Friday, July 24, 2015

Reading Response: New Literacies Chapter 8 - Social Learning in Formal Education

The final chapter of New Literacies, by Lankshear and Knobel, beautifully ties together the discussions around social learning and practice with the examination of two very interesting case studies in learning – one with adult learners and the other with grade school students. As one trying to enter a brand new field (eLearning) I find these studies eye-opening and inspiring. I credit the authors for the way they organized the content of the book with principles building on each other. I admit, in the beginning chapters on “new literacies” and how they’ve become defined, I asked myself, “Who cares?” I now see how important it is to understanding literacies, especially in today’s learning culture. It’s through these literacies that the paradigm shift in formal education can take place. These empirical examples in the text illustrate this.

Within this last chapter I found a few sentences from the authors that I feel highlights the message of this book:

The ideal for all learning at every point in time - and which is especially significant when thinking about learning within formal education institutions - is that it be efficacious. For learning to be efficacious, 'what a child or adult does now [wherever they are along their trajectory] must be connected in meaningful and motivating ways with "mature" [insider] versions of related social practices'. (2011, p. 252)

The words meaningful and motivating were written throughout the description of the second learning study as attributes that aided the students throughout their experience with such a new learning platform. What’s interesting is how the platform incorporated games as part of that experience. I’m sure some old school thinkers believe games to be trivial and distraction. But games absolutely can bring meaning and motivation – so why not make it a tool for learning?

The main question that came to mind from this week’s reading was how I can establish a collaborative learning platform where I work today. I’ve mentioned this in previous posts but I work for a large technology security company - tied to the sales department. Our onboarding and training for newly hired sales reps is atrocious. Learning modules are boring and outdated, information is scattered everywhere, and there is no sign of an onboarding plan anywhere. However, because of a lack of “push”, new hires today are already relying on social collaboration and what resources they can find online. The problem they face is the immediate expectation to hit sales quotas regardless of product knowledge or other process aptitude.

This situation is a perfect example of “tribal learning” which is really a form of social learning. It makes me believe that not only is the shift to pulling a necessity, it is also a preference – especially when it comes to corporate learning. The personalities of those working within a sales organization are more adept to pulling information in order to meet their personal desires and motivations. Sitting through a day-long training or logging time in a classroom does not appeal to them (or their attention spans), in my opinion.

There is a great opportunity within workplace learning to create a platform where information can be pulled and shared through collaboration and gaming. Yet where there is pulling and trajectory, there needs to be guidance. I believe eLearning is the solution to providing that guidance and making corporate learning, as the authors put it, more efficacious.


  1. Hey Mike, I agree that finding the ways to apply what we've learned about social learning to existing organizations and resources will be a challenge. I appreciate your acknowledgment of how 'pull' learning is a preference for many learners; I wonder how many would prefer a 'push' style training if given the option. I suppose this would depend on the availability and quality of resources, and experiences of each individual.

  2. Hi Mike,

    Thank you for your reflection, I also enjoyed the highlighted message. I think meaning is important for anyone to truly understand what they are doing. I have seen many students not knowing why they are doing something and only are doing it because they felt like they had to. For example, going to college, I think understanding the meaning behind why you are going to college and why you are choosing these different paths for yourself makes the experience so much better. My mentor once told me success is not just about money, it is about how you feel about yourself in the present.