The role of social media in learning has sparked a debate that is likely to continue for some time yet. I have just finished reading this brief article in HR Magazine which summarises a discussion that took place at the World of Learning Conference and Exhibition at the NEC, this week.
Social media is for many people the 'go to' resource for information and opinion, and as such I have to agree with the argument put forward by Nick Shackleton-Jones, manager online and informal learning at the BBC, who believes it is an essential element for modern learning, stating "it gathers the leading thinkers in an area together providing the latest information."
Social media allows you to create your own community, a community that will contain, primarily, your colleagues, peers and friends. Which, with work, then grows to include others, people you may never have met, but who share information that you value.
This community continues, then, to be built around your common interests. And this is what Shackleton-Jones is referring to. It is very easy to find, engage and learn from the leaders in your area, be it change management, HR or photography. Because of this it is much easier to find good content, than it was, say, 2 years ago, maybe even 6 months ago.
As Michael Learmonth, Reporter, AdAge recently stated about his use of social media "I can be reasonably sure that a story I need to know about will find me, not the other way around. That's a big shift from a few years ago."
From a learning perspective social media allows you to access information that is being shared by your peers. If it is shared, then it is qualified, by that I mean, it's been found, absorbed and considered something which will help or benefit the wider community.
We must remember that social media is about sharing and helping, in much the same way that sharing and helping has been a key component to traditional learning practices for many years.
It is also worth pointing out that social media is simply another method of communication, it is not a means to an end and should to be fully integrated into your wider communications plan, not isolated as a 'must have'.
However, it is a valid media platform for augmenting learning, not a replacement for e-learning or any other form of education; it enhances the ability to access, share and discuss information.
As we have seen with the adoption of e-learning as a convenient way to learn without the expense and travel of attending external facilities, social media is convenient way to access information, in particular conferences and seminars.For example, take the hashtag #wolce10 (view the transcript), its how I kept up to date with what was happening at the World of Learning Conference. The very conference at which the debate took place.
Have you adopted social media in your learning programmes? Was it successful? What can we learn?