Saturday, December 1, 2012

Social Learning is not about using Social Media but how to learn Socially

Remember "Group Studies" we did in our school with friends? Well, it isn't important as to what we studied together, but neverthless they were enriching lessons useful for life. Atleast for me, the learning went besides text books that gave me confidence to approach people better.

The concept of "Social Learning" exists way back. In India, the dominant form of education referred to as "Gurukul" system passed on knowledge through multiple generations based on this system. If you look closely at "Gurukul" system, it is a group of students getting together in the teachers place (akin to boarding school). They learn not just by sitting in class room but by also by doing daily work and assisting the teacher in various chores.

While we know this, it is natural to visualize that the possibility of peers/classmates exchanging work, doing complex tasks together, talking about various topics of interest that allowed their learning to flourish in the multiple social contexts making them strong and experts at the subjects they mastered in when the teacher then played to guide to use them properly.

Other great facet of "gurukul" system that we often miss is the "group" chanting or reading scriptures (the religious places of learning practice this) exercise. It is by following the group that newbies pick the  pronunciation, accent and familiarity with the subject. The peers match recite together matching the rhythm of the group that they remember the details of intonation and memorize them well with various cues set by others. It is so heartening that this is still a prevalent practice to this day in temples all around India.

Another great example of Social learning is in sports training. It is by observation of fellow trainees and the insights shared by the group that sportspeople learn the tricks of the trade. In fact you play with your fellow sports companion to hone your skills. Ofcourse coach is important and necessary to share the observations, make corrections and give right set of motivation and key insights on winning. Most of the times coaches share them in public intending for others to assist and help in reinforcements. When I saw my daughter learning skating tricks from her seniors who translate what the coach guides them to do, it compelled me to think as to why is this being ignored as a formal channel by learning practioners.

An age old concept is getting a makeover now. However, can the makeover stop emphasizing tools over context. Can we focus on "social" contexts dissemination than looking at learning value in social media tools when they are not intended for the purpose ? When a new application/tool is becoming a mainstream media platform, it necessarily needs to stay away from learning arena. Adding learning as a goal in social media space may be great for social media tools marketing but under-values the purpose of real learning. While chat conferences, online forums for collaboration like discussion forums give much need information on any subject or point you to multiple sources and manage to sway your opinions, they need to still be evaluated on a time-value trade off as far as serious learning experience is concerned

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