One of the sure ways to start a long-lasting thread in most discussion forums or LinkedIn groups is to ask whether Twitter (or any other social medium) is useful as a channel for learning. Many of the replies in threads on this topic indicate a profound suspicion of any approach to learning that does not involve instruction by an expert, preferably in person, in a classroom.
Jane Bozarth has provided a valuable resource for social media skeptics and fans alike with her new book, Social Media for Trainers: Techniques for Enhancing and Extending Learning. Dr. Bozarth, the Elearning Coordinator for the state of North Carolina and the Social Media Strategist of InSync Training, LLC, shows how social media can increase the reach and impact of training efforts, without increasing the cost.
What’s in the book?
In seven chapters, Bozarth covers the basics of social media and the most accessible of the social media: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, wikis, and a handful of ancillary services from Google Docs to YouTube to social bookmarking. These are all public spaces on the Web, and are generally free to try out and to use.
Each of the chapters begins with an “In a Nutshell” overview and then proceeds to expand on that with an explanation of the functionality of the highlighted service. She includes a short but useful summary of the advantages and disadvantages, and suggestions as to why one should use this instead of or in addition to something else. For example, in the chapter on wikis, she points out that wikis are for collaborative work, so they are ideal Web 2.0 tools for large group projects or for knowledge databases, especially if supplemented by other services for discussion, or for photos and other less structured interactions.
The chapters continue with an extensive discussion of how to get started using the services, from setting up an account to hosting an online course or supporting a traditional course, using the service. These are not abstract discussions – each one provides specific examples from real companies, complete with screen shots. (There are over 70 figures in this 175-page book, more than enough to guide the reader) Bozarth’s examples are extremely complete, including how to use the medium under discussion to support pre-work, intersession work, class notes, “lifelines,” reviews and FAQs, post-course interactions, as well as how to build a learning community.
I would like to particularly recommend Chapter 7, “The Bigger Picture.” This is where Bozarth takes the concept of social learning up a notch, to the organizational level. She gives concise operational explanations of what “learning” and “social learning” are and two of the contexts they exist in online: personal learning networks (PLNs) and communities of practice (COPs), and the theoretical and research foundations for these (The eLearning Guild is a COP). She also explains how knowledge management is different from information management.
I especially liked her great explanation of social learning as “what happens in the spaces between formal events … not only how to do things, but how to get things done” in the real world at work. The book concludes with an extensive checklist of strategies that will help you if you are just starting to implement social learning in your organization.
In a world that moves, changes, and shifts as rapidly as social media, keeping the content of a book like this current can be a real issue. Google Wave, discussed as one of the “other” tools, has already been down (and is now back up again) since publication of Social Media for Trainers. Ning has transitioned from being a free service to one that users must pay for. Bozarth is keeping up with the changes on her Weblog: http://bozarthzone.blogspot.com/2010/08/updates-to-social-media-for-trainers.html
Who is this book for?
On the flyleaf, the publisher suggests that, “This book is meant primarily for trainers working in the traditional four-wall classroom environment. Those engaged in instructional design as well as those delivering instruction via virtual technologies will find information of use here.” In my opinion, that’s good, but there’s more.
It seems to me that you will find Social Media for Trainers invaluable if you are an instructional designer and you have to explain social media to your boss. An instructional designer may also find that the examples spark new ideas for ways to support learning, to extend learning, and to open channels for innovation and collaboration. You can also use the book as the source of explanations of social media to share with learners, some of whom may never have used any social media, or whose use of social media may have been, shall we say, superficial.
I’m a fan of this book, and I recommend adding it to your how-to resources. Keep it on your desk, not on a shelf. More importantly, I recommend that you try out one or more of the social media for yourself, and then incorporate the use of that service in the next course or event that you design or lead.
Bozarth, Jane. (2010) Social Media for Trainers: Techniques for Enhancing and Extending Learning. San Francisco: Pfeiffer. 175 pages.
The author speaks! Listen to Jane's Thought Leader Webinar on "New Skills for New Media": http://www.elearningguild.net/tlws/tlws13.wmv