Book Review: The New Social Learning

Posted by Gina Rosenthal in social learning | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

I just finished reading The New Social Learning: A Guide to Transforming Organizations Through Social Media by Tony Bingham and Marcia Conner.

Before I get started, let me disclose that I was given advance copies of the book, I’m quoted in the book, and the book uses EMC as a case study.

Now that I’ve done my due diligence, let me talk about what I got out of this book. The book’s first chapter lays the groundwork for discussions about social learning. I particularly appreciated the list of what social learning is not – its not a substitute for formal training, a replacement for employee development, synonymous with informal learning, the same as elearning, or a new online interface (among other things).

The definition given for social learning is: learning with and from others. Adding social media in the mix with social learning provides digital breadcrumbs for different learners to use as they try to make the connections they need to learn.

As educators we know we can’t make people learn, that the learner has to own that process. This book is all about ways to use social media to help people make the connections they need to learn.

One example in the EMC case study is all about connections. One of the first popular wikis on EMC|ONE (our internal social media site) was about restaurants close to our HQ in Massachusetts. My friend – an instructor – put that wiki up. He had been emailing the info as a spreadsheet to his students at the start of his classes for as long as I’ve known him.

If you’re an instructor, you know how every class is a little community. People bring in different experiences, cultures, languages even.  And at a global company like EMC, students are literally from all over the world. So when folks are sent for formal training, building relationships with colleagues in other countries becomes a nice side benefit. And that little classroom community is solidified by eating meals together. No wonder that wiki became so popular – it provided a means for people to connect IRL (in real life), so when they went back to different sides of the world working together digitally was easier.

But what happens if you can never meet? I’m still waiting to meet my colleague Varun who is in India….right now we depend on building our relationship using digital resources.

This book has practical advice and examples of how to create connection opportunities  using social media. I really appreciated the  case study of how Dan Pontefract is using video  get workers to share stories about what they do. The case study about the CIA and social media is pretty amazing as well. There is also a chapter on connecting the dots at in-person events that is timely since its almost time to start talking about EMC World planning.

My advice: get this book and read it! And give it to the decision makers in your organization as well!

One Response to Book Review: The New Social Learning

  1. David Koehn says:


    This book is being read across Saba these days. The reason think its a fan favorite around the Saba house is that, just as you say, it is both forward thinking and practical.

    The practical approaches in particular attract my attention, and I too “really appreciated the case study of how Dan Pontefract is using video get workers to share stories about what they do.”

    This approach to capturing informal learning is driving the thinking about Saba Social Learning at

    Have you added a review to Amazon yet? If not, I was thinking I might. Let me know…

    David Koehn
    Director of Product Strategy
    Saba People Learning
    t: @davidkoehn

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