We see it as our mission to develop a theory and practice of social learning – for individuals, communities, organizations, and society more generally. So this concept is fundamental for us.
Etienne’s work on social learning theory places learning at the core of human existence and assumes that it is fundamentally a social phenomenon. Learning is the foundation of who we are (becoming). It is social because our human nature is social, not just because (or when) we interact with others or use certain tools.
We are aware of the current trend to focus conversations about social learning on social media. We understand this trend because, indeed, emerging social media technologies are surprisingly aligned with the tenets of social learning theory. We believe that this is precisely why they constitute such an important trend. But it is the social nature of human learning that makes these tools so relevant today, and potentially transformative, not the tools that make human learning suddenly social.
We want to promote this broader view of social learning and base our work on it, whether it is theoretical work on social learning capability or practical work with organizations, governments, and international development projects. All these areas can benefit from taking a deeply social view of learning.
While social learning has never been about social media, we agree that a theory and practice of social learning today certainly can’t ignore these emerging technologies. They open countless new avenues for the social nature of human learning to manifest and in some cases, expand.
Even so, we want our work on social learning to explore this social nature in its essence, while seeing social media as a recent phenomenon to be explored and leveraged. What makes all this exciting is the convergence of multiple trends: the increasing acceptance of social learning theory, the explosion of social media, the rise of social networks, the need to anchor organizational strategies, public policy, and developmental imperatives in a social understanding of learning, and the globalization of learning challenges.
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