Serendipitous learning on Twitter

Accidental & Serendipitous learning is when individuals learn without consciously realising it as a result of doing other things (aka incidental or random learning). Although this kind of learning is not generally of interest to organisations as it can’t be identified and measured, individuals often like to take advantage of the possibility of serendipitous learning through the use of social media.

To what extent serendipitous learning is viewed as an acceptable learning strategy differs, as Jim Gritton points out

“For many people, browsing and surfing .. are perceived as little more than idle, time-wasting activities …

“There can be little doubt that anything which encourages exploratory behaviour and leads to learning should be encouraged, but whether serendipitous browsing is a sensible or prudent learning strategy is another matter. Like a lottery, the rewards can be high for very little outlay, but the reverse can also be true. Serendipitous browsing does, however, have the potential to reveal connections between ideas that may otherwise go unnoticed, to stimulate ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking, and to challenge our mental models so that new learning can take place. In this regard, serendipitous browsing can lead to serendipitous learning in my view. (Can serendipitous browsing lead to serendipitous learning, Jim Gritton, Futurelab, September 2007)

Many are realising the benefits of spending time on Twitter as this can yield unexpected and useful results. Here are some examples of what people think of Twitter as a place for serendipitous learning:

tscheko writes

“I just spent about 5 minutes on Twitter and pulled out what caught my eye for further investigation.” (A few minutes on Twitter yields hours of exploration, Brave new world, 20 January 2010)

Harold Jarche writes:

“Would it be better to 1) take a generic classroom workshop on information management or 2) spend a few hours serendipitously learning on Twitter.”  (Social Learning is real, 15 November 2009)

Michelle Gallen, consultant from Belfast, Northern Ireland, in her selection of Top 10 Tools, wrote

I use Twitter for serendipitous learning when I don’t know where to go for something to do – it’s a lucky bag.”

Reading list

2009: year of the tweet, Harold Jarche, Learning & Working on the Web, 28 December 2009

Serendipitous Learning, Gregory Go, 25 August 2009