Today is the launch of my new eBook, ‘Exploring the world of social learning‘. It’s based upon nearly fifty articles with a commentary and practical tips and it’s intended as a wide ranging overview of this emergent field.
Whilst writing for the blog has become party of my everyday life, this is my first foray into publishing (in the more traditional sense), so it’s an exciting time for me. To celebrate, i’ve reproduced the introductory section of the book below. If you’re interested, you can buy it for all platforms from this link. Any and all feedback greatly received: the community around this blog has always been enormously supportive and added huge value to my work, which i appreciate greatly.
The world has become a complex place. The old divide between formal workspaces and informal social ones is largely gone, even though both organisations and individuals fail to fully appreciate it.
Social Media have opened up the gateway to seamless interactivity and collaboration between learners. They have broken down the divide between ‘expert’ and ‘public’ and changed the very notion of what ‘knowledge’ is and how we use it.
This book has two goals: to explore what ‘social’ means in learning and to explore ways in which we can use this understanding to create more dynamic and engaging social learning spaces.
I’ve collected together nearly fifty articles i’ve written around social learning, with a new commentary exploring the subject from a range of angles, thinking about ways in which we can effectively engage in designing social solutions and thinking about what drives engagement in these spaces.
Around each of these articles, i’ve added a commentary, trying to bring the benefit of hindsight, of reflection. Sometimes i agree strongly with what i thought at the time, whilst in other places i can feel how my thinking has evolved, occasionally with greater complexity, but best of all, when it’s simplified.
For each area, i’ve tried to identify practical tips: things for you to do for yourself or your organisation, around the creation of social learning spaces and around your own confidence and ability in engaging and managing them.
Whenever we look at social learning, there are common themes: our motivations to engage, issues of controlling the message, ownership and responsibility, layers of interaction and the notion of social capital.
Social layers are being built up around all types of activities: around induction, skills training, leadership, coaching and mentoring for starters. It’s not a question of whether the conversations take place, its’ a question of whether we want to be involved in them as they happen.
Social Learning: the basics
We used to live in two worlds: the workplace, a formal and restricted environment, typified by moderated messages and codified behaviours that fitted within defined parameters of acceptable, and then the social world, which was unrestricted and expressive, ranging from conversations in the pub to heated debates about politics, religion and which cocktail to order next. These two worlds used to be separate, colliding only at moments of misjudged intra office relationships and the alcohol fuelled miscommunication of the office Christmas party.
But no more. There is no formal and social divide. We inhabit a grey space of social, where people answer office emails from the bath and Facebook in meetings. That photograph of the holiday in Ibiza will haunt you in your next job interview and the post about how much you hate your boss has just gone global thanks to a misjudged retweet.
But what does social mean for learning? To put it simply, it’s an incredible opportunity to engage, in parallel with incredible potential to misjudge thing. When we get it right, creating social spaces for learning, supporting individuals and groups in the right way, creates spaces that are challenging and supportive, productive and dynamic. When we get it wrong, we produce wastelands of derelict hyperlinks and gated communities of stultified guidance and rules.
The one thing we can be sure of is that people love social interactions, but that we look for different things in our informal interactions from our formal ones. The worlds may have collided, but we still differentiate how we behave in different contexts. The conversations that we have on Facebook differ from the interactions on LinkedIn or in a learning forum. Whilst our worlds have become more transparent, we have become better at adapting our tone of voice to suit different situations.
‘Exploring the world of social learning’ is available now on all platforms (copyright Julian Stodd 2012)