Written by:

Holly Macdonald


March 31, 2010

OK, so I’m obviously not a marketer, as you can see by my lame title, but I am interested in social learning (that would be the “weLearn” part in case you didn’t get it).  Learning together.  Learning from each other.  Learning in a social context.  Which many online tools help us to do now.  So, is it just becoming more popular because of the technology?   Is it a chicken-egg thing?  (Of course, it isn’t because Bandura has been around longer than Facebook).  So, people are talking about the technology when they are developing a “social learning strategy”, but are they talking about the theory, too? 

How do we design for social learning ?  According to Bandura, this is what it looks like: 

1. Attention — the individual notices something in the environment.
2. Retention — the individual remembers what was noticed.
3. Reproduction — the individual produces an action that is a copy of what was noticed.
4. Motivation — the environment delivers a consequence that changes the probability the behavior will be emitted again (reinforcement and punishment)

I’m not entirely sure that the tools which are being sold as “social learning” are really meant for that.  What are they for?  They aren’t digital bobo dolls.  It’s kind of like the whole “social” term has been co-opted from social media (actually I hate that term).  I don’t think that the tools we attribute social learning properties to really fit what Bandura thought social learning was.  Nope, I’d have to agree with George Siemens and Stephen Downes (we Canadians stick together, eh?), it’s really connectivism

But, now that I think of it, maybe the entire industry is a social learning theory in practice…

  • they got our attention – look you can update your status and share your favorite youtube videos, just like on Facebook!  
  • in case we didn’t get it, someone will tweet it, so we will get it, et voila, retention
  • can you say “re-tweet” or “add friend” or “add connection” – yep, we all follow along, or reproduce
  • motivation – I have one word – unfriend…

I guess the ultimate question is around learning theory, instructional design and technology – weaving these together in a way that helps people learn.