Social learning – on a high horse
I’m still on my high horse about social learning and knowledge, which started in my last post – Social learning? – when I was grumbling about Tiffany Fary’s post on Janet Clarey’s blog about social learning vs communities of practice.
I’m giving a talk in May about social learning and social media (at a conference for leaders of HR) and the noise about social learning in the blog and tweetosphere is putting me off. Social learning and social media are not the same thing. Rather…
Social learning is a reflection of our view about knowledge, whereas social media is the result of a tech bubble around Web 2.0.
This century has seen a shift in our thinking about knowledge. The flow of knowledge used to be seen as being primarily one way – from the person who knew to the person who didn’t.
But theory and research has suggested otherwise. Lave and Wenger, for example, noticed that in traditional systems of tailor master-apprenticeship relationships it was the apprentice’s relations to other apprentices where they found opportunities to learn.
What’s also happening is that globalization is making our problems more complex. Any one individual’s knowledge can only ever be partial knowledge in complex situations or in dealing with complex problems. Our initial strategy in complex situations would be to create social spaces and try to synergize all these partial pieces of knowledge.
So whereas in the past there were publicly endorsed figures who acted as gate-keepers for what would pass as canonical knowledge we now look at everyone as potential knowledge-creators, piecing together bits of partial knowledge in new ways to create new meanings.
Needless to say, shared social meanings are not in the heads of individuals; they are features of the social spaces we share when we engage in a collective enterprise. Knowledge exchange systems (social media or otherwise) are tools for making those social meanings explicit.
So let’s be clear: learning has not suddenly become social because of social media. Rather, our views and the language we use to talk about knowledge – and consequently learning – are changing. Social media has broadened the conversation, made it public, and helped create different understandings of what social learning means to people in different shared enterprises.