Conversational learning – research

Although it is not new, the concept of social learning within organisations has grown over the last year or so to a point where Social Learning is fast becoming a large part of organisational strategy for learning.

But for many, these are scary technologies to consider in the workplace. ‘Do we allow Facebook, BBM and Twitter?’ These are conversations being had in many meetings especially with the events of the last few days in the UK in the press. However we must use the last few days to understand the power of conversation these tools hold and harness how we can use them to our gain.

It not so much as ‘do we’ but more of ‘what if we don’t’.  The social structure of how we learn has been documented for decades. Albert Bandura’s theory is as important today as it was when it was developed in the 1960’s after his well-documented bobo doll experiments.

My current research is into Conversation and the power it has within learning. Do we learn more by having a live conversation face to face or is banter across 140 characters on Twitter sufficient to do the same task? My gut feeling tells me that if we talk face to face we have to get better enrichment and therefore deeper understanding.  To test this theory I am conducting some experiments of my own including some survey of your thoughts.  I know from experiments so far a conversation face to face is much easier to recall than a conversation had over SMS. This, as we build associations with the conversation and our surrounding as we go along.

In the run up to publishing the findings, I have considered the dimensions of conversation.

  • 1d = Twitter. Single dimension broadcast of a size restricted textual communication.
  • 2d = Email , SMS, Discussion board or Blog, where the size is no longer limited and a two way conversation is prompted by a simple reply or comment.
  • 3d = Telephonic (VOIP) conversation between two or more people who can and will interact and interrupt during a live conversation. The third dimension is the inflection one can hear in the voice.
  • 4d = multidimensional is the face-to-face meeting between two or more people who can both see, hear, detect body language, pheromones etc.

Bandura’s work over a career spanning almost six decades, has been responsible for groundbreaking contributions to many fields of psychology, including social cognitive theory, therapy and personality psychology, and was also influential in the transition between behaviorism and cognitive psychology.  I for one am appalled that we hear little of Bandura when the concept of Social Learning is discussed.  To make matters worse, we do not discuss the behavioral element of Social Learning, which for me is probably the most important. However I hear plenty about the technology. Just another, here we go again moment!.

To put some of the theory to the test, part of my research is to gain thoughts of others. A simple online survey will let you play a part in this research. Let us know your email when you complete the survey and I will send you the final white paper when it is finished in a few weeks time.