Community, Communities – Inspired or Not

This is a part of Social Learning with Instagram series.

Sun Shining Through White Peony Petals

The sun is shining through white peony petals. 2012 Summer, New Hampshire. Originally posted on Instagram

Instagram is a social media space. Depending on where you land and what you search for, you will end up with drastically different views of what Instagram is. The ever un-Popular page makes people want to flee, myself included, so I don’t go there. If the Popular page of a community turns you off, then what is the point of hanging around and more importantly hanging where?

Instagram is actually a sea of communities. It is more like a society containing everything that exists under the sun. Also just like navigating in the society, the question you need to figure out first is what you want to do here – the answer will lead you to the community or communities that you belong.

There are at least four basic types of people on Instagram. The most expected group are the people who use Instagram just like another social media space to share their unfiltered life with friends and/or strangers.  Yes, it is the unfiltered life, not the “beauty” around.  In this space, you will see a new t-shirt, shining nails, fancy slippers, a greasy or juicy burger, and of course, shirtless teenage boys showing off their six packs.  Photos from this group are usually snap shots hastily posted right after being taken without many after-thoughts going into the photos.  This is your people watching space on Instagram: the everyday life and ordinary world is right in front of you, don’t expect too much, and keep an open mind.

Another group of people who are so different from the first group are those elite folks.  They are usually professional photographers, and their job titles could be designer, graphic designer and chief creative director somewhere.  Many of them have thousands of followers, and they deserve to be followed. Those are the people who should inspire you.

Before I get to the most relevant group to me, I want to mention one last group, which is very common ever since the social media space is invented – those are the people who mainly care about the number of followers they have on Instagram without putting the same effort into posting great pictures.  One such user could follow 85K people; hoping people will follow back, and get 40k followers.  That’s not bad for the number of followers, but the quality of their posts is totally a different matter.  Again, following 85K people require 3 x 85k taps on your screen: 1 tap on the picture to get to the user, 1 tap to follow the user, and 1 more tap to get back.  255K taps to gain followers!  Spammer is the right word for such effort.

Finally, here are the rest of us on Instagram who really enjoy taking and sharing pictures! It is not difficult to spot us: the pictures are definitely thoughtful with aspects for improvement, and sometimes we have brilliant shots that surprise ourselves and inspire our peers.  This is where I hang out on Instagram.  In this space, you will get answers to your questions, response or acknowledgement to your thoughtful or supportive comments – you won’t get such interaction if you follow the elite members as they must be receiving thousands of likes, comments, and follows each day.  With support and nurture, you can start to learn, improve, get better and give back – the possibilities are endless!  This is my Instagram, inspired!

Lessons for being a conscious social learner:

  • You need to become aware of your learning environment, in this case, your classmates – who are the most relevant and accessible people that you can learn with and from.
  • You need to generate an idea of what you want to learn from those targeted groups. If you like certain people’s pictures, ask yourself what about their photos that attract you – that’s something you want to learn from those people.

Social Learning

This is the first article in the Social Learning with Instagram series.

I posted this image last month on Instagram to summary my one-year experience in that mobile photo-sharing space:

Here is the story behind this collage:

“It was exactly one year ago, with an iPhone4 in the hand, I started with the image in the middle on IG. Soon fell in love with macro lenses via @redsas Tracy – thank you for answering my question back with the answer: @photojojo’s macro lens! Much later learned to capture light (top right) from @backtobasics John, who is not here anymore – I miss John and his #b2b_ tags. I tell my stories through flowers that grow in my garden (top middle, bottom middle), in others’ gardens (middle left, NH), on roadsides (bottom left, Vermont), and from faraway places (middle right, Dominica). I also created a sandbox @seeallie365 to ask myself not to forget about “the big picture” and to see beyond flowers 🙂 The images created by me (top left, bottom right) will be put on the walls @althotel in Canada – Oh, Canada! I will come to visit again,soon. After all these 365 days, I still #love_purple.
Thank you for being here with me, my IG friends! I get to know so many of you fondly, connect with some of you intimately, and be inspired by you immensely. I appreciate you!”

This is a story about self-discovering and learning, and more importantly learning arts in a social media environment with your peers as teachers and yourself as the driver and designer for your own learning experience. I call it “social learning”, and I have several lessons learnt to share. Along the way, I will distill my story above, unpacking all the elements that are essential for an effective social learning process.

Transformation of Teaching and Learning

It was a great treat to watch the live streaming of Harvard Initiative for Learning & Teaching Symposium 2012 and listen to the insights from some of the leading minds in higher education on the transforming era of teaching and learning that we are living in today.

Something different in learning is happening, and this something is fundamental; and hence some fundamental changes in teaching need to happen to respond to the new possibilities and demands in learning.

What is this something? What enabled it to happen? Mobile learning? social learning? online learning? Learning with iPad? So many questions, so few definite answers.  It is an exciting time now to be in the fields of technology and education which become the focal points for exploring future possibilities and redefining our ways of learning, teaching, interacting, creating, and being.

Being engaged and participating in this transforming process is the best way to understand it and become a part of it. I will be writing a series of posts on different key concepts being discussed and emerging. I invite you to share your thoughts!