Social media extremism

Since I wrote my article last week about critical theory, I have been more attuned to the messages being propagated by my peers.

For example, some of them have been blogging and tweeting about the role of social media in driving the pro-democracy protests in Egypt.

I see I’m not alone (here and here) in being a little less inclined.

The truth, I suspect, is that the protests in Egypt have been catalysed by the amassing of the population for prayer.

Good centuries-old social networking.

Christians protecting Muslims during their prayers in Egypt during the 2001 protests

Bloggers and the Twitterati are self-evident social media fans, so it’s to be expected that some of them will adopt an evangelical view of the role of Web 2.0 in world affairs.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not trying to underplay the role of social media in connecting people with each other and with the outside world. It certainly played its part in Tunisia and Iran, for example. Besides, if it wasn’t useful, oppressive governments wouldn’t try to shut it down.

No, my point is that while social media is a significant component of the Egyptian pro-democracy movement, it is one among equally or even more significant components.

Put it this way: the protests would still have happened if the Internet did not exist.

The fact that it does exist means the people have a universal communications tool at their disposal.

Closer to home

Drawing all this down to the less heady world of e-learning, I can certainly see a parallel.

It’s important to recognise the role of social media in facilitating social learning in the workplace. However it’s not a panacea.

Relying on truisms such as “all learning is social” and on altruistic notions such as “collaborative learning” is a cop out.

Your learning architecture needs to include much more, such as on-demand self-paced learning resources (eg wikis, simulations, e-books) and – dare I say it – formal training (eg virtual classes, online courses, assessments).

My point here is that while social media is a significant component of the corporate learning model, it is one among equally or even more significant components.

Put it this way: learning would still happen in the workplace if social media did not exist.

The fact that it does exist means we have an effective learning environment we can leverage.
 

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2 Comments on “Social media extremism”

  1. Howard Says:

    Thanks for the post Ryan;
    First, on Critical Theory – I’ve always liked critical theory’s analysis, I just never thought there was much room for moving to any action other than resisting until the revolution.
    Second, I think I have a different model of education that I’m using as a lens to see educational change. Learning is about discovery, not about learning what the teacher knows is right. Mor on the model in this post http://howardjohnson.edublogs.org/2011/02/07/cck11-adding-to-a-new-model-of-education-john-seely-browns-new-book/

  2. Ryan Tracey Says:

    Thanks for your comment, Howard.

    Yes, I agree that learning is about discovery, but I also think that sometimes it is about what the teacher knows is right.

    I suppose it depends on who you see as the “teacher”. Is it the arbitary trainer at the front of the class, or is it the SME sitting next to you who participates in knowledge sharing?

    Just as there are extremists at the social media end of the spectrum, there are extremists at the hardline traditionalist end too. What I think is needed is a balance between the two to serve multiple purposes.

    I would love your feedback on one of my earlier pieces, How to revamp your learning model: http://ryan2point0.wordpress.com/2010/09/07/how-to-revamp-your-learning-model/

    Cheers!


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