Social media learning principles

At the LAMS European conference I gave a talk in which I explored what we know about learning, and what I've deduced about social media. My conclusion was that we develop tools to represent the complexity of learning (such as LAMS), but that the social media/web 2.0 approach takes a different angle and instead of trying to represent complexity in the tool, creates simple tools and lets the network create the complexity.
The presentation is below:

I had 6 principles of social media which are:

  1.  <embed> is the universal acid of the web – we should build around it.
  2. Simple with reach trumps complex with small audience.
  3. Sharing is a motivation to participation – so make it easy and rewarding to do.
  4. Start simple and let others build on top
  5. Providing limitations frames input (Cf twitter, 12seconds, etc)
  6. Complexity resides in the network not the application

If these are true, then number 6 in particular strikes me as having profound implications for what we do as educational technologists.


  1. Anne says:

    Excellent, thank you. It is indeed messy – as messy as that cute little girl’s chocolate pudding orgy 😉

  2. Frances Bell says:

    Thanks for this Martin and Liam. I am working on an analogy between learning with and about social media and older craft technologies. I think that sharing can be simple even when artefacts are becoming more complex as long as the building blocks, patterns, ideas, whatever are discernible more simply.

  3. Scott Leslie says:

    Nice one Martin, I have been working on similar sets of heuristics for a while now and agree with all of the ones you single out, though I might have phrased the first one as “Links are the universal acid of the web – we should build to allow them” and view ’embed’ as a class of ‘link.’ It’s a quibble and not even certain it’s exactly right, and I take your phrasing to be good enough to convey the principle.

  4. Martin says:

    @Frances – that analogy sounds interesting. I think we’ve reached a stage now where although the underlying technology, data protocols, etc may be complex, the human end is quite simple. We don’t need to know how these things work, just that they do. This makes publishing/sharing/remixing a democratised action, with all that that entails.
    @Scott – cheers, yes I take your point about embed, but I wanted to really drive home the point about having content in your place. And the bigger point that it may be simplistic (from a learning design perspective) but rather than invent a more complex method that achieves all that we want (but no-one uses) we should take what works and build up from there. I’d like to see your heuristics – we could even publish one of those old-fashioned papers on it!

  5. ken long says:

    great site, thought provoking. i am thinking out loud about the issue of “natural complexity” where processes , and human artifacts increase in complexity by layering and that each subsequent round of additions look for placdes to atatch to the surface of the previous round. If thats true, then the combination of simple tools, random order, and low levels of complex thinking may cause us to be prisoners of the random seed that generated the latest artifact. Thats another way of saying “the problem of first mover advantage” if he gets it wrong, then we are all off on a wild goose chase of increasing complexity but without the tools to detect the faultlines until a collapse occurs

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