Saturday, October 3, 2009

I Have Learned...Socially!!!

After two months of blogging and tweeting, I have actually begun to learn something through this experience.  Here is my story:

On Thursday night I participated in a #lrnchat session on Twitter with other people interested in learning.  The theme of the chat was, "learning from each other socially in different ways."  I logged on a few minutes early and was politely greeted by a few others who were already there.  At the appointed start time, the chat leader began tweeting the rules.  They appeared on screen one by one, interspersed with greetings from other chatters who were just arriving.  There were seven rules in all.  The gist of which I have repeated here:
  1. Introduce yourself and your location
  2. Share your favorite topics
  3. Write complete thoughts so those seeing your tweets outside of the chat will understand them
  4. Play nice (but sarcasm was welcomed!)
  5. Periodically retweet so others will understand the context of your responses  (I didn't get this at first, but I got it now)
  6. Remember to include #lrnchat in all posts (Putting this at the end of your tweets includes your post in the chat stream)
  7. Five minutes before the end of the session, let the group know if you need anything from them and then close by reintroducing yourself
After all the rules were read, several threads of discussion took place.   I paid attention and participated in a few, but there were several others that went right by me.

The first thread I followed had responses to a prompt asking, "What have you learned this week?"   Some learned about instructional design, some about twitter; I typed that I learned there is a community of learners that meets through Tweetchat on Thursday nights.

Then we began to discuss social learning.  One person suggested social learning is the convergence of ideas. Someone else suggested that all learning is social.  Several people refuted this with examples and testimony.  I asked, "How does social learning fit into the corporate learning world with its security restrictions and data privacy concerns?"  One person sent me a direct response saying, "It doesn''s the very antithesis...uncontrolled by "the man" and self/group constructed."   I thought that was interesting, since one of my goals is to learn how to bring these tools into the corporate learning environment.  I'll be thinking about this one for a while.

Someone asked, "If Socrates coulda' tweeted...would that be social learning?"  This garnered the response: Socratweets!

After all of this, a good discussion thread got started on learning measurement.  Certainly it is difficult to get a handle on the impact that learning through social media could have on a business.  It was clear that this issue creates a barrier for acceptance in the corporate learning world.

In all, the chat lasted ninety minutes.  I had fun participating in it and afterwards - as a good learner should do - I took time to reflect.  So here is a brief summary of my thoughts about my experiences with social learning this week:
  1. I have been blogging for about two months now.  During that time I have been reading and connecting with other bloggers.  It is through one of these connections that I discovered the existence of the #lrnchat group
  2. By linking back to another blogger who read and commented on one of my blogs, I learned some of the vocabulary and syntax used to make tweeting more effective
  3. Through #lrnchat, I learned that there is more to twitter than just isolated tweets
  4. I learned that twitter can be effective for learning if you have people with common interests all tweeting together at the same time
  5. I learned you can make your tweeting more meaningful by using techniques like retweeting, direct replies, and writing complete thoughts
So I think I'm beginning to get the idea of social learning.  I'm not ready to include it in my instructional strategies at work yet, but I'm hopeful that I will be able to at some point.

For you curious social anthropologist types, here is a link to Thursday's #lrnchat transcript.  Be warned, you have to navigate through the zigzag nature of the discussion threads.  As a matter of fact, someone in the group suggested coining a new term for this: Zigzag Learning.  You can also see my contributions to the discussion in isolation by going to  and viewing my posts dated Thursday, October 1. 


  1. Mike, you are ramping up with impressive speed... congratulations!

    Tom Whitby (@tomwhitby on Twitter and one of the coordinators of #edchat on Tuesday evenings), once said, "Very few good ideas are shining perfection from the start. Twitter seems to provide the polish."

    Working from the assumption that there ARE other folks out there thinking about the things you're thinking about, and then seeking them out, is a huge part of social learning.

    Sharing what you learn by "learning out loud," as you have done here, is another big piece.

    Go team, and thank you!

    (@butwait on Twitter, FYI)

  2. Very impressed. Thanks for being such a good role model, as I am woefully out of date on this stuff.

  3. Mike, I'd be very interested in learning about how your operational definition of "social learning" evolves.

    Your blog post lead me to looking for a definition of social learning. Wikipedia had this definition:

    "Social Learning refers to the acquistion of social competence that happens exclusively or primarily in a social group. Social learning depends upon group dynamics. Social learning promotes the development of individual emotional and practical competence, as well as, the perception of oneself and the acceptance of others with their individual competencies and limitations."

    I guess, to me the majority of what we learn in life in general is via the social learning process. If that is true, (in my experience it is) then we have an obligation in the world of workplace learning to master the design, implementation and management of social learning processes.

    I think it is also important that we not confuse the "tools" (e.g. twitter, forums, linkedins, etc.) with the process. These technologies are simply one part of the means we can use to architect intention social learning processes.

    IMHO, far too many people are fascinated by the tools and losing sight of what the tools are/are not and how best to employ them.

  4. Wonderful blog & good post.Its really helpful for me, awaiting for more new post. Keep Blogging!

    Social Learning