Digital Economy USRG

SMiLE virtual presentation to PLE Conference

Avatar photoJuly 19, 2012
by Lisa Harris

Nicole Beale and I recently presented a paper via Skype to the PLE conference on the value of event-based social media to the development of personal learning networks. Remote presentation is hardly noteworthy these days, but participating in ‘real’ group discussions on a laptop screen by being picked up and moved around from group to group was a slightly surreal experience :-)

Our paper focused on the role of social media in building learning networks and increasing subject knowledge from a interactions before, during and after a live event. It is based upon our experience of managing, curating and archiving social media data centred upon a major academic conference. We have reported more detail of this project on the LSE Impact and Smart Insights blogs.

In terms of building an individual’s learning networks, we summarised the value of social media as:

Allowing people to ‘meet’ others that they would not have had time to meet if those tools were not being so extensively supported
Strengthening and extending circles of contacts through conversations occurring on Twitter around a common topic
Identifying new contacts with whom a connection was not apparent before engaging with their social media user profiles
Providing a way to find out more about delegates who were at the conference, in order for new possibilities for connections to be explored
Increasing interest in face to face sessions being run at the conference therefore broadening the group of participants

And in terms of enhancing an individual’s subject knowledge:

Twitter provided a safe environment to ask ‘silly’ questions that delegates would not be comfortable asking F2F
Social media provided a platform for conversations between individuals who were not together physically (because of differing interests)
Online interactions made the subject matter more accessible for newcomers to the discipline
Additional tools and resources were linked and saved
Social media provided opportunities to follow up things that were happening at the event and therefore led to the discovery of further information, more quickly
People could easily identify relevant sessions and attend the most useful parts of the conference

But there are also learning challenges from social media activity of course, as these quotes from conference delegates indicate:

“If you have no social media account you are no one…”
“I think just looking at the twitter stream gives a skewed idea of what people really think is interesting or noteworthy.”
“It was hard to follow since so much posting was going on. I also felt like some folks were tweeting at the expense of hearing the presentations or discussion effectively.”
“…. I just think people aren’t good at multi-tasking even though they think they are.”

The PLE community obviously makes very effective use of social media in terms of learning from interactions inspired by the conference content. We welcome comments from PLE delegates on our findings, do they chime with your personal learning experiences via social media? Do you identify with any of the challenges highlighted above?

Categories: SMiLE research project. Tags: #PLEconf and #SMiLE. Project names: SMiLE.