It’s true, great minds must think alike…

Posted on Mar 18, 2011

….because earlier this week Lesley Price and I both tweeted about the same subject within an hour or so of each other. This was the thought that was running through my mind as I was driving home a few days ago, which I subsequently tweeted about…

Later on that evening Lesley tweeted this

This led to an exchange of tweets between us, which resulted in Lesley being kind enough to share an experience with me via this email.


Hi Craig
A couple of years ago… I fell down stairs and sprained my ankle really badly.  I had to be at a Technology Conference organised by Becta as I was facilitating a table…. Natalie, my daughter took time off work to drive me.  She sat on the table I was facilitating…. even although it was an educational technology conference and she was a primary school teacher, she had no idea of the language and jargon that was being used.  It was almost like the Emperors New Clothes and she was the child watching from the side lines.  She sat all morning and the first part of the afternoon taking it all in.  She then just said…. I have no idea what you are all talking about, what does Social Media mean?  I typed that into questions that were coming from the floor… Facilitator picked it up and came to talk to her.  She was youngest person in the room and just said… “now that I know what it means…I can tell you I use SoMe all the time…I just don’t see what all the fuss is about, that is my life!  Why all the discussion???  Why don’t you just get on with it??”
I have just talked to her again about it this evening and she still remembers the occasion… and still does not understand the facination by oldies. SoMe is part of her life…. she is not into Twitter, doesn’t see value in it.  If you look at profile of average user of Twitter I can understand that.  She uses FB, FB chat, skype , skype chat and txt all the time.  Sometimes using more than one at once… makes for interesting conversations lol!!
I am trying to persuade her to start blogging… she has wonderful ideas. Although she teaches reception she also runs Computer Club for Girls with Yr 6 girls.  When the Tsunami and Japanese earthquake story started breaking, she put BBC news on her interactive white board and had it running all day as her reception class were interested in the live commentry that was coming through and bombarded her with questions.  She doesn’t close down social networking when she is teaching, not that she spends any time on it, it just runs in the background, the kids are now used to ‘silly noises’ that come from her laptop and tell her she when she has a message!  So kids completely understand SoMe… just don’t call it that…. they see it as normal… why are the rest of us making such a fuss about it instead of getting on with it!!

So my question to you ‘Dear Reader’ is are we right, or are we waaaay off the mark?
Should we drop the ‘social’?

Is the ‘social’ holding things up due to it’s ‘connotations’?

Should we just be referring to media, learning, networks etc and work under the assumption (a dangerous thing I know) that the ‘social’ is inherrent.
Why not let me know your thoughts in the comments box below?



  1. This now seems to be working Craig! Sorry about that- another good question and one that has had me thinking all weekend!

    Ideally we should get to the point where all aspects of the learning would just be ‘media’ that covers everything, but I think we are a long way from that at the moment. This got me thinking about the wider context of learning in the corporate environment and what we call it. I find that we call our courses ‘learning’ and this is what the delegate expects during that time only. ‘you will now learn during these two hours and then get back to work’. This is an attitude from both the traditional L&D department and the business. Delegates should be able to think that all work is development, and some of this is face to face, and some is self managed etc.
    A Colleague and I have recently re-vamped our SharePoint site for our design team, and are hoping to get people to contribute and use this so that we can eventually roll this out to the rest of the L&D team. However, we find that people are resistant, the usual call being ‘I don’t have time’ but that is because they have traditionally set aside time for this activity. This may be how they will have to start with this tool, but eventually I would hope that they just use this whenever they can. The number of people who would be texting while they are working is quite high, but because this is not ‘work related’ they don’t necessarily see this as ‘social media’ as you say in your blog.
    I have always thought that our team title – Learning Curriculum Design – sounds swish, but actually re-enforces the idea that learning is something you do outside of the work itself. I prefer the title (as someone else said) information transformation. We take information and transform it into something else that people will use whenever they need to. We have an uphill struggle to change the attitude of both the business and the traditional L&D department in our company. There doesn’t seem to be a culture of rewarding people for attending and IMPLEMENTING their training. Sometimes I feel that the delivery trainers just talk at the delegates for a morning, they are off the phones (a bonus for them), a tick in their development plan and then back to work as usual, nothing has changed at all!
    Sorry this is a bit rambling, but one question sparks off a hundred others!!



  2. Hi Craig.
    Great post as usual. “Social” definitely holds connotations that can be unhelpful in a business context. Not only is the usefulness of the term highly dependent on who you are talking to, the meaning behind the term is also being diluted in line with its popularity. “Socially enabled” (what ever that is) is now on the “what it should have” tick list – making for some very imaginative interpretations on what exactly it is that makes a medium social.
    So – when “social” no longer means all that much, how do we differentiate and communicate around tools that takes the “social” beyond our previous expectations of the term?

    • I think social also has many negative connotations in the K12 arena. Parents don’t want their kids to “socialize” at work. Even “media’ may have negative connotations for many parents – who immediately think ‘games” – I’m not sure if this is fixable – or if we should even try.. … But it’s a great question to ask.. it’s had me thinking for a few days now…

  3. Your words shared in social media have sparked my curiosity and desire to participate. 
    If life is a journey not a destination and one lives and learns, where can we go together?  Talk without walk is perhaps a waste of our time unless we  take the time to walk to talk together to walk to talk….

    In social media is the risk to be alone together and far from what is essential in life?

    If education is life and not just a preparation for life what is our role as educators? 

     If life is what happens to you when you are making other plans (John Lennon?) is learning what happens despite  our best laid plans? Is education learning to listen to John Lennon?

    If education is what remains after we have forgotten everything we have learnt at school (Einstein) why should we waste our time forgetting?  If Socrates knew he knew nothing, why bother trying to learn something? Or maybe we need to revise our classics?

    Money talks, absolute power corrupts absolutely, not all that glistens is gold, love is a smoking gun…

    ‘Birds of a feather flock together’.   
    Vultures circle around  the carcasses, pigeons buy without thought, chickens run around headless, ostriches put their heads in the sand. People are falling like sparrows, while the hawks are watching on from afar.

    The twitter revolution, the facebook generation, the teacher strike, the surgical strike…let’s not forget that when all has been said and done, children and women bleed and careless talk costs lives.

    “Great minds think alike, but fools seldom differ.’

    If we are not part of the solution we are part of the problem.

    Proverbs I am learning:

    • Hi Simon,

      I’m not too sure whether you were agreeing, disagreeing (or something else) to my blog post, but either way many, many thanks for taking the time to contribute to my blog.


      • Hi Craig,
        Thanks for posting my comment on your blog and taking the time to reply. I am glad that the comment had the desired effect:-) (Questions, confusion)

        I was prompted to comment on your post ‘Great minds must think alike…’ after seeing a link on your Twitter stream which followed on from another one about ‘Human Shields’ in Libya. I had also chatted with Lesley Price about Twitter the other day and seeing her email about her daughter’s reaction to a conference on your blog post set me thinking. Dramatic events and children tend to put daily life into perspective.

        I think we overestimate people’s ability to see things as we see them and often take for granted that they have the same understanding of the terms we use or the aims that we have.

        Particularly in professional training, there are often heavy incentives to ‘control’ learning outcomes. For many organisations there is a fear that ‘social’ means ‘a social’ and therefore it is not a serious way to spend money. For many young ‘digital natives’ they can’t see how their ‘social’ tools are connected to serious learning either because at school they have learnt that work to be valued is ‘serious’ and ‘chatting’ is a distraction.

        I think that we have to seriously rethink the division between ‘social’ and ‘professional’ between ‘play’ and ‘work’ , between ‘school’ and ‘education’. I think we have to work at building trust within organisations and show that people given more freedom to develop personallly contribute more to their organisations professionally.

        As educators, we have to explain to people that learning is not something you do just during a two hour period and that informal learning is as or more important than formal training. This also means recognising and valuing informal learning within our organisations. The curriculum is a starting point of the training not the objective.

        The example of Lesley’s daughter’s use of a Twitter stream in her primarly class shows how people are really stimulated by real life, real exchange. Social media can and does enable learning (just maybe not the learning we imagined).

        Company’s/institutions generally have double standards concerning the social sphere – it’s normal for senior executives to have essential dinner dates and social events for developing business but not so for the ‘workers.’ Any sport team coach will tell you that ‘how the group lives’ is just as important as the individual skills of the players to the success of the team. How we live well together is the essential question.

        You can’t control learning, you can only create the environment which stimulates and enables it. If we seriously believe in the power of ‘social tools’ to enable learning (which I do) then we have to prove to people that ‘serious’ alternatives often don’t work as they imagine they do. This is particulary the case in today’s economic environment. We don’t need to go back we need to go forward differently.

        The language and numbers we choose to describe and promote our means and our actions will depend on the individual or group of individuals that we have to convince to follow a certain path.

        Unfortunately, not all people are able to step outside their boxes, to see things differently. We have been conditioned for many years to believe in carrot and stick, reward and results models. For anybody unaware of how limited such methods are I recommend reading Daniel Pink’s ‘Drive!’.

        While we are at work or at school we can often forget what is essential and that is why I posted my original comment. We are in this together and we can/should strive to build a more ‘social’ less ‘controlling’ society.

        What I like about Twitter is the ‘flattening’ of differences between tweets and between tweeps. That is why I am reading your blog, that is why I am writing this post. Thanks to you, I fell upon a great source of proverbs on wikiquotes which I will be able to use again. I would imagine that you would not have expected such a learning outcome from your blog article:-)

        This is the great strength and the great weakness of social media and professional life, we can get caught up in the stream and forget for a moment the real rewards and the real pain of real life.

        I saw somewhere you like climbing, the next time I’m in Manchester I suggest a visit to the Peaks.

        Oh dear, I am getting social again…


        PS Great minds don’t think alike…they think differently.

  4. When I was young I remember having a PenPal that I mailed letters to across the United States. Today, I’m sure students are having skype calls with their peers on the other side of the world! To the youth of today, I’m sure it seems like nothing 🙂

    I agree that the term “social media” comes along with a lot of baggage that doesn’t even make sense to most. The fact is the way we communicate on all levels has changed immensely since Internet. So what should we call this evolution of communication and media? Social is one part, but it really means so much more.

  5. Hi @dames20 Thanks for persevering! I think you are right in your statement about all aspects of the learning would just be classed as ‘media’ and that we are indeed a long way off that at the moment, however I wonder if that resignation that we are a ‘long way off’ is only exacerbating the problem and dragging it out?

    100% agree with you about the fact that in coroporates and organisations we create these ‘cocoons’ of time and call them courses or learning activities and then wonder why people feel uncomfortable when we suggest that learning opportunities pervade into their working day i.e. (social) media. Heck we even have a ‘Training’ Centre, so not only do we create a cocoon of time, but it takes place in a ‘cocooned’ physical environment. A member of the Interet Time Alliance coined a phrase which I believe puts a large part of your post into a single phrase…… ‘Work = Learning, Learning = Work’, maybe c4lpt. can remind us who it was that coined the phrase?

    I agree to a degree that the reward is often levied against the individuals attendance (time away from the office, free lunch, tick in the box etc) at the event and not against the IMPLEMENTATION of the newly found knowledge or skill, but surely that is indicative of a poor performance management system?

    Hey, and don’t apologise for the ‘rambling’ as you put it, I’m really pleased that a post of mine has encouraged you to respond in such detail – let’s keep the lines of communication open…..

  6. Well guess it’s now my turn to comment…after all it was a conversation with my daughter that made me start thinking about language and terminology. At the end of the day, what is the difference between social media and just socialising? Personally, I don’t particularly like the word socialising…in fact I used to say to my students who included it on their CVs….employers won’t like it as it suggests that you just like being with people and don’t do anything constructive in your free time…so put down what you do…like volunteering, climbing, running, reading books…etc. etc. Their response was that was not what they meant by socialising… So what does socialising mean? What my students meant was to get to know people, meet friends, chat, having fun, find out what others have been doing and more than likely learning from them. So by including it on their CV’s, what they were in fact saying was, I enjoy being with people!

    I think there are two different issues both to do with language. The young people I know don’t use the term ‘social media’…to them its just quite simply keeping in more no less. They like socialising and technology has made that much easier. So whether is through txt, skype, fb for the most part, they don’t actually care, they recognise its value and just want it to work.

    I absolutely agree with Simon, where we I think we have the problem with organisations is that ‘social’ and ‘work’ traditionally don’t sit comfortably together. We get paid to do a job, not to be social…or do we? Is using technology to connect with people not very similar to the ‘old boys’ network, having lunch or dinner with business colleagues, meeting people at conferences. All of these activities are social and valued by organisations – otherwise why would organisations pay for employees to be part of membership communities. In effect, organisations are funding staff to socialise because they realise that effective networking is important to the business. However, the difference is that Social Media now makes networking and building of informal relationships open to everybody in the organisation, so is it therefore a matter of trust?

    I don’t just think it’s the word social that’s the problem. Traditionally when we think of media we think of the press, tv and radio. How often do we hear people say, ‘you can’t trust media hype’? So put social and media together, it’s not surprising that some organisations block it.

    My daughter just gets on with it….language we use turns her off. I also think language we use to describe new ways to communicate, network and learn is not understood by employers either. So how do we resolve this? There are lots of tools, techniques that can be used to build relationships and trust…Can’t we just begin by dropping the jargon? I understand SoMe….but am beginning to think..SoMe..So What!

    • People like jargon it gives them a feeling of belonging. The problem in organisations is when the deciders/hierarchal superiors feel insecure about the jargon/technology and fear losing control. If trusted employees can help them learn so that they feel in control again, the new stuff is adopted and they can show off their new toys to their less well-educated peers. Every now and again a trusted teacher is rewarded…

      Talking of feelings of belonging, what’s (sorry what was) SOme?
      Yours gratefully

  7. test, deleting after

  8. @jennalanger Hi Jenna, many thanks for taking the time to respond.

  9. @ Simon….might have to agree to disagree with you on people liking jargon. I don’t really like any kind of jargon…have always been in favour of the plain english campaign myself 🙂 I think jargon is exclusive rather than being inclusive. It can make people feel important and part of the club, but when you are wanting to grow something it needs to be inclusive so that everbody understands it..not just those who know the buzz words. However I do agree regarding fear of jargon and loosing control and that is not just limited to technology.

  10. @Jan MacWatters Hi Jan, many thanks for taking the time to read and respond to my blog post. I think that the apparent connotations relating to ‘media’ and ‘social’ are fixable, however I fear that it is only likely to be fixed by the passing of time and with a generational culture shift. No overnight wins on this one I suspect (although I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I am wrong)

  11. Along with getting rid of the “social” in media, we need to get rid of the “2.0” in web!

  12. Hi olliegardener Good to hear from you again.

    Interesting to hear that “socially enabled” is on my customers and vendors must-have list. Although this as you quite rightly observe will probably lead to some disparate interpretations as to what ‘social’ means, surely any wider recognition of ‘social’ can only be a good thing for the long-term integration of it into out everyday (working and playing) lives?

    What do you reckon?

  13. @CraigTaylor74 a wider recognition of the value of social is definitely a good thing, but when vendors’ interpretations of what’s social is too creative … this can also damage the perceived value of the truly social.

    Take LT11uk’s exhibition as an example, there was hardly one stand not promoting “social” – I guess it is all down to the interpretation, but most of them were a long way away from my view on social technology.

  14. Hi simonensor Thanks once again for taking the time to provide such a detailed response to my little old blog!

    I agree with your observation that many organisations seek to strictly control the learning outcomes which always strikes me as very patronising; as if ‘you’ can possibly hope to determine what ‘I’ am intending to gain from this activity. Yes ‘dear organisation’ you may well have ‘your’ training objectives, invariably designed to get you off the hook, should anything go wrong in the future, but as for the learning objectives… er…. leave that to the learner, thank you very much!

    Your comment over double standards also strikes a cord with me. Several months ago I discovered that Facebook had suddenly become accesible!!! When I asked why, I was informed that ‘senior people’ had asked for the ban to be lifted as they wanted to gain some information from it at which point they would ask for the ban to be put back in place – hang on…. what if ‘I’ want to glean some information from it???? – oh well 🙁

    I know that timbuckteeth is heavily involved in teaching that demographic of students who we ‘assume’ have readily adapted to the use of these technologies, I wonder if he is able to verify whether the adoption of SoMe for those in education is as widespread as we might be assuming?

    And as for the trip to The Peaks…. “climb when ready”….

  15. @eplybon won’t be long before it becomes 3.0 then 4.0 and before we know it will be like AA Milne and become Now We are Six lol!!!

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