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Social Media and online learning – an enduring friendship

Published on 17 April 2013
Updated on 05 April 2024

I enjoyed Pete’s post: Social Media and online learning – is it such an obvious marriage? as much as I enjoyed the original debate, Social media can enrich online learning as part of Diplo’s Online Learning Day. This is my response:

Social media (SM) and online learning may not be a match made in heaven, Pete, but certainly it is more than just infatuation. A solid friendship, I would say, of the best, multifaceted kind: I can play with SM, I can analyse SM, I can take it seriously, or laugh it off. Ah, and I can turn it off, too, Pete. Just close the application. It does not have to be ‘ the ideal tool for procrastination’. The user retains control, free will and choice. You have excellent points, but I am not convinced.
You propose discussing: ‘that we have got to the stage where we need to be deliberate and discriminating in choosing the tools we need for different tasks.’ I think we started there. We must choose the tools that are most valuable for us in any situation–this was true before SM was even a dream. Might sheer volume now guarantee that ten trillion tweeters tweeting will eventually write the whole of Shakespeare’s works? (Probably not, but maybe.) Maybe we need to learn to discriminate properly, to filter the noise from the chatter, the wheat from the chaff?
It just occurred to me that I may have an advantage in SM, with Twitter, and other similar tools: I am one of ten children, and learned early on to tune out the background noise; that not everything my older brothers told me was true; and how to do my homework while six sisters and three brothers were each doing their own thing, perhaps in the same room. I learned what could not be said in front of my chatty younger sister, and even that I needed to hide my diary. So when you say ‘Social Media do not provide a safe environment for professionals’, I think you are exaggerating for effect. Do you honestly think diplomats who know enough not to tell state secrets to their dinner guests, even after a glass of wine, don’t know that tweeting is a version of digital graffiti?
I suspect that Socrates would be posting thought-provoking 144-character discussion-starters, without caring whether we ‘liked’ or retweeted them. We find inspiration when we are open to it, and willing to look for it. Probably a good search algorithm and a dose of serendipity help. Your debate points are excellent, Pete. Maybe you lost the argument because you are on the wrong side 🙂 . Then again, we must choose to enrich our online learning with SM. Technology/SM cannot teach us, or enrich our learning by itself. It is up to us to learn, and to take advantage of all of the possibilities available. As Vlada said, perhaps we can agree to agree.



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