It is well known that social media are good for keeping in touch with friends, networking with business contacts, disseminating your opinions, sharing embarrassing photos, and wasting idle time. However, they can also be important tools in the field of collaborative learning, according to Tony Bingham and Marcia Conner in their book The New Social Learning: A Guide to Transforming Organizations Through Social Media.
Social learning, the authors say, is learning with and from others. It occurs at conferences, in discussion groups, and over tables in the café. Now, with social media tools, it can happen over Twitter, via Facebook, or through the agency of a myriad of other tools, in a manner unconstrained by geography or time differences. The book goes on to describe a number of examples of companies implementing virtual communities which have enabled connections and sharing between people who would never have been able to connect without social media tools.
Notwithstanding the various examples given, I still wonder whether most organisations can be “transformed” through social media as promised in the subtitle of the book. Social media certainly facilitate connections in very large organisations, but I am less persuaded by the use of Twitter as a serious learning tool. Video is undoubtedly a powerful teaching tool, but video is not necessarily “social media”. On the other hand, immersive “Second Life” type environments seem to have enormous potential as interactive learning environments. I would recommend this book to anyone involved in workplace training.