I have been meaning to write about the value of Twitter as a learning aid for weeks.
Years ago when I was working in the Learning & Development team of a large corporate (you’d probably call it the Training Department), we looked at a new learning management system being developed; it had lots bells and whistles, but one smart bit was the use of something approaching an instant messaging system that would allow people to broadcast questions, requests for help and answers. It seemed like a pretty powerful tool to use as the basis of communities of interest and expertise, and it could be incorporated into a knoweldge management system (five years ago, these were all the rage).
Nowadays, though, I’d think that something approaching a corporate implementation of Twitter would make much more sense (I have no idea if such things exist, though I can’t believe they don’t!). One hundred and forty characters is sufficient for most questions, and you can get pretty near immediate response. As Tim pointed out, the learning tweets – oh how I want to christen them leets! – remain on the server, where they are searcheable, so you can find out who else has the problem or might know the answer. Stats from the system could tell L&D managers what topics were most sought after, and so where to place their other, more formal training interventions. And the whole would build up into – well, a knowledge base.
I was discussing this with someone else recently: a librarian. She recoiled at the thought: she wanted all that knowledge classified within a strict taxonomy. I like taxonomies – I had a really fun project building a future-proof taxonomy for all the learning in the large corporate – but frankly, taxonomies are for the learning professionals: the real users just want to get to their problem – they would search for it, or ask for it in a tweet, rather than browse for it. Of course, the professionals could build a taxonomy if they wanted – but the metadata for a 140-character tweet would far exceed the data in the tweet itself. The information in the tweet is all that one needs – given adequate seach systems.
As this post points out, Twitter is a great – though not perfect – tool for informal learning. Out in the Twitterverse, the ability to be able to communicate ideas and through, links to blog posts, deep thought and knowledge is powerful. Within a corporate system, the ease of communication, the stats it could provide, and the precise delivery of just-in-time knowledge could make it a very useful tool in the arsenal of learning.