Tuesday, April 10, 2012

What Does Viral Learning Look Like?

When I work with teachers and students, I want the learning to be VIRAL. No, this doesn't mean that I want anyone to develop unsightly pox or muscle soreness.

In short, I want learning to spread.

But, what are the conditions that create viral learning? Well, I've had some experience with this over the past two years via the Edcamp phenomenon. 101 events in two years? Crazy. Based on my meager experience, it seems that there are a few elements which are conducive to viral learning.

  1. Connectedness - People need to feel a connection with the people, experts, or colleagues in their learning spaces. It often helps if professional linkages are bolstered with social experiences. If I'm your friend, then I care about what you think. I check in with you more often, and I am likely to re-share ideas and information you find interesting. Do I value you?
  2. Welcoming to Noobies- There are often people just on the fringe of a group or idea. How are these people treated? Are they welcomed and encouraged? Or are they treated like outsiders? If your learning group or idea is easily accessible to those who are not yet involved, viral learning is much more likely to occur. Is there an access point?
  3. Humor/Positivity/Fun- Is the idea, learning or experience positive in some way? Do learners leave feeling that they have accomplished something? Is there even an element of fun that permeates the content? People persist when they enjoy things. Ensuring that people engage in both professional and social ways builds learning that lasts and spreads. (NOTE: There are certainly some learning experiences that are valuable but NOT fun. I realize this. It's just that those types of experiences are less likely to spread.) Do I like doing this?
  4. Frequent Feedback- Are there methods for people to receive feedback on what they are learning? Are there ways for them to measure their progress or quantify their results? When people learn, they want to receive confirmation that they are on the "right track." Building opportunities for talking, sharing, and measuring can help the learning to be considered effective. People share results. How do I know if I'm doing this right?
How can you build the elements of viral learning into your interactions with teachers and students? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

CC Photo Credit: Chikungunya Virus by AJC1


  1. Kristen - Great post! I'm not sure if I've seen this stated any more concisely. In my new role as principal, I'm trying to push our student culture "viral" in much the same way you laid out here. This will be a constant reminder for me and I look forward to sharing this with our teachers as well.

  2. Thanks for your kind words! Would love some pushback as well. Did I forget anything?



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