Media and Learning 2011

Re-imagining sacred cows: what are the implications of social networking on media and learning?

Join the discussion
Media and Learning Circle

In spite of an ever growing landscape of social media and social networking, the bulk of learning media today is still rooted in ancient traditions. In this session Allen Partridge will incite and facilitate a discussion of roadblocks to the expansion of social networking in the context of media and learning. Are the sacred cows of teaching and learning with media changing? Should they be changing? Together we'll look at the anticipated, the actual and the potential change triggered by social networking / social media in the context of learning.

Presentation: Allen Partridge, Adobe, USA

Join the panelists:

  • Helen Keegan, University of Salford, UK
  • Claudio Dondi, SCIENTER, Italy
  • GrĂ¡inne Conole, Beyond Distance Research Alliance, University of Leicester, UK
Moderator: Tom Wambeke, ILO, Italy


Tom Wambeke

What are the sacred cows of learning? Is there still a content is king paradigma around the corner of 21th learning ... or is the king loosing his kingdom in the world web2.0 for a queen which is called community, embedded in the networked world of social media.

Social media incorporates underlying principles as communication, collaboration and networking. Fundamental competencies that are currently required to survive in the networked information society. This initial statement might be desirable but at the same time generates a wealth of questions:

  • how do you guarantee quality in social networks that rely on user-generated content and knowledge?
  • Is there not a potential danger in being over-connected and how do we avoid to be drown in a sea of networks?
  • To get real knowledge out of networks you need networks that are consolidated in terms of time and quantity. Most of educational networks are rather small and do not have this initial basis. How do you extract reliable knowledge based on this mini-networks, do they have the necessary foundations?

1.First, social networks are social, anyone can join (if you want) if you like persons or when you putting them into circles.
You never can guarantee quality in open groups I think. Only when you use "closed" groups.Three examples I use in daily life.
Open groups like Twitter and Facebook, I can connect to teachers, students and schools. I only will know them after a period of time, maybe never. So the content they produce is not measurable for me, only when I check and recheck many times.
Maybe I can invite other people to look in to. Closed group, DEN STAR and Google Teacher Certified Groups are groups moderated and checked by teachers, proffesionals etc. They are more relible for me and I can use the content in a save way.
So I think open groups must be checked and cross checked many times, special when you gone use the content in education.
Sure, there are to many networks. You never find the time to join them all. I use the networks where I can find teachers who are connected with me. Same teaching, same interests etc. When I found a good spot I will keep that. But you never be sure if that network will be there for ever....
3.Every teacher made his own little network. Millions of them are out there. Some for a few days, weeks, other for years. But it all stands with the time a person gets to use and build his network. Sometimes there are real gems on the web. But they only exists when people find them and use them on a regular base.
So time is the major foundation I think.

Tom Wambeke

Thanks @Lucas for your comments.
- Would be very interesting to see some of the closed groups you talk about (DEN STAR and Google Certified Groups).
- Connecting with specialized professional networks is indeed easier nowadays through social media, think of the targeted Twitter lists of E- Learning Professionals (by Jane Hart)
- Any research available among the participants on quality standards for networked generated knowledge? Several European projects have been publishing recently about this. Have to look them up.

Any other questions, comments and feedback out there? Thanks again Lucas for opening the discussion


Tom, The closed groups I use on regular base are Discovery Education Network (DEN),
Google Certified Teachers network groups ( and also eTwinning groups ( These days Google is going the right way with google+ too. Where I can group people and students in circles and communicate with them in a way I want. Love it more than Facebook for reaching students and colleagues. At school in Belgium we are using "Smartschoo"l for communication, but for students it is a to closed group." Learnboost" is also coming our way, also in Dutch, its free and has a large potential for schools. Edmodo for teachers is also a nice workplace to discover, with public and no public places. It's nice to see that many people are making lessons online it can only help to open education. But when there are too much we need new search engines I think with ratings, but ratings are given by people too, so who is telling us when it is ok or not.

Allen Partridge

Hello everyone, and what a great beginning.

I think that even the brief questions and answers here thus far begin to expose some of the sacred cows that we are often unaware of without taking the time for further examination.

Take for example even my first 'gut' reaction to social networks. (And I don't want to suggest that social networks are the only direction we can look for such elements in media and learning but starting there is probably appropriate.) Often as media professionals, educators, and learning specialists we stand on well worn pedestals built from time-honored traditions such as verification of facts and respect for certification and credentials. But as we turn and discover the tsunami that is the wave of communication and media innovation crashing down on our metaphorical media and learning traditions, we will no doubt find that many of those things are less relevant than they were before.

Consider crowd sourcing for example. Now whenever we consider crowdsourcing Wikipedia is a good leaping off point, but I think we have to regard multi-media experiences, and certainly audi-video experiences like the vast array of YouTube spawned online math tutorials ( e.g. Khan Academy which now reports more than 84 million lessons served. A social media outlet, that provides on-demand algebra tutorials, has already served more than 84 million short tutorial videos. Those lessons and many many more were crowd-sourced (created not by a giant media corporation, but by individual users.) It is a manifestation of democratization of media across virtually all media forms.

When I first approached Sally about this topic, sacred cows and the need for re-examination in media and learning, my principle concern was with this sort of moment of vast change - and how will we, the thinkers and creators of educational media, approach - understand and hopefully serve to guide these changes in our society.

The implications are timely and potentially vast. In the US and I suspect around the globe, modern cultures are finding that formerly television centered households are turning away in droves to on-demand entertainment and knowledge gathering experiences. Technologies that acknowledge and facilitate this clarion call for on-demand media are clearly growing quickly in the wake of heavy demand. The shift away from broadcast models of delivery to narrowcast - perhaps better described as micro-cast media is a major change in the way we deliver media to consumers, and it reflects a shift in expectations.

That alteration is driven by convenience. It certainly cannot be a surprise. People have always preferred things to be more convenient. In fact people in general only tolerate inconvenience when it is un-affordable or impractical to do otherwise. It's important then to realize that it's quite likely that we'll see a natural convergence of old form television & film with the modern Internet as traditional broadcast media is to some degree subsumed by the vast ecosystem of a global Internet.

This makes Tom's question, "How do you guarantee quality" particularly relevant. In a crowdsourced world, can you rely on certification? Is the pedigree of the speaker more important than the idea expressed? Can we leverage the extant tools of social media (such as rating systems to lend approval or disapproval to people and the things they've done and said). If not, how will we measure the worth of statements and ideas? Is the modern crowdsourced media-net moving to quickly to be legitimately evaluated? For that matter, have we ever been all that good at preventing false memes from bubbling up to the surface of cultural and public consciousness?

This discussion should be tons of fun. Just wanted to say hello and poke the hornet's nest a little.


Tom Wambeke

@Lucas . Thanks for the concrete examples you are sharing with us. Also interesting the question that we will need new ways to search relevant channels, especially if the channels are duplicating in a very fast way. We will need to find new aggregators to aggregate the old aggregators :) Will keep us busy again for a while.
@Allen. Thanks for saying a substantial hi . The vast change you are mentioning is for most of us nothing new and been happening in the last ten years. Maybe is just accelerating (on technological, cultural, mental levels). What is interesting and really changing I think is the response to the vast change. Initially there was quite a lot of resistance (the eternal wikipedia-brittanica debates) and a lot of the leading so called quality institutions had fundamental questions with the shift towards these new digital literacies. I really got impressed when Universities as Stanford opened up their closed barriers and launched the Massive Online Open Courses such as . Is this going to lead to less quality? or is it just opening new opportunities?
Thanks also for mentioning the Khan Academy. I am quite surprised about the amount of educational video's with good quality that are actually available on the web nowadays, either institutionally produced or crowdsourced .. gathered some more examples here >

I would say the discussion is now officially opened. Throughout all our discussions I will extract the most relevant questions that we can elaborate more in depth in the discussion in Brussels. So feel free to shoot additional questions, comments, feedback, thoughts and a lot of reflections.

24 - 25 November 2011 Flemish Ministry of Education Headquarters, Brussels