Public Relations Today
Justin Chando By Justin Chando • November 2, 2016

Is Social Learning the Future?


Education has changed in the last decade; the way we think about learning has evolved.

As educators learn more about how to reach students and spark curiosity, we share those ideas within the edu community and scale classroom successes across the nation. I’ve seen this happen as new learning technologies have connected and strengthened classrooms. I’ve seen it in the brilliance of the maker movement.

Today I’m thinking about what’s next. What do we know now about learning that will influence pedagogy in 2017 and beyond?

My money is on social learning.

Social learning isn’t new. It’s not a term I made up to make this a more provocative piece. You’re probably most familiar with the term “social learning” coined from the 1960s, which refers to the way individuals pick up behaviors and attitudes from those around them. (It’s largely a process by which people learn by observing other people.)

Fast-forward to the modern classroom.

We’re trending in a direction that supports two-way, not one-way, exchanges of information. This means we’re seeing fewer classrooms functioning solely with a teacher standing in front of a class, delivering information and asking students to recite that information back.

We’re seeing less of that because we understand that building critical thinking skills in students takes more than memorization. It takes inquiry, participation, agency, and teamwork/leadership skill-building.

Experience is king. And there’s certainly something to be said for working with peers instead of in isolation.

So as we move toward a more collaborative, experience-based classroom, I’m reminded of the principles of social learning. In place of one-way exchanges, what would happen if we did more to build a collaborative experience that incorporated opportunities to learn from the knowledge and behaviors of others in the classroom?

What if every class was more like a community of learners?

I’m thinking about lots of discussion and frequent, fluid question-asking. I’m envisioning peer review opportunities. I think it would be natural to actually have students lead conversation or instruction, where appropriate.  

And I say all this because I’ve seen it.

There are classrooms that look like this. I’ve visited schools that are using my company’s product and I’ve derived tons of inspiration from this uber social method.

I believe that in the next year we’ll see an explosion of tools and teaching models built to support classrooms with a social approach to education. Some might say they’re already here, but I say it’s only the tip of the iceberg.

There are lots of learning tools (mainly learning management systems) that claim to support this model, but largely function as a one-way communication platform for teachers to assign and grade work electronically. So, no, that’s not social learning, as I see it.

Social and collaborative functions should be at the heart of learning platforms. You should be able to comment on everything housed in that platform. Discussions should be easy to create, but also powerful in functionality for sharing media and links. These tools should look like tools used outside of school used to connect and engage teams at work.

This is the tech required of the social learning movement. And mark my words, that movement is well on its way.

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