jeopardy-style quiz.

  • http://www.daveswhiteboard.com Dave Ferguson

    Tom, I don’t think we’re in much disagreement — I’ve been musing a lot lately about what value deliberate organization brings (in general, and with instructional design in particular).

    I do believe that for newcomers to a given field (I’m trying to avoid “body of knowledge” as if it’s some gargantuan chunk of Spam), it can make sense to find some basic skill and knowledge arranged in such a way that the newcomer can accomplish some end without excessive guesswork. But I also think that such knowledge and skill is more in the behavioral/declarative area.

    So, for example, I don’t think many Marriott employees are going to learn the basics of the hotel reservation system via social learning. (That’s not to say that just any formal training would be superior.)

    When it comes to more complex clusters of skills — helping a customer plan a complex trip, resolving customer problems, coordinating with other departments to host a conference — then it’s harder and harder to create, deliver, and assess formal training.

    I do see the social stuff as a form of performance support, though I agree with you than many people, particularly those who see themselves as “trainers,” do not. Bob Mager, Tom Gilbert, Joe Harless and many others taught long ago that the cause of most on-the-job performance problems is not a lack of skill or knowledge.

    But that’s not as easily sold a message as “ten tips to jazz up your PowerPoint,” “sure-fire icebreakers,” or a software package to create yet another Jeopardy-style quiz.

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com/tomwerner Tom Werner

    Hi Dave, good points. I agree.

    I think where this is all going is toward some type of widely-accepted, Kirkpatrick-style taxonomy of learning interventions that is a continuum from undesigned to heavily-designed solutions.

    Some model that distinguishes among the different types of resources that a training department might offer in the future, and blesses and validates them all as the purview of the training department.

    Something along the lines of:

    LEVEL 1: INFORMATION (findable info through social technology, learner makes own sense of it).

    LEVEL 2: PERFORMANCE SUPPORT (info specifically designed to teach on the spot when needed, like a “learn more about this” link)

    LEVEL 3: INSTRUCTION (course-like content that has been designed using training-design or instructional-design principles, with objectives and so forth)

    LEVEL 4: IMMERSION (games, simulations, and virtual environments that teach but using game-design and other principles)

    LEVEL 5: PERFORMANCE CONSULTING (interventions beyond instruction that address gaps that are not a lack of information, skill, or knowledge, such as mentoring, incentives, workflow redesign, team building, etc., etc.)

    I suppose all of the disciplines of Mager and the others would say, “That’s what we’ve been saying all these years!”

    Same with the disciplines of Knowledge Management.

    But I don’t think we’re quite there yet (in the Training field) in terms of having an easy, everybody-is-OK-with-it way of talking about how a Google search, an electronic job-aid snippet, an asynchronous e-learning course, a virtual factory in Second Life, and a work-process redesign might all be (in their own ways) ‘learning,’ and might all be a service provided by the training department.

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com/tomwerner Tom Werner

    Hi Dave, good points. I agree.

    I think where this is all going is toward some type of widely-accepted, Kirkpatrick-style taxonomy of learning interventions that is a continuum from undesigned to heavily-designed solutions.

    Some model that distinguishes among the different types of resources that a training department might offer in the future, and blesses and validates them all as the purview of the training department.

    Something along the lines of:

    LEVEL 1: INFORMATION (findable info through social technology, learner makes own sense of it).

    LEVEL 2: PERFORMANCE SUPPORT (info specifically designed to teach on the spot when needed, like a “learn more about this” link)

    LEVEL 3: INSTRUCTION (course-like content that has been designed using training-design or instructional-design principles, with objectives and so forth)

    LEVEL 4: IMMERSION (games, simulations, and virtual environments that teach but using game-design and other principles)

    LEVEL 5: PERFORMANCE CONSULTING (interventions beyond instruction that address gaps that are not a lack of information, skill, or knowledge, such as mentoring, incentives, workflow redesign, team building, etc., etc.)

    I suppose all of the disciplines of Mager and the others would say, “That’s what we’ve been saying all these years!”

    Same with the disciplines of Knowledge Management.

    But I don’t think we’re quite there yet (in the Training field) in terms of having an easy, everybody-is-OK-with-it way of talking about how a Google search, an electronic job-aid snippet, an asynchronous e-learning course, a virtual factory in Second Life, and a work-process redesign might all be (in their own ways) ‘learning,’ and might all be a service provided by the training department.

  • http://2coach.wordpress.com/ Lynn Wernham

    Hi Janet, Great post & love the slide show, it really has some powerful messages. I read your definition with interest but how would you define social networking?

  • http://2coach.wordpress.com/ Lynn Wernham

    Hi Janet, Great post & love the slide show, it really has some powerful messages. I read your definition with interest but how would you define social networking?

  • Pingback: Social learning « Learning()

  • http://2coach.wordpress.com/ Lynn Wernham
  • http://2coach.wordpress.com/ Lynn Wernham
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