The Viral Professional Development that injenuity has been writing about and the EduPunk flare-up (EDUCATION IS SERIOUS BUSINESS YOU CAN’T PUT PUNK IN THERE!) got me thinking about social media both in the context of a learning tool, but also in the context of a business tool.
We all love free stuff, and I think my “viral professional network” includes some of the most creative, collaborative, and giving colleagues I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with, but at the end of the day we all have to make a living, and in these economic times, I want to know if living the networked professional life actually yields a better paycheck.
I’m already convinced that it leads to a much, much more fulfilling career, but as I start to feel the real pinch of all these increased prices, I also find myself forced to think in practical economic terms. I know money doesn’t buy happiness, but happiness doesn’t buy kitty food, either. 🙂
Social media, for me, is time intensive. Blogging, browsing, trying things out, keeping in touch with the network and trying to figure out how to do that when the network grows bigger than I’ve ever experienced before.. As I said on twitter the other day, some days it feels like the social media manages ME instead of the other way around.
And that time comes at a cost.
Formal Learning vs Informal Learning
Her analysis really jives with my personal, lived experience of both completing a degree and being very active in social media in the last couple years. I got my degree after 7 years and finally had that stamp of approval, but at the same time, the work I’ve done in my online communities of interest has in many ways been far more important to my personal learning than my formal education experience.
I do feel a greater sense of accomplishment for my online work than for any of the tests or exams I took and scored well on, and through my online experiences I’ve become part of a wider professional community that seems far more relevant to me than, say, other UC alumni.
Social Contract with Social Media?
But then Intellagirl goes on to talk about the sort of social contract we make (Promise, Tools, Bargain) and that’s where I got hung up, because the bargain we make with formal education isn’t just credentials/reputation, it’s also dollar signs in a directly transferable sense. Get the right degree from the right institution and you’ll make more money, guaranteed. Get a degree from any institution and you’ll have a better shot at making more money than you’d make otherwise. That’s also implied in the social contract, leading to the stories I mentioned last week about so many completely un- or under- prepared students entering college.
So, I guess my question is, how does the informal learning through social media translate to better economic conditions, particularly when so many are working in companies or institutions that are completely ignorant of the social web phenomena? It isn’t as if you’re going to get higher marks on your evaluation because you twitter (though if you’re doing it right, you WILL do better at your job because of twitter). That is to say, the time spent on social media, for most people, is personal time, and even though it also benefits the workplace, or the institution, that benefit is not accounted for or rewarded explicitly, and often is actively blocked or sanctioned on work time.
Given this, and even though social media promises all sorts of wonderful learning opportunities, how can we ask our students, or our faculty, (or even ourselves) to keep up the time intensive pace of it all when they’re busy trying to raise a family or work a job that doesn’t have them at a computer all day? It seems that even though the formal educational model is rigid and top down and appears to be counter to what I’d consider a very valid and important form of learning, it’s the mode that pays the bills, and as long as that’s the case, that’s what people will do because they have to.
I don’t know. I feel fortunate that I’ve been able to so closely align my personal passions with my professional career, including social media, but when I’m up there in front of a room full of people who do not work at a computer all day, I want to make a compelling argument that convinces them to try it when they get home. It’s not just the educational or personal impact I’m wondering about, but also the economic impact of social media, and how that plays into the “education crisis” analysis.
If anyone has any thoughts, I’m all ears.
Speaking of Economics.. Metanomics!
Last bit, I’m delighted to say that I’ll be working with the folks at Metanomics as the Education Correspondent for the new season. Hosted by Cornell Prof. Robert Bloomfield, Metanomics is a weekly webTV program focusing on economics and policy in the “metaverse” of online worlds. I’ve been a fan since I caught some of their first episodes last season, and I’m very excited about the opportunity to cover education in virtual worlds and Second Life for the show. I’ve never been a webTV journalist before, so I expect to be learning some new technical skills in that arena (all from my social network!), and brainstorming about some good angles to cover.
If you want to have a look at my debut, see me make a classic newbie mistake by WRITING the script instead of TALKING the script. 🙂
Ah well, live and learn!