Here’s what I have discovered about myself and learning. I want and need to connect with professional peers and like-minded souls. I love to go to conferences, talk to others about what they are doing, and share what I am doing. I really get off on running ideas by others and getting their feedback. I love to see creative approaches to instructional design and problems that I myself am kinda crappy at. All of this can happen at team meetings, at the water cooler, or at some big gathering in a giant conference center.
But what about those of us who have very small teams (or who are a one-man team!)? What about those of us who work in an organization where the passionate exchange of ideas is not encouraged or is met with disinterest? One way social tools help is by empowering us to forge connections and create communities without having to rely on formal organizations, such as our corporations or professional organizations.
Brent Schlenker recently posted about the face-to-face versus Web 2.0 debate on his blog. He makes a great point: “it is NOT an either/or discussion we are having.” As I commented after reading his post, the point is really about connectivity. We are richer individuals when we connect, regardless of the tools, means, locations, etc. It is up to us to figure out the right tools for us. Personally, Web 2.0 tools have helped me to connect with others in ways not possible before, helping me to share with and learn from others, as well as make new real-life friends. I still love F2F conferences and meetings, but am grateful to have new tools in my network kit.