Category Archives: learning

What is a community?

What is a community?

What is a community?

Recently i’ve started working my way through the great training course from FeverBee, put together by the brilliant Caty Kobe. I’m going to use this blog as reflection on some (not all) of the topics as I work through.

The first point that was covered, and one that I’ve seen debated recently in several forums and networks, is the age old conundrum over what a community actually is.

I liken an online community very much to offline communities that we’ve grown up with since forever; the streets, towns and cities that we live in, the niche groups we become involved in relating perhaps to music or sports etc. In essence, for me, it’s a group of people that gather at a place or event and talk, share, help each other, swap stories and all that good stuff. This for me doesn’t change for an online community.

I moved house several years ago and really feel like we have a great community here in terms of people chatting in the street, kids growing up together, helping each other with challenges and getting things done, socialising and asking for help. Without that community feeling here I wouldn’t enjoy living here as much and would possibly be looking to live somewhere else.

Online communities are the same for me. The community I manage right now has a core group of members (residents) that chat, discuss hot topics, swap stories, ask for and give help, offer suggestions to make things better etc. Around that group, we have new people moving in all the time; some are transient and stay for a little while, others are quickly becoming part of the community and we’re working hard to keep that number rising all the time.

How would you define a community? What does it mean for you? What sorts of community have you come across?
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3 tips for using blogs in learning

Using social media capability in and around learning events should definitely be a part of your learning strategy as you integrate social connectivity to your company. A good way to get delegates to start using your network is to get them posting blogs, in whatever form they take on the platform you went with, as part of your learning experience.

Below are 3 ways to consider getting them blogging about their learning:

1: Prepare
Your learners could blog about their experience, thoughts and expectations of the subject matter and upcoming learning event. This way you and others on the session can learn a bit about them and what experience they have with the content already. You can find out ahead of the session what their expectations are and if they have any associated thoughts around it too. They can post what they want to get out of the session and what they want it do for them back in the office. All of this can hopefully lead to an extended conversation in the comments between the delegate, yourself and other delegates, past, present and future.

2: Homework
If it’s a session spanning a couple of days or more then you can use blogs for delegates to do “homework”. You can set assignment projects and research for delegates to think about, plan and post their results or findings. If there are any Further Reading topics, websites or blogs they can check out then they can blog about their thoughts having read or viewed these. Any learning they gather from this can be shared and passed on to the rest of the group at the same time.

3: Reflect
Reflection is such an important part of the learning process. Being able to digest what you’ve learnt, think about how you can use the new knowledge and how it will impacts you helps to get new information into a practical order in the learner’s mind. Also if you get your delegates to post a blog a month or so after the event then they can post about their experiences of trying to put this new learning into practice. Again the open nature of blogging means that everyone can learn from their learning’s, whether they’ve been on the course before, or are waiting to attend in the near future.

Bonus tip 4: Feedback
You can also use blogs to give and receive feedback. Hopefully your learning sessions are so awesome that within their blog posts your delegates are posting about how much they enjoyed it, which parts they found the most interesting/useful/fun and which parts less so. If not then you can invite people to post a summary blog of the session with their feedback in, almost like a Trip Advisor or Amazon review. Again the post is transparent and people can join in the conversation within the comments.

Of course it should go without saying that, if you are committing to using blogs in your sessions, you need to be ensuring that you’re reading them and Liking and Commenting on the posts. Make sure you’re connected and engaged with your delegates in this way and they’ll gladly connect and engage right back at ya!

Have you thought about using blogs to supplement your learning? Maybe you’re already doing it? Let us know how you plan to or currently do use blogs? Any tips?

So what is Social Learning anyway?

It’s a new thing, you know… that Social Learning.

It’s not a new thing at all.

Albert Bandura told us about it in the late 70s, suggesting that people can learn in a social context. We’re talking about observing behaviours, learning by example and the involvement of “human connection” when giving and receiving information and knowledge.

The same is still happening now but in this new, technologically advanced age, with the social and collaborative tools we now have available to us, this has evolved somewhat to a new type of social learning.

For those of us that often sit at work and find ourselves saying to someone “what do you mean you don’t remember Live Aid…” there is a group of people now, often referred to as GenY or Millenials, who are growing up in this new connected world where finding out an answer or learning something new is never more than a few seconds away.

There are some trains of thought that suggest Social Learning is specifically informal learning, but it should be acknowledged that there are elements of Social Learning that can happen as part of the formal process, often as an extension of it. Blogging in reflection would be an example. Getting people to share online the work they have been doing in the classroom and then continuing the conversation there would be another.

Similarly, the term Social Learning shouldn’t be confused with the phrase Social Media, as I often hear happening around conversations both in and out of my workplace. Social Learning can happen away from the online world, and has been for as long as man can remember. Social Media simply supports this process in being a tool that supports an action. (Isn’t all media these days social anyway?)

After all is said and done, no matter how it’s dressed up and given fancy titles and shiny new tech to help us do it, Social Learning has been around since the advent of time, it’s just the ways in which we are able to do it, and the tools that help us to do it, that have evolved. We’re still learning from others and following their examples.

I can search on YouTube for how to move a light switch on my living room wall and get a ton of hits, all with slightly different methods and techniques and different qualities of output, but I’m still learning from someone else’s experience. The same for posting a question on Twitter to my Personal Learning Network (PLN), the responses and advice that come in are still learning from others and their experience, they’re just not sat in the same room as me, possibly not even the same country. Tools such as Google Hangouts are starting to be used now as well, so this is extended even further and these kind of conversations can happen in some kind of face to face environment with no geographical boundaries.

So it’s not a new thing, it’s an old thing. And in fairness most of the technology’s not that new either anymore. But more and more companies are using this technology as part of their learning strategies these days, as growing numbers of them become more connected than ever before. Hopefully they can see it’s just an extension of what we’ve been doing forever.

In future posts I’ll be looking at the different ways you/we can use these social tools to enhance and support our social learning, predominantly in the workplace, but the beauty is it applies out in the real world too! (A good place to start would be my post about getting started on your company’s social platform)

What’s happening where you work? Do you have social tools that help you learn in work? What about outside work, what do you do to find stuff out?