I have started cyber-stalking someone across several social media platforms. She doesn’t know it yet… but I am fascinated by the way she is interacting in different communities of practice and the way she is contributing to social media learning in these different forums.
I think when I get the chance to eventually speak with her in person, I want to ask her questions like:
- What’s your motivation for spending your time and effort sharing all this information and links on these social media groups?
- What benefits are you getting from doing this?
- How do you get your learning and developments needs met?
- How do you find all this great information to share?
- What is your understanding of social media learning?
About social media learning
Do some research on Albert Bandura and you will learn about Social Learning Theory – that people learn through observing others’ behavior, attitudes, and the outcomes of those behaviors. Social media learning is a more generic take on this, where people in a common online environment observe one another – comparing themselves against each other, and use each other as a neutral source of information, which may help their own learning.
Social media learning and the Emergency Services
If you are on social media and part of an organisation, you may already be aware of different social media groups you can join. For example, there are:
- Closed groups on Facebook for members only – generic questions and discussions about working in the organisation, e.g. NSW RFS members, St John Ambulance NSW State Operations Group, VICSES Volunteers, MFB Friends
- Groups on Facebook aimed specifically at subsections of the organisation – including trainers and assessors, e.g. NSW RFS young members group, NSW SES Training Coordinators, CFA Community Safety Coordinators
- Groups (usually closed) on Facebook for specific locations – such as a branch, brigade or unit to discuss local issues, e.g. NSW RFS Illawarra District, CFA District 8 Members Group, NSW SES Ryde Unit, ASNSW Induction Course 225
- Network groups on Linkedin – based on common interests or organisations, e.g. AIDR, AFAC, Professionals in Emergency Management, National RTO Network
- Twitter hashtags (#) that you can search to see certain threads, or perhaps particular thought leaders or key individuals who post interesting information and generate conversation that has others from the sector joining in and sharing, e.g. Shane Fitzsimmons, Craig Lapsley, Stuart Ellis, Katarina Carroll, EmergencyVol, Emergency.Life
Benefits of Social Media Learning in the Emergency Services Sector
For those who can’t remember time before social media and online communities, this is just a normal part of connecting and learning. For those of us who are digital immigrants, this can open up a whole new world of opportunities.
We are a comparatively small sector, often divided by geographical locations and the daily reality of shift work and competing priorities. Social media learning offers a way to connect with other thinkers and learners, be exposed to new ideas, find out about new technology and to hear various points of view on different issues. It doesn’t matter where you are or when you can log on, you can still be a part of the conversation. As a bonus, you can often get a more holistic view on things and a wider variety of tried and tested ideas if your group includes participants from different areas and organisations/states.
Each person can customise their networks, groups and connections to align with their individual roles, interests and development areas. It’s a great example of differentiated and student-led learning.
You can ask questions and post problems – taking advantage of the social collective to help thrash out some ideas (at any time of the day or week) and you will often be offered starting points and links for further research.
You can be as passive or actively involved as your inclination and free time allows.
These groups can be a great way to maintain your professional/vocational currency and to develop your knowledge and skill sets. It may also present opportunities for face to face PD events that you wouldn’t otherwise have heard about.
Hopefully there are also enough experienced members or those with expertise who have also joined the world of online communities to share knowledge and experience with those new to the sector.
To those already involved in the online communities, and who so proactively share articles, pictures and ideas that they have found with the rest of us – thank you! Thanks for making the learning of the rest of us easier (and hopefully it doesn’t make us lazier and too reliant on you!)