THE BLOG
04/14/2011 01:47 pm ET Updated Jun 14, 2011

Real-Time Social Learning -- The Decorah Eagles Captivate Millions

Have you tuned in to the Decorah Eagles Ustream Cam yet? If not, you are missing one of the best reality shows ever seen -- and the most famous and most-watched birds on the planet right now. This is an intimate glimpse into something rarely witnessed by humans. With some 25,617,946 views at the time of this writing, we're getting a global social learning experience in real-time.

This live feed is brought to the world stage by the Raptor Resource Project. Established in 1988, the non-profit Raptor Resource Project specializes in the preservation of falcons, eagles, ospreys, hawks, and owls. In this case, it is a real-time view of two parent bald eagles and their newly-hatched eaglets from atop their tree at the fish hatchery in Decorah, Iowa. Here are some interesting FAQs: How high is the nest? About 80 feet; How big is the nest? 6 feet across, about the same deep; it weighs about 1½ tons. How old is the nest? The eagles built it in 2007. A previous nest close by fell when a windstorm broke one of the branches. Impressive. Think of that, a nest that weighs over a TON. Wow.

A Transformation in Learning

At any given time there are 80,000-110,000 viewers logged in to the UStream channel. This is how real-time platforms and social technologies will usher in an age that completely recalibrates learning and teaching. With the Decorah Eagle Cam, classrooms of grade-schoolers through colleges are tuning in, as are scientists, bird lovers, seniors, and the curious from around the world. I heard that one worker in a hospital said that people with cancer are tuning in and getting relief from their disease while they watch. It is somehow strangely calming. The parent eagles are so competent and majestic in their daily duties and the babies are cute overload personified. It's parenting lessons, natural history, biology, and the beauty of the universe all rolled into one. The social stream adds a sociology component as well. Teaching and learning opportunities abound.

Traditional schools and corporate training models have struggled to keep pace with mainstream digital and computer technologies because of high program costs, dated texts and materials, and general lack of interest. At the same time, students and employees are demanding Web-based tools in classroom and training environments that reflect the way they want to learn. Today, most academic students at all levels get their information from the Internet. Students and employees want to watch, research, learn, and share information with one another. Some current social learning platforms offer distance education options that add course flexibility, decrease costs, and build general enrollment. (From The Power of Real-Time Social Media Marketing) Here we get to be the accidental tourists, peering in on something both mundane and almost royal all at the same time.

Count me in. This is one of the most fascinating and mesmerizing utilizations of everything real-time I've seen yet -- from the live video feed that is streamed online 24/7 on UStream, to those participating and learning from one another in the social stream, to the sheer excitement and wonder of it all.

I can barely take my eyes away, and when I come home, I instantly tune in to see what's going on. Like millions of other watchers, I will be excited to see the babies take their first flight, but also a little sad to see them go. I've learned so much and been so engrossed -- they've become my 24/7 wallpaper and I'm hanging on their every move.

Beverly Macy is the CEO of Gravity Summit, Inc. and the Co-Author of The Power of Real-Time Social Media Marketing, published by Mc-Graw Hill in January, 2011. She also teaches Executive Global Marketing and Branding and Social Media Marketing for the UCLA Extension in Westwood, CA. Follow her on Twitter @beverlymacy; @PowerRTM; @GravitySummit or email at beverlymacy@gmail.com.