Using social media in learning

A question was asked in the social media community of practice (various levels of authentication required) about using web 2.0 technology to support learning. I couldn’t help myself…


Using blogs to record and share learning is a really nice use of technolog. Blogging is great for writing stories and sharing experience, especially when everyone in an organisation can access and search the information on a blog. Fundamentally blogs are just really easy ways of getting content online, but the personal nature of them also helps individuals write about their own knowledge and learning. Get people to blog about a recent learning experience they have had, or about tips and tricks that they have come across in their work that others could make use of.


One of the things we have come across at Learning Pool when it comes to e-learning is that when people can talk to others about something, it tends to stick in their minds much better than when they just read about it. So our e-learning management system provides forums along with courses so that those studying that lessons can ask questions of the rest of the learning community, discuss the content and work together on problems. Forums can also be used to support face to face training and learning activity too – enabling people to talk to each other about what they learned in the classroom afterwards, helping to make that learning stick in their heads, and to clear up any confusions people might have walked away with!


Blogs are good for people to record their personal learning experiences, and forums for having conversations about learning, but what about building collections of resources for people to refer to, and add to, over time? For that you need a more traditionally structured website, but one which lots of people can contribute to. That’s where wikis come in. Any kind of useful web resource, where large groups of people can contribute material, is great for a wiki. Rather than handing out loads of sheets of paper during a training session, why not put them all up on a wiki for people to access online? That way everyone always gets the latest version, and if there’s is something that needs correcting or updating, someone from the community can do it for you. Alternatively, wikis are great for building online dictionaries or jargon busters, for example.


It might be considered a distraction to have people sat in a training sessions fiddling away with their phones, but actually having people recording and sharing what they are finding out is a great way to learn! It’s just like taking notes with paper, only everyone can re-use it. If you use a common hashtag with your training, everything that has been tweeted during the sessions can be drawn together in one place and everyone can benefit from it. Even better, by using a public platform like Twitter, you can get people not present in the training giving their input too, adding to the mix of ideas.

Media sharing

A great way for people to consolidate learning is to record training sessions and let them watch, or listen to them again later on. It’s simple enough to record a video of a talky bit of training using a Flip or Kodak video camera and then share it either publicly on the web or on an intranet, say. Alternatively, audio podcasts might be easier to do and share. Other resources can be shared online too, whether presentations using a public site like Slideshareor other documents and learning materials on Scribd. By sharing this stuff publicly, others can take what you have done and add bits and improve it in places and everyone can benefit. To see an example of this, check out this fantastic resource from the Scottish Government Library Services.

Social bookmarking

Sites like Delicious, which let you store links to useful web pages and sites on a public webpage are a great way for a group of learners to share the great stuff they find online. Once you get into the habit of bookmarking interesting articles using a social bookmarking tool, it becomes a quick and easy way to build up huge knowledge bases of related content. Using tagging to build up your own vocabulary of key words to describe content makes bringing together resources on a similar topic really fast too.

Social networks

Using social network type features, as seen on Facebook and others, is a really useful way of combining a lot of the activity above with a great method of further sharing people’s knowledge, talents and interests. Social networks tend to feature Twitter-like status updates, discussion boards and media sharing (but generally not wikis, sadly). What they also have is user profiles which are great ways for people in an organisation to share details of what they know about, what they do, what they are interested in and where there talents lie. So much more useful than the traditional ‘yellow pages’ style staff directories! So if you need some expertise on an issue, someone to lead a training session maybe, if you have an internal social network you could search and find the ideal person.

Join the public sector learning community

Learning Pool’s annual conference is on 12th May, in London, and it promises to be a really great day. You can have a sneak peak of the agenda here (PDF warning).

One of the speakers I am really looking forward to hearing from is Rob Whiteman, who will be just about to take up his new job as head honcho at IDeA when he takes the stage. It will be really interesting to find out his views on how local government can meet the many challenges it faces at the moment.

Another highlight will no doubt be my double act with Cllr Tim Cheetham.

Don’t forget to take a look at our conference community, where you can connect with other people interested in learning and technology within the public sector. Even if you can’t make the conference, it would be great to have your online involvement.

Yet more gadding about

Boarding at last

Another busy week, this one.

On Wednesday, Learning Pool are hosting another local government breakfast meeting, at Coventry City Council’s offices. We’ll have a range of contributors from local authorities, as well as me. Details here – do come if you can.

Thursday is LocalGovCamp day, this time in London. Well done to Anke Holst for organising it all – it promises to be a great day. Mary and I will be there from Learning Pool, and I’m hopefully going to be organising a session around whether councils can feasibly engage with citizens when people within those councils aren’t talking to each other on a regular basis. It’ll be fun, I promise!

Then on Friday, we’ll be hot-footing it back to Learning Pool towers in Derry for the LP Christmas party! Bit belated, but then that should mean we’ll all be well up for it.

Yammer gets a facelift

We’re big fans of Yammer at Learning Pool – it’s provided that virtual water-cooler that a distributed workforce really needs. That mixture of work related updates, general chit-chat and abuse that any office needs to function effectively.

If you aren’t aware of Yammer, it’s like Twitter but it is private to the employees of your organisation. It means you can discuss issues that you might not want aired in a public forum like Twitter, but in the similar short, informal way that status applications work.

Yammer has just had a bit of a facelift, and a new bit of functionality that looks really cool.


The cool feature is called Communities. Yammer now allows you to create a stream for people who aren’t necessarily part of your organisation to join. This is separate from your organisation’s stream, so you don’t need to worry about outsiders seeing your private conversations.

It appears that you can create as many of these communities as you like, and you can choose whether everyone from your organisation gets added automatically, or you can pick and choose people to join. Then it’s a case of inviting by email those people from other organisations that you want to be in on the action.

This will be a great tool for informally managing project communications between supplier and client, for example, especially when there are multiple partner organisations involved, and where there are several people from each organisation who needs to be kept up to date. I’ll be interested to see how Huddle reacts to this, and whether they will consider adding status update like features to their offering.

Learning Pool in Devon

Exeter bus

Right folks, here’s what is happening on Thursday.

At 11am a networking meeting will kick off at Buckerell Lodge in Exeter. You’ll get to listen to me talk about my latest obsessions in social media and Mary will natter about Learning Pool developments. Don’t worry if you haven’t bagged a place yet – a couple of people have dropped out, so just get in touch if you fancy coming along – it’ll be ace.

After that, we will be having some lunch, to which everyone is invited. Everything should be finished up by 2ish.

Movements this week

Another busy week this.

Tomorrow I am speaking at 4Children’s 18th Annual Policy Conference, on the subject of engaging young people with social media. I understand Tim Davies was unavailable 😉

On Thursday Mary and I will be traveling down to Devon to hang out in Exeter for a couple of days. The Thursday itself will feature a networking event and lunch sponsored by Learning Pool, where anyone with any connection to the public and third sectors can come and meet other interesting folk – as well as Carl Haggerty. There are still one or two spaces left, so let me know if you’d like to come along.

On Friday we will be attending the Likeminds conference, which is shaping up to be an excellent day – I’m really looking forward to it. The speaker lineup is fabulous.

The public sector learning conference

Learning Pool

Learning Pool‘s public sector learning conference takes place on 12th May – the day after my birthday, fact fans – and is already looking like it will be an utterly awesome event.

Find out more and book your place – if you do it by the end of this week, you’ll get a ticket for 20% cheaper than everyone else!

Whether you are attending or not, make sure you sign up for the conference network, where you can connect and share experience and knowledge with the finest minds in public sector learning and collaboration.

Learning Pool cop an elearning hotseat

On Wednesday 20th January, Paul McElvaney, Director of Learning Pool and Alison Stott, Project Manager at Essex Strategic HR will be hosting an online hotseat on the commissioning of Open, Distance and E-learning. This will be taking place in the Leadership Development Community of Practice, using the IDeA’s CoP platform. You need to register with the platform and join the community before you can get involved.

The way this will work is that a special forum has been set up inside the CoP in which questions can be left ahead of, and during, the day of the hotseat. Paul and Alison will then answer as many questions as they can before the end of the day. It’s like a day long asynchronous online Q&A session.

Subjects you might want to ask about include:

  • How to promote collaboration and sharing between organisations
  • How to save money and make efficiencies by working differently
  • When to consider commissioning e-learning and what criteria should be considered?

So go ahead and sign up with the community and start posting your questions! Alternatively leave a question in a comment to this post, or email it in to and we’ll make sure it gets posted.

You can also get involved in the discussion using Twitter – just use and keep an eye on the tag #copel.

Full time at the Pool

Learning Pool

2010 sees the start of a new adventure for me, as I leave the world of freelancing behind and start full time with Learning Pool – who I have been working for on a part time basis for the last six months of 2009.

I’m delighted for a number of reasons. One is the opportunity to help an established company move in new directions – more on that in a bit. Being part of something bigger is also going to really make a difference to the way I work – I’m going to have the backing of a big team of people: developers, designers, a customer support team, people who can actually manage projects properly. Anyone that knows me will appreciate what a positive thing this is!

The other key thing that Learning Pool offered me was a great working relationship with a huge number of local authorities in the UK who already have a Learning Pool product or service. My background and interest has always been more in local government and I am really excited to getting to grips with the issues facing the sector and coming up with some interesting solutions.

In terms of what it is that I am actually going to be doing, well, it’s going to pretty much be an extension of what I have been working on for the last 18 months; and indeed what I have been writing about for longer than that. Learning Pool has a great reputation at providing collaborative and social learning technology and I think there is more to be done to help councils, and other public sector organisations to become true learning organisations.

This means making use of technology like eLearning, but also the wider use of web 2.0 within the organisation – stuff like I mentioned here. There’s a lot in this, I think, mixing up culture change with innovation and knowledge management. I’m developing a model which tries to put it into some kind of context for public services, identifying:

  • Drivers: efficiency and improvement
  • Enablers: innovation and collaboration
  • Domains: culture and technology

The drivers explain what the high level thing is that needs to be achieved: in other words, doing better with less. The enablers are the things that will help this happen: a proper way of encouraging and managing innovation in the organisation, and to encourage and adopt more collaborative behaviour. The domains are where this stuff happens: getting tech that works is important, but more so is culture – both of these things must be right to ensure those enablers happen effectively.

So this isn’t (just) about tools. I’m as interested in how you can get organisations working collaboratively and innovatively as much as I am in deploying wikis or installing WordPress. In fact, I’m most interested in combining the two – here’s the tools, and here’s how to get people using them. Or, to try and put it yet another way: blogs and wikis and all that stuff is very nice, but what does it mean to a service manager?

Anyway, there is plenty more thinking to be done. I’ll still be blogging it all here at DavePress the blog, even if DavePress the business is no longer around. If you want to chat about any of this stuff and how I, and Learning Pool, can help – you know where I am.

Learning Pool Breakfast events

Learning Pool

Learning Pool‘s breakfast meetings are great opportunities for local authorities to get together over a croissant and a cup of tea and hear some great stories about how real change can be achieved in councils with the right blend of technology and people-focused stuff.

Two such events are currently scheduled: firstly in at Brighton and Hove Council on 25 November from 9.30-12.30. Speakers include Tracey Hughes from Brighton and Hove council and Christine Shakespeare from Basildon Council – as well as yours truly.

Second is Barnsley on 1 December, again between 9.30 and 12.30. Speakers for this event include Paula Siswick from Kirklees Council and Ian Ligget from Bury MBC. Oh, and me again.

Visit our events page to find out more and book your place!