Conexus fortuna iuvat: can learning happen by chance? – The serendipitous Twit-learning

“Fortuna iuvat eum qui conexus(est)” – fortune favours the connected – is an adaptation of the famous Latin proverb “audentes fortuna iuvat” – fortune favours the bold – which came from a short conversation I recently had on Twitter with @conquestfrca

It is apparent that being “connected”, being part of a network, helps finding information quickly and more effectively. I have experienced this many times on Twitter: I found information, suggestions, experiences just by sending a tweet, I got papers I couldn’t access because of the dreaded pay wall, I engaged in interesting discussions and connected with varied people. I lurked. I learnt.

However this purposeful learning mechanism often gives space to a less organised one, where learning happens by chance. The way in which Twitter is constructed makes it a malleable tool which utilisation can be shaped by users around their needs and preferences. This means that, depending on the quantity and quality of connections, the use of hashtags and lists, and even the platform used, it is possible to read tweets from the most disparate people and find unexpected, unconventional connections.

In an interesting paper by Rita Kop, a sentence from Latin philosopher Heraclitus sums all this quite well: “the unexpected connection is more powerful than one that is obvious”.

The twitter stream is a dynamic, ongoing conversation where information is collaboratively shaped by users. Learners need to “move” inside this stream, managing and filtering information, using it in original ways and – possibly – keeping this openness for others to enjoy and fit-in. Sometimes I think of tweets as small notes shared with an open community of learners. Sometimes they are relevant to our own learning, sometimes they are not directly connected to it but, just because they are so unexpected, they can bring insights and take us to new learning paths, original ideas and new perspectives. These tweets however need to attract our attention, personal interest, something we are engaged with, in order to stimulate learning.

This serendipitous character of twit-learning is important because it can stimulate creativity and critical thinking, urging us to use lifelong learning skills. I think Twitter is a great arena for students to practice and master their self-learning skills, especially because of the less controlled environment in which they have to find their way, select information, manage procrastination, too. However I believe we need to first introduce this tool to students as a specifically designed learning activity, in a way that they can gradually discover its value and then learn taking part in the conversation in a meaningful way.



This is my first public post. I do keep a personal journal already, where I write down my reflections on work, life and study related things, but, as I just let my thought flow, sometimes I end up having a piece written in “Itanglish”. This is the main reason because I have never posted publicly before, but I realise in this way I lost opportunities for discussion, interaction, connection… So I decided I should really start sharing my thoughts now.

I have been working as an Educational Technologist in a Medical School for 3 years and I have recently started a Doctorate in (Medical) Education so I will use this space to reflect on my reading and hopefully share ideas with other people interested in the use of technology in education and medical education.

The name of this blog comes from the view I have of learning processes, but also of life (and life is a learning journey, no?)…

Sculpture made by Italian artist Italo Lanfredini in the Sicilian Fiumara park

The figure of the labyrinth has always fascinated me with all its mythology and meanings. I love Greek mythology and “Ariadne’s Thread” is one of my favourite stories. Ari­adne  gave Theseus a thread to find his way out from the Knossos labyrinth and saved his life from the Minotaur, a half man and half bull monster who used to kill people sent in the labyrinth for sacrifice to Gods. The word labyrinth comes from the Greek labyrinthos, which was used in the mythology to refer to this particular labyrinth.

So, apparently in ancient Greek this world had no other meanings, but the interesting thing is that this word was then translated into Latin becoming “labor intus”, which means “interior work”. It refers to a process of reflection and personal growth which can be complex and full of contradictions, it can go forward and backward, take different steps and several directions. It is a dynamic process, often not easy or smooth, it can take wrong directions but it will eventually arrive to destination. This is a great metaphor of a learning process, where so often we face dilemmas, explore directions and eventually find a way out. The thread can probably symbolise the support we get from tutors, colleagues and peers in this process.  A thread is also what we need nowadays to find direction in the endless learning possibilities and information offered by social media and its articulated intercultural network…

I was recently reading again parts of a critical pedagogy book I had studied at the university: “The labyrinth and the narrow door” (Il labirinto e la porta stretta – A. Granese) where the metaphor of the labyrinth is used to describe  hermeneutic method: not linear and reversible, with no preconceived steps. Who is inside the labyrinth must “make experience” trying several different paths. The narrow door is metaphor of a difficult passage. However the difficulty is not in getting out the maze, it is to access a “space” that is difficult to reach: to go “beyond” our own current condition, toward a new level of knowledge perhaps, a growth, a change however that may be. So, the labyrinth offers an endless range of possibilities, but its maze, the combination of paths, make the journey and the outcomes anything but simple or easy.