Assumptions are a dangerous thing: they make it easy for us to stereotype and make decisions, but the reality can be more nuanced. I’ve recently become more interested in the work we need to do with learners to ensure they can thrive in the new realities of the Social Age. It’s easy to assume that it’s simply about mastering the technology, but that’s an oversimplification: it’s a complex space.
I’ve started thinking across three dimensions: safeguarding, productivity and environment. I expect that this will evolve as i share these initial thoughts on the blog (my first reflective space), but for starters, here goes…
Safeguarding is the defensive part: ensuring that we fulfil our duty of care to learners. I’ve already done some work on this under the ‘Social Capital’ part of the Social Leadership model, which looks at the ‘etiquette‘ of online, ‘equality‘ in these spaces and ‘humility‘ in our dealings. This could go further though. Safeguarding ensures that people understand the nuances of identify, privacy, permanence and trust. Obvious? It used to be, but in the Social Age, when our communities are online and distributed, these things are far more fluid that we may first assume.
As a socially responsible business, we have a duty to ensure not only that people are protected from bullying and neglect, but also that they are not disenfranchised or left to trip due to a lack of understanding of the new realities. For example, i’ve been working with an organisation who are implementing a new social collaboration space, a new piece of technology, to enable new inductees to share questions and challenges. Which is good. But what if they are ridiculed or judged for showing their ignorance, or making mistakes? What is the permanence and purpose of this space and how will it haunt them over time?
Indeed, who owns this space? We need to work with individuals to ensure notions of trust and permanence are clear: where are we likely to trip up and is everyone familiar with the risks?
‘Productivity‘ takes us into more familiar and, in some ways, more positive spaces: how do we ensure that everyone understands the importance of curation, of reputation, of storytelling and sharing. The core Social Age skills that let us build reputation, develop our platform for performance and interact effectively within our communities.
Finally, we need to consider the spaces themselves: what are the permissions to explore, to fail, to learn? What are the consequences? Which are the ‘formal‘ and which the ‘social‘ technologies?
There needs to be a clarity of purpose to the environment: pointless spaces will never generate engagement, whilst purposeful communities will discover their own space (even if it’s on technology that sits outside your control).
Permissions need to be clear and co-created ideally with the community itself, but failing that, they need to be fair and transparent. If we are moderating or observing activity within a space, then that observation should be transparent.
From the point of view of developing the skills of the Digital Learner, we have to consider all of these elements to ensure nobody is disenfranchised through error or ignorance, through skills or knowledge. We can’t create these spaces as spaces to fail, or spaces where the enabled are accelerated way ahead of the disenfranchised.
It’s easy to assume that everyone can thrive online, but that assumption is the lie: we constantly see examples of people being caught out, making mistakes, exhibiting inappropriate behaviour or stumbling, often without ever realising why.
Procuring the technology is easy: generating engagement harder, ensuring nobody is left behind, the hardest thing of all.