So... how is the Internet actually changing opportunities to learn? Does the phrase "death of distance" really mean anything? Here's a quick example from this afternoon (February 25th) when John Iruaga who was in Nigeria sent his first Tweet, helped via Skype by Andy Broomfield who was in the UK. It was a spontaneous bit of teaching. It happened simply because Andy was sitting next to me, working on his laptop, when I bumped into John Iruaga on Skype.
i knew that John Dada had asked John Iruaga to find out about social networking, so Twitter was on his learning agenda. True tweeters may think the whole thing is totally intuitive - but I, for one, didn't find it so. When I first went to Twitter I had never seen any one else Tweeting and had no idea what to expect. When I logged in (because someone told me I should) I had no clue what I was trying to do or why. I went round in circles a few times and ended up none the wiser. I knew that John Iruaga, like me, would start out as a complete Twitter newbie.
However, Andy loves Twitter. I know that if I want to catch him online then a drect message on Twitter is the best choice. With Andy next to me, and John unexpectedly on Skype, I couldn't resist asking John if he had time to give Twitter a try, and inviting Andy to join our Skype chat.
As it happened there were a couple of little glitches getting started, which I could not have helped John with, but Andy knew exactly what must be causing the problems and talked John through. John had the help he woluld have had with a buddy looking over his shoulder - but this was a buddy he had just been introduced to, who was on a different continent.
With Andy's patient guidance
- John signed in
- Found my page
- Checked my followers
- Found Andy there
- Started to follow me
- I followed him back
- He sent a Tweet
- He saw a Tweet that I wrote in reply
- He attracted another follower (Andy)
- John got a personal message from Andy
- He had an explanation of the "@" feature on Twitter
To me it is little non-formal opportunites for sharing knowledge, like this, that are at the heart of how the Internet is changing opportunities to learn. They happen so many times, but they are comparatively unreported. For example I learned how to use instant messaging from a Kenyan friend in Nigeria through a series of emails exhanged during a night browsing session. Another, much more important example of non-formal distance learning related to fighting a cholera outbreak. There are many other interesting examples in Learn How To Learn - one of the many excellent Minciu Sodas yahoo groups.
So, back to John Iruaga's very first Tweet. What did he write? I was so happy to read it - "dadamac focus on sharing skills".