The clusterfuck known as social learning

Sorry for the vulgarity in the title but I read a whopper of a quote from my always thought-provoking colleague, Gary Woodill, and what ensued in my mind was nothing more than a clusterfuck. (My definition of clusterfuck is complicated confusion and chaos.) Anyway, here’s the quote:

“learning through the use of social media is a set of implicit assumptions that if people are using something called “social media”, then “social learning” must be taking place. This is a confusion of the means with the ends.”

Think about it. I did.

I Googled “social learning” and viewed it on a search trend chart.

When you Google “social learning” you’ll notice that “social learning theory” is returned first. The “social learning” hits that follow are primarily bloggers. Bloggers like me. And then there are theorists like Etienne Wenger talking about social learning and social learning systems in the  context of communities or practice and stewarding technology for communities. I love that stuff.

You can see that “social learning,” as a term, appeared enough to make Google’s trend chart in 2006 and has gone up-and-down since. From the end of 2008 and on, it really grew some legs. A trend term. Vogue. Maybe rogue. Definitely ill-defined. Often misused. Tossed around without much serious inquiry into its meaning.

In fact, it’s a  clusterfuck of meaning. As much so as ‘learning’ itself is.

I guess what I’m saying here is that there’s not enough push-back on the term. Is it harmful? Effective? What’s the theory behind it? Were Bandura and Vygotsky full of shit? Lave and Wenger? What do we need to be thinking about? I think, when it comes to the new social learning crowd, we’ve got us a case of groupthink. I’ll be the first to say I’ve been part of the problem. However, I think we’ve got to slow down before we flood search engines with models that are not models and definitions grounded in little more than what someone else said.

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