Using Learners' "Technoprofiles" to Integrate Social Media and Learning

JimenezframeworkVia Christine Martell at Blog Cascadia comes this learning framework from Ray Jimenez on choosing social media for learning. It's based on Ray's reading of Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff of Forrester Research.

Ray points out that the tendency in using social media for learning is to force creator status on everyone:

The tendency in early adoptions of social networking in learning is the over emphasis on learners becoming active participants. Since Wikis, Blogs and discussions are abundant and tools easy to apply, trainers tend to emphasize the contributions of learners by postings and comments.

This is unfortunate because not all learners may wish or are ready to make comments or participate in discussions, and yet may be willing to do something else. The biggest downside is that, trainers basing on this early experience, tend to conclude that "social learning and networking" does not really work because learners seem not too excited in making comments. I have heard this moaning so many times.

The best instructional design recognizes that you need to meet learners where they're at if you want build the right scaffolding. Forcing people who are naturally lurkers (as most learners are) to move immediately into actor or creator mode may be counter-productive, as it will inevitably turn off your learners.

The solution, Ray suggests, is to create learner "technoprofiles" as he's done here. This framework helps us consider the best strategies to consider in developing learning experiences that use social media.

Christine points out in her post that since we're still in the early adoption phases, learning professionals might need to be focusing more on creating podcasts, videos, screencasts and online presentations that appeal to the lurker audience. I tend to agree, much as I hate to say it. My dream would be that everyone is a creator, but that's obviously not going to be happening, at least in the shorter term. I think that part of the issue is that people don't see themselves as learners. It is also a degree of technophobia. 

Although we need to spend time developing things like podcasts, videos, ect., I think that we need to be finding ways to help people move into actor and creator status too, recognizing that this may be a slow transition for many people. This is where using creator tools (i.e., blogs, wikis, etc.) to deliver "lurker" learning can help to move people forward--for example, embedding short, multimedia learning chunks into a blog and encouraging people to try commenting.  Adding polls and rating systems may be a good intermediary step to include--it allows people to act on the online content without having to make a full creator kind of commitment.

Using tools that help people bridge the distance between familiar and unfamiliar technologies may also be helpful. Posterous, for example, which allows you to blog entirely through email, seems like a great opportunity for encouraging people to try creating social media.

For me, Ray's framework harkens back to some of what I was thinking about a few months ago when I drew the social media helix. Ultimately I believe that the most valuable and long-lasting learning occurs at the creator level, not at the lurker level. Ray's chart highlights this--check out the "Results" row where the learning result for lurkers is "retention," while for actors it's "application" and for Creators it actually changes work behavior. From a workplace learning perspective, clearly finding ways to move people from lurker to actor or creator is part of improving the quality of that learning.

So the real question becomes what is the proper scaffolding to make this occur? How do we take lurkers and  turn them into actors and creators? And I don't want to hear that we should just let people stay at the lurker level. That's like saying that we should just not worry about doing a good job as learning professionals. For me, part of the mission is to help people be better learners, not just to transmit specific content to them. Keeping people at the lurker level is a way to create followers, not creative thinkers and leaders.

UPDATE--Be sure to check out the comments where some really interesting discussions are happening.

The Social Media Spiral

One of the first things you learn as a trainer is that you have to anchor new knowledge in previous knowledge. That is, for people to understand new concepts and develop new skills, you have to start with what they already know.

I've been doing some thinking about how to help staff make connections between new media and the older tools they already know how to use.  In a long phone conversation with Christine Martell, I came up with the following schematic. Note that putting it in a spiral was Christine's idea, while drawing it on paper was my own lame attempt.

Socialmediaspiral3_3 Now let me explain where I'm going with this, because I'm also looking for your feedback.

First, what I'm trying to do is show how the tools and activities at the bottom build up to the top. So starting at the bottom, most people know how to do searches and use email and are at least familiar with the concepts of Chat or IM, even if they haven't used them before.

Then comes email subscriptions to listservs and to newsletters, something a lot of people are comfortable with as well.

As we move up the spiral, people start to "consume" blogs, podcasts and videos in isolation--usually because someone sent them a link to an item or they clicked through to a blog or podcast from a website. They generally aren't interacting with these items by commenting, rating, etc. They are usually just passively consuming them

Then comes Aggregation, when people start to learn about things like RSS and Google Alerts where they can "pull" information to themselves and about social bookmarking where they can aggregate their bookmarks online. This is a level where the web moves from being "push" to "pull" and where they begin to see more active networks being built.

I think that many people hang out in the Aggregation phase indefinitely. They've started pulling info to themselves, but for the most part they are still passive consumers of information--the most they may do is share bookmarks with other people.

Moving into the Interaction phase means starting to create online (beyond sending emails), but not in the same full-blown way as the final level. This is where people may begin commenting on other blogs or creating profiles and participating in social networks. There's a level of interaction and content creation here, but it hasn't fully evolved.

The top level is Creation and this is where microb-blogging, blogging, Twitter, podcasting, etc. occur. You might conceivably divide this into Creation A and Creation B, with Twitter and micro-blogging at level A and Blogging, podcasting, video creation, etc. at Creation B. For me the distinction comes from the amount of work involved, but maybe that's a false distinction because God knows it seems to take a ton of work to keep up with Twitter!

A few additional thoughts on this:

  • I started this as a sort of pyramid, that implied building blocks that go up to the top, but Christine pointed out that it's really more of a spiral, where we're constantly building on and using all of the different "levels."
  • Looking at this spiral, it seems that we go from more familiar activities to less familiar and from more "passive" activities to more active content creation. You can argue that emails and IM are certainly "active," but they don't carry with them the same content creation demands that blogging, podcasting and video do, so I see them operating at distinctly different levels.
  • I would argue that there are different skills and knowledge that are required to fully function within the spiral and trying to leap over the different parts of the spiral is where people can get into trouble. For example, Christine pointed out that often people will make the leap from "email newsletter" to "blog,"  so that they see having a blog as essentially a one-way communication device that broadcasts their message. When they do this, though, they miss the levels that occur in between, such as understanding the importance of the Aggregation and Interaction levels in being able to fully realize the benefits of blogging. Not that there needs to be a slow plodding through the different levels, but time spent operating in the different environments is time well-spent before moving to the Content Creation level. If you don't understand how Aggregation (particularly RSS) and Interaction work, then you won't be as effective at the content creation level.
  • There's nothing that says that people need to use all of the tools of each level. So I don't have to be blogging, Twittering, podcasting and videocasting to be fully functional at the Creation level. But particularly when it comes to developing a personal learning environment, there is benefit to integrating selected tools and knowledge from each of these levels into my overall PLE if I want to fully realize the benefits. In particular, Aggregation, Interaction and Creation seem critical to me as they are the ways in which we can continually get and manage content and interact with it to continue learning. We need to learn how to use tools at each of those levels to be the most effective.
  • The Creation level is fundamentally about taking all of this data and interaction and using it to tell a variety of different stories. When you're new to social media, you tend to be working your way through the spiral, mastering the skills and knowledge of the different levels. When you reach the Creation level, then you're looking at how to aggregate information and conversations to tell different stories that serve different purposes. There is essentially an infinite number of stories to be told--this level is about how we apply our human ingenuity and creativity to massaging those stories. I would go so far as to say that using a tool like Yahoo Pipes, for example, is a form of creation and story-telling, because you're essentially trying to create custom feeds that will manipulate data and information to come from a particular perspective.
  • This is a schematic that I see working primarily for digital immigrants--those who did not grow up with these technologies. I suspect that the "levels" I'm describing here would seem kind of irrelevant to digital natives because to them, it's all part and parcel of using the Web. But for those who are trying to learn new technologies, it seems like this might be a useful way to look at things as it shows a natural progression and evolution that tends to build on what people already know.

So I'm throwing this out into the world for your thoughts and comments. Some of what I'm wondering:

  • Is this a useful way to think about these different tools and skills when it comes to training staff?
  • Do these "levels" make sense? What changes would you suggest?
  • What skills do you see associated with the different levels? Do you think that there are different skills entirely or is it in how we use the skills?

What do you think? Am I off base? Does this even matter?


Egocentric vs. Object Centric Networks: I Think I Know the Problem With Ning

Networks2 Three months ago we started the Building a Better Blog Ning network. After three weeks I was still enamored with the community. Things were going well, we had a lot of new members. All was right with our little corner of the digital world.

Then we hit a wall, which I blogged about a few weeks ago. Site activity was way down and we began struggling with ways to continue to maintain the community and attract new members. We're still working on that, but now I think I see more clearly why we've hit the wall, so to speak. It's because we're an egocentric network, not an object centric network.

Egocentric and Object Centric Networks
This was actually a new one to me, that I stumbled across while reading this article from Fred Stutzman. In it he explains that egocentric networks are places like Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn. They develop around the profiles of the people who join them. Object centric networks, on the other hand, develop around interactions over digital artifacts--like Flickr, which has formed communities around photo-sharing and, which focuses on sharing links.

In  Will Flickr and YouTube outlast Facebook and MySpace?, Josh Porter elaborates on Fred's thinking:

Fred has a lot wrapped up in here. First, the cleavage on the lines of ego vs. object. Social networking sites are ego-centric. Object-centric social sites, like Flickr, YouTube,, place something else at the nodes of the network (admittedly, though, Flickr is a tough one). I have previously called this the primary pivot. The way to ascertain what type of network you’re looking at is to look at what gets the URLs…what is the primary thing being shown at the URL? In ego-centric sites it’s a profile. In object-centric sites it’s the object…

Fred also suggests, and this is one of the best ways I’ve heard this described, that this is why migration away from ego-centric sites is easier than object-centric sites. It’s because we’re not storing anything other than our identity, which we feel like we take with us when we move to a new site, right? (even though all of the info we’ve submitted to the site is lost!) But we never feel like we’re taking our photos with us when we leave…they are obviously objects we possess.

Josh concludes that our ability to handle egocentric networks is finite--we can handle only so many people in our lives. But our ability to manage object centered networks is infinite, especially when it's so easy to share digital pieces of information.

So basically what we're saying here is that when people are interacting about an object (like a photo or a video), they tend to visit and revisit the site to add more of these objects and find new ones. In an egocentric site, though, once you've put up your identity, then what do you do?  Eventually you will probably get tired and move on (unless you're someone who has endless amounts of online time, like teens who are happy to spend hours on Facebook).

In thinking about our Ning network, I think that the fact that we formed the network around a common interest puts us in a funny in-between position between an object-centered network and an egocentric network. The common interest of better blogging is to some extent like an "object" for us--it pulls us together around a central theme more than might happen in a more general network. But at the same time, our profiles are a much bigger part of the community interaction than we might find in a place like Flickr. And there isn't the reason to go there to add objects that you have with a YouTube kind of network.

Another aspect of this "egocentricity" at Ning is that you have to have a network creator. In this case it was me and what I've found is that most people feel like I "own" the community somehow. Part of that is because I have the network controls, so that means I'm the one with the capability to make the most changes to the site and to send broadcast messages. But part of it is because every time you visit, there are signs everywhere that say "this network created by Michele Martin." Kind of hard to feel like the place belongs to the community when you see that plastered everywhere. And I know that I even add to this--when I first wrote this post, the first sentence started "Three months ago I started.  . " not "we started"!

I'm not sure that this takes me any closer to answers about what to do, but it does explain a lot about why we're facing the challenges that we are. What thoughts on this do you have? Does it ring true?

Graphic via Rob Goodspeed.

Teaching Web 2.0 With Facebook--A Quick Story

The other day I referenced an article on teaching the basics of Web 2.0 by using Facebook as the example. Last night my 15-year old was asking me about my Netvibes account and I was explaining that it was a way for me to be automatically updated when new information was added to my favorite blogs and news sources.

"Oh--like the News Feed in Facebook," she said.


What also struck me about the conversation is that while my daughter is a digital native, she doesn't know a lot of the social media terminology. She just uses the stuff and doesn't worry about what it's called. To a certain extent, that's where we all have to go--to a place where we're using the tools as part of our personal work and learning and not worrying about terminology or being scared away by the terms. While my 15-year old and her 19-year old sister are well-versed in most of the tools (my older daughter is now interning for a start-up wiki on celebrities), if I use a term like "social networking site" or "RSS" they just look at me blankly.

I keep coming back to the fact that using the stuff is the only way to really get it. Just talking about it can end up scaring people away.  It may be time to throw them in the deep end.

Want to Teach People About Web 2.0? Do It Through Facebook

I've talked here many times about the difficulties in teaching people about the concepts and tools of Web 2.0. I've lamented how difficult it can be to help people understand RSS or wikis. The Common Craft videos have begun to fill that gap, certainly, but as Facebook becomes more and more mainstream, Aidan Henry points out that Facebook is Bringing Web 2.0 to Mainstream:

Those who live in this (Web 2.0) echo-chamber glorify the trends and technologies, as their value and potential is recognizable. This bleeding-edge Internet group wants the world to learn about these technologies, but the fact of the matter is that they are very daunting and intimidating to the average user. In other words, web 2.0 needs to be humanized before it can ever be adopted by the mainstream.

Who is leading the pack when it comes to humanizing web 2.0? Facebook. Here is proof: Facebook new logoask any Facebook user if they know what RSS is or if they’ve ever used it? Chances are they have no idea what it is and they’ll admit to never using it. Little do they know, the Facebook ‘News Feed’ is essentially a rebranded RSS reader. Instead of pulling blog posts and news articles, the reader aggregates updates from your friends’ profiles.

He goes on to link virtually every Web 2.0 tool we know, from "blogging" to "widget" to a Facebook feature.

Now not everyone is using Facebook, obviously, so we still have a ways to go in being able to use this as a teaching tool for staff. But as more and more people become familiar with the features of Facebook and how it works, it can provide some good examples of what we mean when we're using some of these "scary" terms.

Web Literacy: How Good Are You at Recognizing Fake Web Sites and Email Scams?

In a public service to Bamboo Project readers, via Amit Agarwal of Digital Inspiration, comes this 10-question McAfee quiz. Can you tell the fake websites from the real ones?  What about the scams?

Like Amit, I was a Tightrope Walker, scoring 7 out of 10, which according to McAfee suggests that I should be a little more careful in my web habits. This also means that I'm planning to download the free SiteAdvisor for Firefox to help me out in future.

New Report from Pew Says that Half of Americans Are Only Occasional Users of Modern ICT

Via Neville Hobson, highlights from a new report from the Pew Charitable Trust, "A Typology of Information and Communication Technology Users":

  • 8% of Americans are deep users of the participatory Web and mobile applications
  • Another 23% are heavy, pragmatic tech adopters – they use gadgets to keep up with social networks or be productive at work.
  • 10% rely on mobile devices for voice, texting, or entertainment
  • 10% use information gadgets, but find it a hassle
  • 49% of Americans only occasionally use modern gadgetry and many others bristle at electronic connectivity

The report lays out 10 major groups of users divided into "elite" users, "middle of the road" users and those with "few technology assets":

10groups   I haven't had a chance to dig more deeply into this yet, but it looks like there could be some interesting implications in this that I plan to tease out later.

More info at TechCrunch.

Robin Good on Educating the "Net Generation"

Robin Good has another great article today on Educating the Net Generation. Ironic, given my previous post on the digital divide.

I completely agree that many in this new generation of kids are a different breed, with different approaches to learning and that schools need to learn to adapt their teaching protocols accordingly. But I also think that characterizing all learners as being this net savvy obscures the very real divide between the students who "have" and are becoming fluent in the digital world and those American students who do not come to school knowing how to use all of these great tools.

The article does a fabulous job of summarizing the key issues, challenges and changes necessary to foster independence in learning, something I think is sorely needed in our educational system. At the same time, we need to be careful to realize that while all kids need to learn these new kinds of skills, not all kids will come to school with the same foundational experiences upon which this kind of education can build. I also think to argue that this generation as a whole is more "education-oriented" is again, to miss the point. Yes, the students whose parents put pressure on them to get into elite colleges are feeling the crunch. But this doesn't represent all students, not by a long-shot.

Still, some good stuff here--just need to remember the students who don't fall into these categories.

UPDATE--Sometimes I'm too fast on my posting button--This article was written by Kassandra Barnes, Raymond Marateo and S. Pixy Ferris and originally appeared in Innovate. It was reprinted on Robin Good's site. So technically the title of this post is wrong, but it's already out there and too late to change it. Must give credit where it's due and apologies for being too quick on the trigger.

23 Things--Web 2.0 Lessons Remixed for Nonprofits

A few weeks ago I mentioned the idea of doing a 23 Things Remix for Learning Web 2.0 in Nonprofits. Well, in my "spare time," (ha!) I've started building a 23 Things Remixed Wiki to do this and I think I'm ready to "go public."

A couple of comments:

  • The primary audience would be nonprofit staff who have little or no exposure to Web 2.0 tools. Like the original 23 Things, I want the exercises to be relatively short and easy to understand and get through. I want people to feel like these are little learning experiments in which they can easily engage without a large commitment of time or energy--at least at first. If they become absorbed in one or more of the tools and want to spend more time, all the better.
  • Right now I have three "lessons" in the wiki. One is on why people may want to learn how to use new technologies. Another is on dealing with technophobia in learning. These topics weren't covered in the original 23 Things, but based on my experiences in the nonprofit and government sectors, I thought they could be useful. I've also done a lesson on RSS, in part because of the great video from Common Craft I pointed to earlier this week. (UPDATE--I've now created two lessons in the RSS category, as I think I had too much included in one)
  • I've set up the lessons to have a Discover section and a Reflect section. The Discover section is meant to provide people with some kind of exposure to a tool or concept and then in the Reflect section, they think through a few ideas or questions related to the activity. I wanted to make sure that people didn't get so caught up in "action" that they didn't take a little time to think. Any  feedback on that breakdown, as well as on the activities and questions is appreciated. You can add your thoughts in comments on the specific lesson page, or email me.

This is most definitely a work in progress. I'm going to try to add and refine as time permits.

Of course,  since I used Wikispaces and left it open to anyone, if you're interested in contributing a lesson or two, feel free. The list of potential lessons is on the home page. If you're not familiar with how to use Wikispaces, here are the basic instructions.

Now hit me with your feedback!

101 Ways to Practice Blogging

Earlier I wrote about creating a climate of learning within your nonprofit and mentioned 23 Things, a series of mini lessons designed to help staff get comfortable with Web 2.0 and social media. This morning I noticed this article on 101 Great Blog Posting Ideas to Make Your Blog Sizzle in the nptech feed and it occurred to me that many of them would make great mini exercises for staff to practice with in developing their own blogs.

Some of my favorites:

  • Write a tutorial.
  • Do a write-up of an interview with someone in your professional niche.
  • Do a “speedlinking” post.
  • Write a post by examining the pros and cons of an issue.
  • Make a post that solves a problem.
  • Make a post that is inspirational.
  • Debunk a myth in your post.
  • Make a post for beginners.
  • Make a post for advanced readers
  • Create a mission statement for your blog.
  • Make a post simplifying a complex problem for your readers.
  • Create a guide for your niche.

I could see sending this list to staff and inviting them to write a post or two a week trying out different ideas from the list. For some of them you might want to create a group blog or wiki. For example, if you have staff write a tutorial, then all of the tutorials could be gathered together into a wiki that staff could continue to access. If you use wikispaces, this could be done even more easily, as wikispaces allows you to automatically create a wiki entry from a blog post.

Lots of possibilities here that I think would be fun to explore as an organizational learning experience.