On Twitter tonight, Dean Shareski reported “Push back from one participant. ‘Social learning is only good [for] some students. Many prefer to learn in isolation’ How would you respond?”

My quick response was “You don’t have to be ‘social’ to benefit from social learning.” (And I should know.:)

This spawned several comments from folks and a whole lot of thought on my part.

Much of my thought involved the idea of “learning through lurking.” (I may be dating myself, but for those who aren’t familiar with “lurking,” I think it originated on BBS’s; the idea is just hanging out and watching conversation but not participating.) In my own participation in PLNs, I think I learn more from listening than from talking. However, this listening wouldn’t be possible without social networks and social learning. Watching a discussion among intelligent folks makes you think in a way that doesn’t happen as readily from listening to a lecture (or podcast) or reading a book chapter (or a static Moodle module). There is a unique energy that comes from dialogue.

Learning is enhanced by formulating one’s own thoughts about a topic, and this is done in large part through dialogue, whether it is written or spoken, even sometimes in isolation. This kind of active learning is a part of social learning and isn’t inspired  as readily by static content.

Do all students respond positively to “social learning”? Of course not. “All” students don’t respond universally to any one thing. That’s why good teachers/facilitators have lots of tools in their tool bags. But I would venture that more students respond positively to being a part of  social learning networks than to listening to lectures or reading textbooks.

Learning through lurking

One thought on “Learning through lurking

  • October 30, 2009 at 7:58 am

    As a learning lurker (no, I’m definitely not too young to remember) I totally agree. I think I’ve learned more from social networks, wikis and blogs than from anything else in life…and I didn’t have to learn it the hard way!

    When I stop to realize my PLN has expanded from books, journals and those I worked with and folks I met a conferences once a year to professional colleagues both near and half-way around the world, I’m amazed and grateful (once again) for technology, advances in technology, and those who use it wisely and well–lurkers, writers, thinkers, teachers, learners, creators, philosophers and yes–even naysayers!


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