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Connected (Part 2)

November 30, 2009

About a century ago most co-workers didn’t need schooling to perform their tasks. And it was irrelevant for organisations to invest in any educational needs of their staff. Since then we’ve gone through the phase of the organisation being a body (corpus aka corporation) and the co-workers it’s (dis)functional body parts.

With the emerging new technologies we’re slowly but surely entering a new phase: the age of the organisation as a digital community. And if we (the educators) play our cards right, we can make this the age of knowledge by connecting.

Connected (Part 1) painted in broad strokes a learning strategy based on social connectivism. In Part 2, I’m exploring what makes a true social learning community.

Social learning communities

So like I said, organisations shifted from treating co-workers as disposable mechanical parts to treating them as valuable company assets. It was the birth of human resource management and personal growth.

As a consequence, co-workers are now independent entities. Educated, knowing more about their jobs than their supervisors and not always functioning in line with the corporation’s goals. In addition, organisations also face the risk of a brain drain, when a co-worker leaves.

Introducing social communities as a learning form is a possible solution to this situation. Provided we set the ground rules for an environment where learners can truly connect and gather knowledge and understanding. And in my opinion, this has to do with two things: how we interact and how we learn from our mistakes.

Interaction, interaction and (again) interaction

Fact is: in most organisations the workforce now consists of independent entities. Fact is: we’ve concentrated far too long on how these entities act separately. It’s critical that we now focus on how these entities interact.

And that’s our guideline when designing a learning environment. The environment needs to be a space, where learners not only go and pluck information from the network. It also has to be where we encourage them to truly interact with each other.

And the new social media technologies can make this happen. Create forums and discussion groups. Add a wiki. Make it possible for the various disciplines to communicate with and learn from one another. Get them off their islands.

Most importantly though, have a moderator who on a regular basis manages the interactions and sees to it that the platform remains active. The moderator also controls the quality of both the uploaded content and the interactions that occurs.

Learning from mistakes

Another one of the basics to connecting as a social learning community is having the freedom and confidence in learning from your mistakes. Mistakes as a result of acts committed, but also mistakes of acts omitted.

I’ve worked in too many companies where there’s a blame game culture and mistakes are seen as a political issue. Believe me, this is disastrous. It intimidates and demotivates when a mistake is passed along like a hot potato.

But even worse, not owning up to a mistake means that it will happen again. As no one has learnt from it. In the end it stifles both the learning and the working climate in an organisation.

Like my father used to say, “Big is the man that can look you in the eye and own up to his mistake.” By creating room for making mistakes, you’re also creating room to learn and grow.

Best learning environment

Social learning communities in organisations are all about instigating learners to interact with one another. It’s more than just a space where learners go to collect information.

A social learning community is also about a space where learners feel confident and safe. Where they can trust one another. An environment where learners don’t play the blame game; where they can make mistakes and more importantly learn from them.

When we recognise the relevance of this, then and only then are we creating a learning environment where learners share, participate, absorb and learn.

— Part 3 of this series will be published in the second half of the month December —

Related posts you might enjoy reading:
Connected (Part 1)
Connected (Part 3)
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