Saturday, August 20, 2011

How Social Media has changed the way I think & learn (Part 3)


Last October I started my Masters degree (MEd) with the University of Hull, done entirely online. Seems fitting, especially as the subject was in fact online learning! I thought I knew quite a lot about the subject from producing on-demand software tutorials and briefing modules for examiners, and I was expecting the course to build on that, which it did. What I wasn't prepared for was the ongoing, subtle change in the way that I interacted with the other people on the course.

Because the majority of interaction between me and my fellow students took place through an online forum, the nature of our communication took on a unique property which allowed us to have conversations over time - 'asynchronous' is the proper term. Whilst human beings have been doing this through letters for centuries, having all the messages channelled through a central forum allowed for a strange hybrid form of communication, somewhere between normal written correspondance and a real time conversation. I've often found myself losing my place in a conversation because I'm trying to think of a meaningful, considered response to someone - but by then that 'thread' of the conversation is lost because people have moved on. Not so with a forum.

Communicating in this way has allowed me to get the best of both worlds: interaction with many people, and the chance to consider my responses. No, wait, it's actually more than the sum of its parts, because I get an extra synergy from talking to people this way, and that's the ability to change my attitude. This way I can learn from my mistakes without the usual embarassment that I might feel in a social setting. If anything I've become more willing to dare to express controversial opinions, because the ethos of the medium does seem to encourage experiential learning. No more 'drill and fill' for me thank you very much!

So, in short, I've gone from being a solitary learner to a social one, and because I can take my attitude with me wherever I go, that new behaviour can translate to the face-to-face setting as well.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Watch your language on Twitter!

Here's a little tale of a lesson I've learned lately about using Twitter.

Over the last couple of months I've been getting to grips with this new medium, and I'd been thinking about whether or not I should follow people back when they follow me. Eventually I decided to take Ted Coine's advice about following everyone back, looking on it as a social courtesy. But last week something a little unusual happened. My number of followers pretty much doubled over the space of a few days - all well and good, and I did the 'good thing' in return and followed them back.

So what's the problem?

They were all from South Korea, and quite naturally their tweets were in Korean.

Now as much as I like the idea of having a truly international audience for my tweets, logging in to my Twitter feed and not being able to understand a large portion of it is a little alarming! Sure, there are tools to channel your feed, which I'm going to start looking in to, but should they be the first port of call for making any sense of what's on there? And am I going to start learning different languages just to understand it all anyway? Probably not!

So to any folks in South Korea who are reading this, don't take it personally if I do unfollow you. You'll still be able to hear what I have to say, and my extension of courtesy will be to make sure I'm talking about something that has value.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

How Social Media has changed the way I think & learn (Part 2)

My last post was about micro-blogging, so now I'll extend that to...


Keeping a public blog has been a very positive move for building my self-awareness, and overcoming some of my own limitations in communicating. As an introvert, I normally have an awful lot of deep thoughts running through my head that I'm not able to share coherently with others, especially in crowded social situations. Suddenly I have a tool to put them into print, whilst I'm alone and relaxed, then share them with anyone who cares to listen - and apparently a fair few people have started to listen already. Knowing that I can reach out to people this way gives me a new found sense of confidence in communicating with others. I don't mind saying I've wrestled with depression in the past, I think primarily because of frustrations in this area, and an imposed sense of there being 'something wrong with me' because I didn't fit in with the crowd. Now I've managed to find a place to speak my mind freely in a way I didn't know existed. Because most importantly of all, I've not followed any rules for how my blog should be set up - just some really good advice.

There's also a real professional benefit to blogging. I'm naturally disposed to reflecting on my experiences - good or bad - with a view to continuously improving myself. According to Schön (1983), this is one of the defining characteristics of professional practice. I have been able to enhance and extend this process through completing critical reflection assignments for my Masters course. Keeping a blog to summarise my experiences as I go along has been an essential tool in keeping track of everything I learn, much of which could easily be taken for granted after the event. Further to this I'm also conscious that other people may be reading my blog, and the essay that I draw from it, so I'm motivated to keep it coherent and relevant. So my blog actually becomes a powerful aid to my own learning and long-term memory.


  • Schön, D. A., 1983. The Reflective Practitioner: how professionals think in action. London: Temple Smith