February 19, 2007

Social Learning: Inherent to the web or requires some added structure?

So a lot of the latest on the web in my mind is about bring together people around cool ideas with a critical role for cool tools to facilitate the process. I have spent some time recently thinking about how to empower both learners (basically anyone) and coaches (trainers, mentors, teachers, anyone who wants to help others improve). One key thought has been around the social aspect of learning. I am still trying to understand if the web "is" the social network or do we have to create more intuitive environments for learners to engage with like-minded peers.

We have actually spent more then just time thinking about the concept, we created LearningFlow. It currently has almost 90 learners signed in, but I will admit that we still need to a tremendous amount of work on the site to make it better, but it empowers learners to identify their own learning, join with peers, and identify resources.

So the question that I have now is, do we need MySpace, FaceBook, LearningFlow, 43things, or ELGG to bring us together? Or is the web simply enough? Is there formal vs. informal concepts at play?

If you think about traditional "schools" in the physical world, everyone knows that the buildings are critical to the process of bring people together for a common goal, but we also know that they tend to limit engagement with a broad world and require simulations of the "real world" to provide context. Is this true of the virtual world? Do we need both?

So to get this to where I am thinking about how to design our new learning tools and environment, does the next generation, elearning tool set need to have a "social networking" front end? or are they just individually open for anyone to adopt and integrate into an existing web environment? or do we need both?

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