Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Goals, Motivation for, and Outcomes of Personal Learning through Networks: Results of a Tweetstorm

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Goals, Motivation for, and Outcomes of Personal Learning through Networks: Results of a Tweetstorm

Article excerpt


Nowadays, it has become a norm for professionals to develop themselves as part of their job. They attend courses and seminars, and sometimes their reward or even continuation of their professional activities depends on such formal learning. However, Boud and Hager (2012) note "... a move from ... development - to the input - the activity", whereas professional development chiefly takes place by "participation in the practice" (Boud & Hager, 2012), informal learning occurs during daily practice. Johnsson, Boud and Solomon (2012) report about cases in which interaction with others drives informal learning, by offering new perspectives from other working contexts that trigger new thinking in the professional learner's personal context, akin to the creative power of 'bridges' Burt (2004) reports. Nevertheless, unlike formal learning, informal learning is not rewarded nor recognised, mainly due to lacking information about how individuals learn through their network (networked learning) (Haythornthwaite & De Laat, 2010).

Monitoring social interactions (social media may be especially suited for this) can help identifying informal learning (e.g., De Laat, Lally, Lipponen, & Simons, 2007), but learners need to be motivated to exhibit the appropriate informal learning behaviour. To do so, one needs to investigate professional learners' strategy, or 'networking attitude' (Rajagopal, Joosten-ten Brinke, Van Bruggen, & Sloep, 2012). More explicitly, what motivates professional learners to engage in learning through their network? What do they learn (learning outcomes)? And why do they feel they learn (perception)?

We present findings from a new type of knowledge elicitation, the Tweetstorm. The Tweetstorm is an online, open brainstorm-like session via Twitter, a microblogging platform. The current article starts off with some background literature necessary for understanding the remaining part of the article. Then, two pivotal terms in this article are explained: Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) and the Tweetstorm. Next, we provide the methods that we employed to conduct the Tweetstorm. Subsequently, we present the results of the Tweetstorm, including the results of one of the phases of the Tweetstorm: the PLN identification session. Finally, we discuss the results and draw together our conclusions.

Literature review

The question whom we learn from has a long history in educational research and several learning theories aim to capture the social process of learning. Bandura (1977) defines social learning as learning from others; modelling and imitating others' behaviour. Vygotsky (1978) underlines that learning, internalising behaviour, occurs by imitation; we learn from others by example. Wenger (1998) contends that learning is practice-driven; people share a common interest or practice. Learners influence and learn from one another as they engage in their "community of practice". Connectivism (Siemens, 2005), a theory that explicitly refers to learning with technology, claims that "learning is a process of connecting to specialized nodes or information resources". This includes learning from resources, or organizations that possess knowledge.

Dillenbourg (1999, p. 2) defines that we learn collaboratively by having "a situation in which two or more people learn or attempt to learn something together". Social media can assist in social, collaborative learning, but these should be tailored to learning practice (Valjataga & Fiedler, 2009). Four main types of activities are distinguished to describe how we learn at the workplace (Eraut, 2004): (1) participation in group activities, (2) working alongside others, (3) tackling challenging tasks, and (4) working with clients. The first, second and fourth point towards social, collaborative actions, which may be important for our understanding of personal, professional learning networks.

What we learn in the workplace ranges from task performance, awareness and understanding, personal development, teamwork, role performance, academic knowledge and skills, decision making and problem solving, to judgement (Eraut, 2004). …

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