I am warming to a theme which I hope to explore more fully here. This post is just to kick things off.
Last week I went to the annual LearnPod unconference for people working in Post-16 education. I went not intending to run a session; really I was there to catch up with some people from my former life working in the sector who I haven’t seen since last year’s event. But, as the session pitching was going a bit slowly, I changed my mind and pitched a session on “making learning fun”. Given that I hadn’t prepared anything and was in a room full of qualified educators, I was bowled over, and a not a little bit surprised, at the positive feedback I got from the session, which I ended up running twice.
My theme was that making learning fun works in two ways: it engages learners more effectively, and it makes the education process more enjoyable for the teacher/tutor. I remain a firm believer that we learn best through play, but the education system seems to forget this beyond the early years of primary school.
And I believe this applies to other areas of work too. Work takes up a big part of most people’s lives, and I don’t see why it shouldn’t be enjoyable. Workers who enjoy their jobs are more productive, give customers better experiences and increase the profits or efficiency of the organisations they work for.
I also think that this is a key to social media adoption at work. I come across a lot of people who are fearful of social media because it breaks down some of the barriers between work and personal life. But I also believe that some of the fear this causes is because people don’t enjoy their jobs, so they don’t want that lack of enjoyment spilling over into their private lives. If they enjoyed their job, I don’t think they would be so reluctant to blur the boundaries.
So, let’s make work fun…. we might get more stuff done.
Some of us had a conversation on Twitter last night reminiscing about 2008 and how we used to have lots of purely social banter on the platform. The feeling was that a lot of this has been lost in the intervening 5 years. After a while, the hashtag #retrohour was appended to the discussion, so you can see some of the tweets here.
One of the conclusions about how things have changed was that people have “stuck their necks out and had them chopped off”. We talked about a number of cases where people have lost their jobs, or been threatened with such, for injudicious tweets. I won’t repeat any of them here as that might just give these incidents more exposure. This has led to people being more guarded on Twitter and to the platform being a more serious place to be. And, at one point, a spammer joined in the conversation, which kind of proved the point about another way in which Twitter has changed.
So, what have we lost? In the early days of Twitter it did seem there was a lot more excitement, and a lot more playfulness. Its growth has rubbed a lot of that out. As I said in my session at the Learnpod13 event last week, I remain convinced that playfulness is the best way for anybody to learn, whatever their age. So, that means we must have lost something. Personally I think that the discovery of Twitter by the mainstream media did a lot to eliminate much of the playfulness as it meant that any tweet could be picked up, quoted out of context, and be used to make the author’s life a misery in unexpected ways.
Do you agree that we have lost a lot of Twitter’s playfulness, and is this a bad thing? Is there anything we can do about it?
I got involved in an interesting conversation on Twitter today with Claire Jones, Mike Chitty, Tom Phillips, Jon Beech and others, which started on the subject of health-promoting assets in communities, and then ranged onto social hubs, via the large-scale pub closures which have happened over the past few years, which I wrote about some 5 years ago, here.
One of the topics which emerged in the conversation was how quite a few redundant pubs have been turned into curry houses. I raised the idea that food was historically a focus for conversation and sociability. It’s unlikely that many of these curry houses fulfill the same role as a social hub as did the pub they’ve replaced, and that is a pity. Food should be an excuse for conversation, but there are few eating places in the UK that serve this function. There are a few that do, obviously, and, if you know of one, maybe you could nominate it in the comments below.
I’ve been most taken with Tessy Britton‘s work on Social Spaces, in which she has been creating and re-creating different kinds of spaces in which people can interact with each other. I think this work is very relevant to this conversation. Our twitter chat then touched on Food Banks, which have been becoming every more prominent in these times of austerity. I wondered if the food bank could be remodelled away from its current stigmatised form into a subsidised community restaurant that encourages conversation over food and might also teach people how to cook. I realise that this model might bear some resemblances to to the kinds of things that someone like Jamie Oliver has done in the past, but this idea is different in that it might create something that could be embedded in communities and might help those who most need access to food as well as the skills to prepare it.
I’d be very grateful for thoughts on these ideas.
Here’s another idea which might supplement the facility I am proposing above.
Give the cafe a twitter hashtag which encourages people to propose conversation topics and seek out others to have the conversations with. Then give each table in the cafe its own unique hashtag so people can follow and join in the conversations physically, and online. This could be supplemented with twitterfalls on screens on the wall.
If you connect with me on social media, I’m likely to talk about all of these things at some point, because work and social life tend to leak into each other. I hope you don’t have a problem with that.
Often when people ask me what I do, I say “Social Media for Social Good”. I do things that are not social media, and I also help companies use social media to sell things, but a key part of my work, comes under that heading. And, as I often get asked to define what I mean, here goes.
Social media for social good is social media being used by public sector bodies, voluntary and community sector organisations, and social entrepreneurs to help make the world a better place.
Why should such organisations use social media?
Because over time, social media will be the principal communication tools used by everybody. They will replace the telephone, email, marketing shots, press releases and newsletters. It’s happening now, just look around you.
Because, especially in these austere times, they cannot afford not to. They need to use social media to:
steal other people’s good ideas and implement them with their own beneficiaries;
be open about their own practice, inviting suggestions for improvement, criticisms, and praise; and
crowdsource solutions to problems and opportunities for funding.