Informal Learning in Social Networks

I’m more and more convinced that social networks like Twitter are a powerful force for informal learning. I do wonder though if people are accessing them ‘in their own time’ then what impact is this having on their work/life balance? Many of my American Twitter network have been off work today, but I’ve watched them slogging away all day. I often see people in both the UK and the US working late into the evening on work related projects. If you ask, many will tell you that sites like Ning, Twitter and Facebook are banned in school. Just today John tweeted that “Wikispaces is blocked because it’s like MySpace.” 😦 Some schools still even ban edublogs.org! So I was interested in this post:

Pontydysgu – Bridge to Learning » Blog Archive » Has informal learning a chance as bosses crack down on internet socialising?

Informal learning is the most powerful route to competence development and innovation in the workplace. But informal learning means trusting employees – trusting employees to usefully use their time, trusting employees to make decision, trusting employees to try out new ideas.

The public sector is probably the worst place for trust. In many organizations public sector workers are not even entitled to send emails without prior approval. Supervision rules. Why? The work culture of the public sector is still all too often rooted in Fordist ideas of production. Knowledge is carefully filtered and controlled. Strict hierarchies prevail.

I ‘m not sure even researchers and those who defend the workers get it. From the same article: “Cary Cooper, a professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University, said that managers should be realistic. “Britain has some of the longest working hours in the developed world. Employers have created this culture. It is natural for people to have to use work computers for organising their personal life.”

Of course I agree with him. But that is not the point. Social networking is not just about organising ones social life. I certainly do not go to Facebook to arrange to meet my friends in the pub.

Social networking can be about spreading and sharing ideas, solving problems, forming and participating in communities of practice. And to all of you who say I am not being real, I suggest you study how people really use the internet n companies. Most people like to learn, they enjoy learning. Learning is a natural human activity. How sad we are so suspicious of it.

I could not agree more!

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