The love and hate relationship
I came across a few posts recently which really caused me to contemplate social media as learning and development tools. As a marketer working in the L&D industry I use social platforms on a daily basis and naturally such topics interest me. But what grabbed my attention was the clear division between L&D experts when it comes to placing value on platforms like Twitter or Facebook, and linking the use of these to personal development.
As Dr Matthew Pearson, education consultant, aptly pointed out in his recent post, for those working in the learning industry, social media platforms such as Twitter can be compared to Marmite – they’re either loved or hated. Personally I’m somewhere in the middle (also if it comes to Marmite!). I neither love nor hate social media. There are times when I love Twitter and days when I just can’t be bothered. More often than not I simply forget there’s such a thing as Facebook.
But I keep an open mind to the different possibilities social media brings to my work and I certainly learn a lot from using Twitter. I found it especially useful when I first joined the learning and development sector a year ago. I knew so little about this environment that I needed a source of information to find out about industry events and training trends, and also to understand what L&D is really about (believe it or not there are people outside learning and development who are not aware of what we do!). I think Twitter is a perfect source of interesting facts, news, and opinions about L&D issues shared by professionals at the heart of learning technologies, e-learning and other training solutions. It helped me grasp many aspects of L&D I didn’t know about before.
And as Matthew Pearson points out in his post, Twitter allows you to find people in your professional area very quickly and have very direct contact with them. “They will tweet links and articles and thoughts which will be immediately useful to you.” I’ve experienced that myself and so I can see why many learning experts enthusiastically embrace social media and see its learning potential.
On the other hand, I can also understand those who are sceptical about Twitter or Facebook as learning tools. I found a very interesting article in Training Journal where the author pointed out that things such as the internet and social media are “acting potentially as a diversionary tactic”. He claims social networking stops people from what they need to do while not allowing them to focus on what they’re supposed to be learning. He says there might be a need for a ‘back to basics’ approach to training.
While I agree social media can be distracting, I don’t think we need to go offline when we need to learn something. To the contrary; I believe the internet enhances the learning process, as does Twitter, blogs and other social networking platforms. But it’s important to remember there’s a limit to the knowledge and training we gain from using social media. I think of them as supporting tools rather than purely learning tools – a means to share knowledge, encourage learning and to inspire for reflection.
My point is: social media is definitely where we can stumble upon news, opinions and interesting facts which we might not have discovered otherwise. Take me as an example – I’m writing this post because I was inspired by a blog which I found because someone I follow on Twitter retweeted it! But, as someone pointed out under one of my previous posts on social learning, “Where on the continuum of social interactions do you want to start recording social style training? [...] If I can record reading 250 tweets on flying a plane, can I knock off doing 250 hours of getting in a plane – can these things count towards anything?”, we need to know when to draw a line.