Social Software for Learning

It has been in my inbox for a while but I have just been able to find time to look at the excellent report from The Observatory by Leslie and Landon entitled Social Software for Learning- What is it, why use it? [Note: an institutional subscription is needed to read this PDF document.]

The abstract begins with the (heavy) sentence:

The recent, and undeniably massive, growth in adoption of various social software applications represents both an opportunity and a threat to institutions and educators: opportunity because the qualities which help these applications thrive align well with socio-constructivist and other contemporary theories of learning which have resonated strongly with online educators and learners and sparked massive interest and growth in adoption; threat in part because they are often developed and adopted by learners outside the bounds of their formal relationships with institutions, and in part because they depend on network characteristics that can be in tension with the more ‘closed’ environments and online approaches found within most institutions.

After another 20 pages or so of detailed discussion and an impressive list of references the authors begin their conclusion with:

Is social software useful for learning? Increasingly, this is not the correct question to be asking. At least five years beyond the latest round of innovation, social software is being used for learning, and is quickly moving past the stage of experimentation by innovators and early adopters into large scale implementations.

They then go on to provide a detailed list of pertinent questions on how to harness and facilitate the use of social software, how a traditional, closed LMS can be integrated or transformed, how to design learning for social networks and how to prepare for disruption while aiding lifelong learning. It is a lot to absorb but a very useful resource all round.


About Michael Rees
Academic in IT interested in Web 2.0 and social media

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