Reframing practice: integrating social software to enable informal learning.


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Reframing practice: integrating social software to enable informal learning.

  1. 1. INFORMAL LEARNING & TECHNOLOGY Anne Bartlett-Bragg is a lecturer at the University of Technology, Sydney. She is involved with the design, development and delivery of e- Learning qualifications and subjects in the Faculty of Education. Email: Anne Bartlett-Bragg is speaking at the National Conference in Aprilpractice:Integrating social software to enable informal learningAnne Bartlett-BraggToday’s organisational learning However, implementing social software, into a personalised space using syndication where the development of informal learning tools or RSS, provides the learner with thelandscape is rapidly changing is the intention, has been characterised by ability to manage their information recent developments in challenges that threaten the effectiveness Specific examples of social softwaresocial software applications of the learning strategy and outcomes. applications can be found on the wiki listed This article presents results from my PhDare being implemented to research that will provide the learning and at the end of this article.facilitate the creation of development practitioner with a frameworkcommunities and “personal of issues that have been identified as What is informal learning? inhibitors to the effective integration ofknowledge” publishing. These social software. An unambiguous definition of informal learning remains a contested issue in thenew additions are enabling organisational context where it is generallypeople to share, collaborate, What is social software in described in contrast to formal learning. Abuild knowledge, network, organisational learning? useful framework for practice proposes that informal learning will occur in workplacesand learn. Consequently, Social software refers to the range where there is a need, motivation, anda shift is happening, away of applications that augment group opportunities for learning and where interactions and shared spaces for:from knowledge being strictly the control of learning is primarily the responsibility of the learner. It can beorganised and controlled • collaboration, depicted in the following situations in thein courses and classrooms • social connections, and workplace context: • aggregating information exchanges in atowards self-managed, • where it is not a highly conscious web-based environment.personalised, informal learning activityenvironments. Learners Collaborative publishing spaces such as • where it is haphazard and influenced by weblogs, or blogs, and wikis have been chanceare able to restructure their at the core of the increasingly popular • where it is an inductive process ofworkplace knowledge into applications in organisations. Podcasts, reflection and action and the newer version including videoareas that are significant to • where it is linked to learning from others or vodcasts, are gaining momentum as a through social interactions (Marsick &their current needs, available corporate communication method. Social Volpe,1999).at different times, and with sharing and networking applications are evolving rapidly and drawing substantial The Table 1 represents a comparison ofthe flexibility to review and attention in the media, particularly strategies and associated technologiescontribute to materials when it publicly available sites like Facebook. integrated into many current organisationalis relevant to them. Simultaneously, aggregating all the content learning contexts.| 0 | FEB 08 | TRAINING DEVELOPMENT
  2. 2. INFORMAL LEARNING TECHNOLOGYTable 1: Comparison of strategies and associated technologies for formal and informal learning Formal learning activity Use of technology Informal learning activity Use of technology Classroom sessions: LMS: • Networking Collaborative spaces – typically asyn- Structured Enrolments • Communities of practice chronous discussion forums and wikis, Time constrained Records attendance • Mentoring synchronous chat or instant messaging, Outcome focused Tracks results • Coaching email Records competence • Learning from experts or advi- Reports compliance sors Online modules: LMS: • Searching for solutions to prob- Internet (Google) Self-paced Access lems Intranet No or little collaboration Delivery Email an expert Structured Records progress • Information distribution Syndication software/RSS Outcome focused Records completions Intranet Records competence Podcasts and vodcasts Reports compliance email / listservs • Self-analysis or reflection WeblogsInhibitors to informallearning using socialsoftware REDUCE EMAIL OVERLOAD Email Management SolutionsMany factors can inhibit the ability to Leaders in Corporate Traininglearn in both formal and informal learningcontexts. Informal learning can be directlyinfluenced by the availability of resources  (which can include time restrictions,availability of other people, and technology), “The course was excellent. Imotivation to learn, and capabilities of the think anyone and everyone learner. Similarly, the implementations of would benefit from thissocial software into learning contexts have program”….. presented my research with the following Tracey Jenkins, Purchasing additional inhibitors to informal learning McDonalds Australia. Ltd which can be categorised into three areas: The program was well paced1) organisational inhibitors; 2) individual and easy to follow. I agree  inhibitors; and 3) pedagogical inhibitors. with the philosophy that the   techniques should be applied1. Organisational inhibitors: through out the organisation.  We should start at induction”. • Organisational technology infrastructure David Tregellis   Educators and trainers implementing Senior Learning Development  social software are confronted with the Australia Post  challenges of: “For some time I’d been   wondering what the effect of  • determining which applications can the information revolution was be accessed through organisational having besides inundating me.    firewalls; Now I can see a better way of managing the problem”.  • determining the speed of internet  Terry Baker  access required – particularly if Australian Federal Police  collaboration is occurring outside of workplaces where network speeds provide a superior user experience Start saving now… BOOK A PILOT PROGRAM and receive a to the internet speeds available on FREE Longitudinal Analysis personal networks in the home; Ph: +61 2 9401 0204 • considering the range of software  applications that are constantly changing, and new entrants, require TRAINING DEVELOPMENT | FEB 08 | 0 |
  3. 3. INFORMAL LEARNING TECHNOLOGY educators to be frequently reviewing As an inhibitor, both educators and learners 3. Pedagogical inhibitors: their choices for enhanced or are expected to understand and manage Educators’ and trainers’ existing pedagogical additional functionality that may the software functionality, such as how to practices developed through formal studies positively contribute to the learners’ access, login protocols, communication or influenced by organisational training experience; processes, and the access and storage structures can inhibit the evolution of of information. Additionally, searching • limitations imposed by learners towards participation in social efficiently, and evaluating the authenticity organisational IT departments on software environments and informal and credibility of information resources, rich media such as graphics, photos, learning activities. have become an expected capability for or videos, causing pedagogical most learners. Baumgartner (2004) describes three strategies to be inhibited to text-only prototypical modes for teaching that functions, potentially limiting the • Learners: provide a valuable framework to review and depth of interactions available to the reframe pedagogical strategies that enable In addition to the capabilities of the learner, learners. informal learning (Table 2). as previously noted, inhibitors that have All these factors can impact the been observed to restrict learners’ ability to Educators and trainers intending to foster educators’ choices and limit the learners’ participate in collaborative social software informal learning environments through ability to engage in rich social sharing environments include: the application of social software would environments. • the learner’s dependency on the be required to perform predominantly in educator for direction, which can a Mode 3 mindset, remaining cognisant• Organisational culture: be related to low levels of digital of the need to provide some structural • The strategic learning culture literacy, pedagogical practices, and guidance in early phases of implementation espoused and/or practised by organisational culture within the Mode 2 parameters. the organisation may restrict the implementation of social software • anxiety to develop an online Educators and trainers who continue to and associated informal learning identity, sometimes expressed as approach social software entirely from a activities. Software applications that lack of self-confidence, fear of Mode 1 or even Mode 2 approach will cause have collaborative functionality or self-disclosure, invasion of privacy, informal learning to become structured and rich media disabled can indirectly mistrust of the culture to share tacit formalised, consequently inhibiting the or directly present to the learner a knowledge learning conditions made available by the culture where the sharing of tacit • fear of publicly publishing their guided strategies embedded in a Mode 3 knowledge and experience is not thoughts, which can relate to attitude. actively valued. the previous issues, or learners’ Future trends and • Furthermore, a training culture confidence in their writing skills to implications that is structurally dependent upon adequately represent their thoughts competency and achievement • learner control – where time It is timely to reflect upon organisational of learning outcomes through management, planning, and learning strategies as organisations espouse regulatory requirements or a focus structure are noted by learners as the values of informal learning in the on measurable return on investment issues difficult to embed into study workplace. Practices of collaboration, will not endorse the integration plans or daily work patterns. reflection, personalisation, knowledge- of social software and informal sharing and networks are being included learning where outcomes are seen as subjective, difficult to formalise, and the development and capture of tacit Table 2: Modes of teaching knowledge hard to measure. Mode 1: Transfer Mode 2: Tutor Mode 3: Coach2. Individual inhibitors: (Directed teaching) (Facilitated learning) (Informal guide) • Programmed instruction • Problem-solving • Complex simulations• Digital literacy: • To teach, to explain • To observe, to help, to • To co-operate, to supportDigital literacy is a term increasingly used demonstrateto encompass both computer literacy and • Production of correct • Selection of methods and • Realisation of adequateinformation literacy, subsequently referring answers their use action strategiesto skills related to the use of computers, • To know, to remember • To do, to practise • To cope, to masterand the ability to manage, evaluate, analyse, • Transfer of knowledge • Presentation of pre-deter- • Action in real situationscreate and communicate in digital formats. mined problems (complex and social)| 0 | FEB 08 | TRAINING DEVELOPMENT
  4. 4. INFORMAL LEARNING TECHNOLOGYin vision statements and strategic planning Marsick, V. J., and Volpe, M., 1999,documents. “The Nature of and Need for Informal Learning.” In V.J. Marsick and M.Notwithstanding the importance of Volpe (eds), Informal Learning on theemergent technologies as the enabler Job, Advances in Developing Humanin these processes, without re-framing Resources, No.3, San Francisco, Berrett Koehler.practice and becoming aware of thecritical aspects that inhibit the use ofsocial software, educators and trainers arenot likely to realise the opportunity to Informal learningincorporate informal learning and integratedcommunication networks into everydayworkplace activities. will occur inAdditionally, the speed of development in workplaces wheresocial software applications necessitates anopen-minded approach to further enhance there is a need,informal learning practices. As the newtechnologies evolve, so do the opportunitiespresented, with more applications providing motivation, andsophisticated functionality, yet remainingfocused on ease of use. Accompanying these opportunitiesadvances are new ways of accessing anddistributing information, and potentiallynew ways of creating learning opportunities. for learning andWithout re-framing our practice and where the controlpaying attention to the key inhibitors,integration of social software into existingorganisational structures will be likely not of learning isto produce the performance promised. Itwould be a shame to repeat the unsatisfying primarily theexperience of the early implementation ofother learning technologies. responsibility ofReferences: the learner.This article is based on a chapter to bepublished early 2008:Bartlett-Bragg, A. (forthcoming 2008),Pedagogical practice for learning with social Apart from her role at UTS, Annesoftware, in Hansen, T. (ed), Handbook of Bartlett-Bragg is the Executiveresearch on digital information technologies: Director of the Learning Technolo-Innovations, methods, and ethical issues. gies User Group and the educationInformation Science Reference, USA. advisor for the Australian Busi-For more information on social software, nesswomen’s Network, where sherefer to Anne’s wiki: designed the first national men- toring program for young womenBaumgartner, P., 2004,’The Zen Art entrepreneurs delivered entirelyof Teaching – Communication and with Web2.0 software.Interactions in eEducation’, InternalWorkshop ICL2004, Kassel University Press, She is currently completing herVillach, Austria. PhD, investigating adult learners’Accessed online November 2004 http:// experiences of developing uted learning networks throughzenartofteaching.pdf the use of weblogs or self-publish- ing technologies. TRAINING DEVELOPMENT | FEB 08 | 0 |