Saturday, September 26, 2009

Tweet, Tweet, Tweet, What Does It All Mean?

Okay, I woke up this morning thinking about Twitter.  I know, scary isn't it?  I was thinking, "I should Tweet something, but I really don't have anything meaningful to say in 140 characters or less."  In this week's Learning Consortium call,  Elliott Masie stated that we were in the "hype and experimentation stage" with Twitter.  Last month, the CLO-Network posed the question, "Is social learning the hope for the future or just hype?" Yesterday's entry in the Corporate eLearning Strategies and Development Blog began with, "If you haven't jumped on the Twitter bandwagon because it seems stupid..."  So I find that I am not alone in seeking learning value in this tool that is gaining 10 million users per month.

Bill Sherman is also searching for that value.  He wrote an article in the August issue of Chief Learning Officer titled, "When the Bird Tweets Does Anyone Learn?" One segment of the article I found particularly interesting discusses the conditions that need to be present for social media to serve as a valid learning delivery medium.  Here are his points along with some of my thoughts:

The use of social media must organically fit with the program's overall instructional design, rather than be thrown in as an afterthought.

This is one of the things I fear most right now: people throwing these tools into a program just to be trendy.  A good instructional designer knows the choice of delivery media should be driven by the learning design.  The media chosen has much less impact on a program's success than the instructional strategy.

The organization's technology strategy must support social media to fully leverage the just-in-time learning capabilities the platform offers.

I have to give credit to my company's IT department.  They have recently introduced Yammer (Twitter's corporate cousin) into our organization.  We are beta testing it.  We are also using a software tool for forum discussions to capture ideas for innovation and for holding customer forums about happenings in our industry that impact their business.   So, once we can figure out the best way to leverage these tools for learning, I think we will have the IT support we need.

The organization's culture must intelligently embrace and practice the use of social media.

There are a handful of regular Yammer users in our company.  And, like Twitter, there are many people who have signed on and said, "Hello! I'm here." and were never heard from again.  

Learners must be receptive to social media, and alternatives must be available for those who feel uncomfortable with social media.

This raises yet another challenge for working with multiple generations in the workplace.  My thought here is that if we start by designing the use of social media into programs where it makes sense we can gradually build acceptance.  When I introduced the idea of using a wiki in our onboarding program, at first my senior course developer and the program facilitators were skeptical and resistant.  But after a while, they began to see it was easy to use and added value to the program.  They began to suggest replacing some of our activities with new ones centered on using the wiki.  I'm hoping that in the near future, we will be doing the same with tools like Twitter.  I don't think this bird is just going to fly away.

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