News that the network behind the Social Media for Learning in Higher Education Conference is launching a journal, Journal of Social Media for Learning, to further explore the implications of social media as a space for learning is welcome. The conferences have proven to be a vibrant space for sharing innovative practices and building a strong sense of community around this important theme. I was directly involved in initiating the conference while at Sheffield Hallam University, along with Sue Beckingham and others. My interest emerged from events led by the Media-Enhanced Learning Special Interest Group (MELSIG), which I still lead. For us, social media was an extension of the thinking that took place in MELSIG events around the disruptive influence of digital media on traditional pedagogies and assumptions about the relationships within the curriculum and how it is supported.
In this day and age, each of us has been affected by social media either directly or indirectly. It has changed the world we live in and how we go about that living. Social media demonstrates to each of us how our relationships with our peers, our mentors and our students have a greater value than was possible before. The digital has altered the analogue experience. We appreciate each other differently. By and large, I believe we have discovered new insight and value in those relationships, and while sensational journalists enjoy scaremongering and tend to dominate discourse around social media, the space for exploring social media’s real potential to enhance the way we learn is needed more than ever. It’s not that I deny the dangers of social media, they are very real, but there is a need to redress the balance and make sure we don’t lose something that has become very important in redefining education experientially.
This thinking explains my commitment to developing a co-operative pedagogy of association.
Our interest educationally is in understanding how media draws our attention to each other as co-creators of knowledge; co-creators who exponentially grow knowledge and provide an expectation for rethinking what we know by being creative.
It is easy to see social media as being ‘other’ – a phenomenon disconnected from a real, day-to-day learning and teaching experience. However, for me, I have always been clear that social media (as with other digital media) are part of a holistic conception of space connecting our respective experiences of learning.
Social media for learning has a symbiotic relationship with other spaces, pedagogies and theories. A boundless sense of connectivity. It exemplifies the postdigital age (Fawns,, 2019; Mathews, 2019; Sinclair & Hayes, 2019).
In my own work, I demonstrate this quite clearly through the phenomenon of learning walks and twalks. Such spaces are first and foremost conversational learning spaces from which the learner benefits by reviewing their own performance, their own understanding and their own creativity in the dynamic and vibrant company of their peers. As well as being a co-creative, and reflective space, a walk like many socially mediated learning environments is a generative and regenerative space. Generation has two meanings here: the generation of knowledge; and the generation of self and social efficacy.
Social media, to state the obvious, is social! It would be a mistake to interpret that as meaning a space for groupthink. It refers to situated learning in which social media creates a space for the individual’s construction of knowledge and identity within the supportive and vibrant environment created by others.
Returning to the concept of postdigital, therefore, I hope the new journal offers a new social space for learning in an analogue environment. After all, that is where we will come to recognise the greatest impact of social media for learning.
Fawns, T. (2019). Postdigital education in design and practice. Postdigital Science and Education, 1, pp. 132–145. https://doi.org/10.1007/s42438-018-0021-8
Mathews, A. (2019). Design as a discipline for postdigital learning and teaching: Bricolage and Actor- Network Theory. Postdigital Science and Education, 1:413–426. https://doi.org/10.1007/s42438- 019-00036-z
Sinclair, C. & Hayes, S. (2019). Between the post and the com-post: Examining the postdigital ‘work’ of a prefix. Postdigital Science and Education (2019) 1:119–131. https://doi.org/10.1007/s42438- 018-0017-4