openness

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.