Last Tuesday I've facilitated a so-called learning circle about social learning at the Next Learning conference in Den Bosch. I really like the idea behind a learning circle - a circle is composed of a group of people interested in the same topic but who do not know each other meet. They meet and exchange before and after the sessions, guided by a coach (me). I think this really helps for 'sense-making' and networking. Many of my circle people were people who did not know many others at the conference. This helps to meet people with similar interest and you get more out of a conference. I think the initiative super. You often hear at conferences that we are "not really applying our own learning principles". However, there are few initiatives like the learning circles.
How did it work out? Well... It was a fine example of a social process - quite unpredictable! I wanted to connect online (via a Linkedin group) but it was not a smooth and rapid process. Some didn't receive the invitation, others were unhappy that I had their email address. Not everybody introduced themselves. However it gave me some insight into the group, and their questions. A number of people who have applied for the circle never showed up, not even at the conference site. Some others were quite excited and there was a small core group of people who stayed afterwards for drinks. There were spontaneous initiatives for a whatsapp group and discussion afterwards.
We have put together a video around the topic of social learning - the instruction was to interview somebody about social learning for a one minute clip with your mobile phone. Four of us participated. Nice to see how every clip highlights a different aspect of social learning. Worthwhile to repeat. It would help to have a little more time to agree this together, we had barely 20 minutes before the key note started and we had to do intros as well since few introduced themselves online.
If you don't speak Dutch here are some highlights from the interviews. Petra Peeters defines social learning as "making use of people's expertise and their sparring capacities". Marcel the Leeuwe concludes social learning is in the interaction and you can stretch people in the way they interact with others. Playing with media like video can sometimes help to dare to ask questions which they normally would not dare to ask. Kirste den Hollander is the mother of the 'biechtbox " a confessional boxa box to talk about your mistakes. She thinks that learning from mistakes is indeed a social process, you should talk about your mistakes so that others will avoid making the same mistake. In other to learn collectively from mistakes it is important that you are open to discussion and that people can listen without judgment freely.
Finally there is the input of Anja, a PhD student of Filip Dochy. Filip Dochy presented the High Impact Learning (HILL model). Anja is enthusiastic about the model and examines culture and learning environment. We should not speak about THE learning culture of an organization, this varies considerably from department to department. So social learning may look different in different departments of one same organization. A good reminder!