For those of you who don’t know them yet, The Learning and Skills Group is a fantastic organisation that does a few great things. Firstly, it organises the biggest L&D/learning technologies party of the year in Europe, known as the Learning and Skills and Learning Technologies show and conference (usually held at the end of January @ Olympia 2 in London).
They also have an amazing community and do a great job of bringing professionals together into a community that supports best practices in the learning fields (tech-orientated and otherwise), shares knowledge and celebrates success and innovation in learning in the workplace. They put up free webinars run by industry practitioners and veterans that showcase their perspectives of learning in the workplace.
<Quick plug for LSG> Membership is free, if you haven’t joined yet, now is a good time! </end quick plug>
After the 2013 Learning Technologies show I was looking into some collaborative learning tools, and as luck would have it, in one of LSG’s webinars, someone mentioned a collaborative working tool from of a network hardware/software powerhouse, which I quickly demoed. The tool – in itself – isn’t ground breaking. It’s a sort of facebook for workflows and problem solving in groups. It reminded me of an event I went to @ facebook’s London office, in which facebook’s employees were constantly mentioning how they use facebook for work.
Similarly to Google’s group function and/or a Google+ circle, these are ring-fenced forums in which invited members can create threads or posts, add files, share comments and thoughts on their and other people’s posts/threads, vote in polls, like/dislike and more.
But this blog isn’t about collaborative working as such. It’s about what collaborative working actually does (intentionally and unintentionally).
I’d like to take a step back for a moment, and go through the concept of social learning. The term itself, I believe dates back to the 60’s when scholars have cemented the theory that learning is done in social context and can be modelled to imitate desired behaviours. When this concept was taken across to the workplace, it was most commonly translated into a mentoring of “buddying up” process in which a trainee would shadow a successful practitioner and learn to copy their behaviours.
Then, with the explosion of self-directed learning, e-Learning/Learning technologies, Web 2.0, social networks and such – many organisations were capitalising on these technologies looking to embed social learning into the workplace. All of a sudden, the conversation was about the tools, not about the concept.
This spurred a lot of discussion about employee rights, and privacy issues. It brought IT and HR in a blind bout of panic, because the “social” internet is not “work” internet and so on and so forth.
Let’s go back to this concept of having a collaborative working environment. What does it do? It allows a group of people with a common goal (or goals) to discuss issues in order to resolve them. It allows them to share problems, issues and frustrations in the hopes that someone, out there, will have a workaround.
This is nothing short of social constructivism at its best. I don’t mean to scare anyone off with big, hoo-ha terminology, but social constructivism is basically the notion that groups the transfer of knowledge between individuals in a group in order to achieve common goals. Some scholars, suggest that social constructivism in driven by the need to find solutions to problems that benefit both the individual and the group as a whole.
So, putting one vs. the other, we have a platform that enables groups to find solutions to their problems. In one, we call it “collaborative working”, in the other we call it “social learning”.
Here’s your challenge!
I challenge you, then, to stop bickering over whether it is viable to use Twitter chatter into your face to face training, or embed a wiki into your LMS. Start a forum on your intranet or LMS, start a ring-fenced group on your social network of choice (for free) or buy a proprietary collaborative working platform that will allow your employees to chat, explore and expand their brain power and access more solutions to more problems more quickly.
…and do it in the name of becoming a learning organisation too.
Do you think collaborative working is social learning? Comment below or get in touch – we would love to have your thoughts.
Photo by sooeze, via sxc.hu