I am an educator whose academic and professional interests focus on technology, learning and knowledge sharing. One of the questions that keeps me going is: Just how do people become social (in the good-digital-citizen, knowledge-sharing, reciprocating, narrating-your-work-because-it's-just-what-we-do kinda way)?
This is not just a purely academic interest. And I am more a realist than a utopian when it comes to digital networks and people. But I truly believe social business depends on our collective ability to broadly develop digital literacy and competent digital citizens. We all win when the majority of participants in digital spaces operate in the kinda-way I outlined above.
So how does that happen? What might drive it?
We use Jive as our learning environment in the graduate program in which I teach (yes - correct. we've pretty much dumped the university LMS). One of my joys is watching how graduate students begin to connect and learn outside of the formal class groups we create, when no one is telling them what to do or post or share. And as a co-conspirator and participant of ETMOOC - a "connectivist" Massive Open Online Course designed specifically to foster social collaboration and networking around the course topics - I watched as nearly 2,000 people enthusiastically learned and shared, cross-commented on blog posts, jumped all over Twitter chats, and did so with civility.
If you dig into this a little bit, the people who become good at operating in this way are often explicitly working on developing their personal learning networks (PLNs). They see the web as a resource to help them develop professionally or personally; use a variety of technology tools and platforms to collect, curate, share and develop knowledge; and they understand the importance of sharing and reciprocity as the kind of "golden rule" of operating in a civil manner on the web. (See a few of my collected resources on PLNs if you are interested in how I get to this point).
And it's the reason we are running an open online seminar this fall (Oct. 7 - Nov. 5): Exploring Personal Learning Networks: Practical Issues for Organizations. We're going to provide participants with some background on PLNs and then engage in a couple of weeks of facilitated discussion: What might happen IF...PLNs became an everyday part of professional development within organizations? Could we build better social muscle? If we focus on the personal first, do we create a pull into social that benefits us all?
I would love to get this community's insights on these questions.