How Social Learning is Like Gravity

Newton & Apple

When you woke up this morning, did you notice gravity at all?  You probably didn’t consciously feel or sense gravity at all.  Yet, it’s a force that is applied to our bodies all day, every day.

When you walk past an office and see people talking or hear people laughing in the hallway, do you think about social learning – probably not?  If something is always present, you don’t think about it much until it has changed.  Every interaction we have doesn’t mean we are learning socially but if you look around you might be surprised how often it is happening.

Like Gravity, Social Learning is Happening All Around You

Throw a ball in the air and it comes back or jump off a step and you come back, there’s gravity.  Watch two people talking over coffee or several people working on a problem together, there’s social learning.

Social media has brought attention to social learning because it makes it easy for us to connect with many people instantly but it is one way to learn socially.  Another way we learn socially is in our conversations and interactions with each other.  Stop for a moment and look around, you’ll see that it’s everywhere.

You Notice When Gravity or Conversation are Missing  

If something is always so, it’s hard to recognize its presence until it isn’t so.  You’ve been experiencing the effects of gravity and social learning since you were born.  If you were to experience weightlessness on a roller coaster or to be the only person on the internet, you would notice something is missing.

Just because it’s missing doesn’t mean something is wrong, it just means that you notice it.  There are many examples of when you might want this missing (e.g., the thrill of a roller coaster or being alone to reflect).

Gravity and Conversation Bring Objects Together

Gravity is an attractive force between two objects.  Sharing and co-creating draws you closer to other people. We’re all floating around (in the real or virtual world) intentionally or unintentionally looking to be drawn closer to others who have similar interests or goals. This makes us feel more alive and gives us momentum to get closer to our goals or enjoy a more engaging journey.

Weight is the Force of Gravity and Conversation

Gravity gives us weight to stay on earth. Conversation gives us weight in the digital world.  We need an identity and a space to exist online and our interactions with others is the force that keeps us present. In the real world this same interaction keeps us engaged in conversation and sharing with others.

Gravity and Conversation Initiate the Birth of New Things

Gravity initiates the collection of gas in a region of space so a star can form.  Learning with and from others fosters an environment that creates the birth of new ideas, connections, products, etc.  Think about a positive brainstorming session that you had with someone or a group of people.  This creates an energy that propels you into creating something new.

If You’re Looking for Social Learning Opportunities  

Don’t try so hard to find or force social learning.  When you try really hard to find something that is right in front of you, you can miss it or replace it with something that doesn’t work the same as the original.

As learning professionals, sometimes you need to create an environment that encourages social interaction and conversation. Other times you need to step back, see where people are struggling and simply provide light so people can make connections.

  • http://twitter.com/EurekaUK David Gibson

    I really like the analogies you use Dennis especially drawing attention to the fact that social learning has been happening since the beginning of time and that social media is just a tool that makes this social learning more tangible and immediate.   People shouldn’t shy away from it but embrace it like any other social interaction.
     
    I liked the idea so much I’ve ReTweeted it to my list and started to follow you.
     
    Thanks for sharing – David

  • Richardm

    This is a great analogy! Thanks!

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