Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Trades and Social Networking

My dad did his painting apprenticeship at the one of the big ship building yards along the River Clyde (Glasgow, Scotland) in the 1950’s.

There were hundreds and hundreds of men, covering a wide variety of trades, working closely in these ship yards, and the sharing of tacit knowledge came as natural as sharing their morning tea break cigarette.

Trades-folk have been passing on technical and on the job experiences for centuries through the ‘master-apprentice’ method of training, as it is not possible to learn a trade in isolation or just from a ‘text book’. The establishment of ‘guilds’ has supported this practice.

Whilst working with a couple of groups of ‘Trade’ lecturers to investigate ways of providing more ‘flexible’ training options recently, it has become apparent that it is a natural progression for Trades-folk to carry on the sharing of their tacit knowledge in the online environment. This has been happening through online forums and shared spaces like blogs and wikis, but have social networking sites like Twitter, Ning and Facebook been fully utilised by this network of people?

Imagine pockets of ‘Trade-specific Twitterers’ – where ‘guilds’ of trades-folk ‘follow’ one another – and out on the work site there’s an issue and a quick ‘tweet’ is sent to the Twitter-guild. Within moments @replies are received … “check out this…” “call me on…” “contact…” “try…”, all via the mobile device which lots of Trades-folk carry these days.

Social Networking Sites like Ning and Facebook Groups have become popular places for people with similar interests to gather and share their knowledge and issues. These would be great places for Trades-folk to do likewise.

Simon Brown has been using Twitter and a Ning site with his Stonemasonry apprentices. Hopefully his students will be able to transfer the skills they develop in these social networking sites into their workplaces and utilise the strength of their online networks, like they do their formal networks, to improve their work practices.


stoneTeacher said...

Hi Allison, thank you for featuring my students' social networking site.

My students enjoy belonging to this community, and my aim is to encourage them to share information about their work practices.

Unfortunately they're not able to access it via the student network while at TAFE because the site - and any other "sharing" site - is blocked.

Sarah Stewart said...

Its interesting how professions who are 'hands on' are using social networking. Whilst I wouldn't call midwifery a trade, it is very 'hands on'. So I think we'll get into videos and images a lot - I'm hoping the midwifery world will eventually wake up to the potential of YouTube and that we'll share our video resources.