Book Review: The New Social Learning by Marcia Conner and Tony Bingham

Training often gives people solutions to problems already solved.  Collaboration addresses challenges no one has overcome before.

Last week, I overheard a colleague say that she saw a post on Yammer regarding a customer service situation that occured in the company.  She communicated this to the Change and Communications team sitting near her and queried whether this would be a good way to communicate and upcoming change across the organisation.  There was some chatter about that particular post and then one of them mentioned, “well, it’s not exactly like I’m posting about what I had for lunch like Twitter does’.  With that comment, my head popped up and I asked, “Exactly what do you think of Twitter?” to get a variety of responses about its uselessness irrelevancy – and this was coming from an internal communications team.

The New Social Learning: A Guide to Transforming Organisations through Social Media is imperative for Learning and Development professionals who would need to explain the relevance of these social media tools to naysayers in an organisation.  It says that we may have missed the point when it comes to the variety of social media tools which are mainly used in marketing.  In fact, “the most enduring impact of social media might be on learning,” it states.  Maybe this is why many of my colleagues – and even internal learning and development teams – have the opposing views that they have that Twitter, Facebook and You Tube are all a waste of valuable time.

The book outlines that we will need to reframe how we use social media in learning and to see it as a knowledge transfer because these new tools allow every person in an organisation to learn non-stop.  Of course, we don’t use it as a total replacement for employee development but we can accomplish many things because “once you move away from the push of information to the pull of learning, you liberate creative powers in your people.”

The book explains that social media for learning transcends the current workplace learning practices because it provides more information sources and access to people where one can find instant information; more dissemination points where people can access your resources and a wide network of communicators and collaborators.

This book is a valuable resource for learning and development professionals because it provides hints, tips and techniques with also valuable case studies of how organisations have effectively used social media in their workplace.  A whole world of possibilities opens up for people in our field because simply, it connects a world of people who may not cross paths but whom we learn so much through shared networks, information and knowledge.

One of the highlights of this book for me was the change in how people present information to larger groups.  Go to any conference nowadays and you will see the audience tapping away at their laptops, iPads or iPhones and in an instant, what the speaker presented is out to a larger group across the world to be commented upon and shared.  All of a sudden, the conference is participated by people all over the world who can comment on topics through the use of the hashtags.  This changes the dynamics of the presentations and also now creates a shift in paradigm for speakers.  Is it wrong that we prevent people from using their phones during a learning event and in doing so, denying a whole world to be able to access this information?

Ultimately, the book provides a valuable lesson for all learning and development professionals, that the more engaged our learners are, the more questions they ask and the stronger their learning will be which is what our mantra, and our raison d’etre.  By denying ourselves the knowledge and the opportunity for how social media tools can be used in learning would be closing the doors for our entire reason for being in the learning field and missing out on valuable information and networks that would make the companies we work for grow.

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About Activate Learning Solutions

Helen Blunden is the founder of Activate Learning Solutions and Third Place. She has over 20 years of experience within learning and development across private, public and not-for-profit organisations. With a specialty in performance consulting and networked learning, Helen believes that workplace learning is integral to business success. She has a passion for enabling people to learn beyond the classroom and believes in the power of networks and communities to drive collaboration and meaning within the organisation. From facilitator-led instruction, online and blended, Helen deploys social and informal learning such as enterprise social networking, collaboration tools and emerging technologies that have been proven successful and embedded workplace change.
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