Are we up for the challenge of Learning 3.0?

Are we up for the challenge of Learning 3.0?

I decided to write this post in response to one of the comments I received on the site relating to Learning 3.0 – the comment being, “why do we need different versions?”

The observations here are solely based on my opinions of what the future of learning could look like – what is my opinion worth?

Well, the answer is probably, not much! Although you must be interested in it, as you are reading my blog – and I thank you in advance for that.

The name Learning 3.0 may be a totally spurious attempt at aligning what is happening in the world of learning with what is happening on the web.

The question in the comments is a fair one indeed – what version are we at, at this moment?

Perhaps, we could argue that learning is always at version 1.0, whilst technology, such as the ever-omnipresent Internet, is in a state of flux and constant change – although it may take another 10 years to fully reach web 3.0 standards.

Let’s, first, take a brief look at the versions of the web that we are familiar with:

Web 1.0 was the beginning of the public Internet, where the web was dominated by just a few, notably Netscape and where individuals were able to build their own personal websites. These websites were static pages with, at times hyperlinks to inside or outside sources if they were really at the cutting edge…

Web 2.0, is probably where we are now, consisting of collaborative media through what we usually call ‘Social media’. Content is dynamically delivered through widgetisation, and API’s, linking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube etc. – to name but three, and the full-on multimedia experience by way of video, voice, text and user generated content. Let’s not forget content curation, where hashtags and search terms can comb the net for specific, user-curated sources –, Storify and Google Alerts etc.

There is also the aspect of virtual worlds and ‘Serious Games’ used to provide, what I call ‘learning without knowing that you are learning’ – such as virtual worlds and Second Life.

Not knowing that we are learning as opposed to not learning anything.

Serious Games, may appear to be a recent addition, but they actually go right back to the 19th century, with the use of a Prussian war game – “Kriegsspiel” and have been referred to in the 1970’s specifically by Clark Abt in his book, “Serious Games”, although he was referring to board and card games at that time.

That said, the basic principles are the same – a set of rules, some form of competition where the players are ultimately rewarded – gamification.

Some well known terms linked to learning, such as E-Learning, V-Learning (Virtual learning), B-Learning (Blended Learning – a mix of online and offline learning) and M-Learning (Mobile Learning) are probably familiar to us all.

One that we will probably be hearing a lot more about is M-Learning, which is where we are heading, or indeed, where we are at – an irresistible force … maybe, let’s see.

Enter Web 3.0 – The Semantic Web – What the bell is that?

The Semantic Web, is (or will be one day) basically a web of information that can be processed directly by machines without the need for direct human intervention, according to Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the Internet.

The idea being that machines can do the bulk of the donkey work that has thus been carried out by humans, by finding, compiling and combining information found on the net – through the automation, searching and linking of tags and XML.

Web 3.0, although it’s a case of ‘suck it and see’ at the moment, will surely combine the features of Web 2.0, with the addition of non-browser-based applications, dominated by information generation – channelled through widgets and mobile devices by machines.

Nobody really knows what Learning 3.0 will be like, but we can imagine, so let’s imagine…

Learning 3.0 will be about the ubiquitous nature of handheld devices – smartphones, tablet screens, watches, embarked devices and computing devices becoming more and more portable, with access to the Internet virtually everywhere – and learning will be accessed everywhere.

The question, which remains, largely, unanswered, is what will the impact on learners and learning professionals be – people like you and I?

If content becomes more and more user generated, will it still be robust?

Ever seen some of the information on some Wiki pages and questioned it’s accuracy?

If information is being created and then compiled by machines, how can we be sure of its reliability and the freedom of access? Can censorship be a problem here?

The reality is that we are just not there yet, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t imagine what the knock-on effects could be…

Information could be unreliable.

Learners, faced with huge amounts of information (learning big data) may have trouble sifting and filtering what they really need.

More accessibility does not guarantee more learning.

Not all will be able to adapt easily to new technologies.

Some learning styles could be penalised by new ways of accessing and leveraging information.

Screen-read information is more difficult to assimilate, than say, printed documents – research has proved that information presented on screen can have a negative effect on concentration spans and assimilation. Ever printed of a long email or a document to read offline?

Could the availability and ease of access affect funding of learning for some sectors of the population in the future? Could some of us be left with D.I.Y. learning – it’s there, use it!

Will there be any point in kids going to school, college and university in the not-so-distant future?

The challenges for learning professionals are moving fast, which necessitates a capacity and a willingness to change attitudes, behaviours, processes and mindsets – moving clearly to a full, facilitator’s role with the addition of curating learner-generated content.

The guiding and monitoring role will be important, so too will a high level of technical skills and web savvy to be able to manage forums, blogs, wikis, chatrooms, Vchats, social networks and collaborative learning environments.

The traditional fear-factor associated with online content and collaboration needs to be changed – Twitter (as an example) does not present a danger in itself – using it wrongly may pose problems though.

The extent of serendipitous learning that such sites provide is potentially huge.

Learning professionals should perhaps concentrate more energy on helping learners leverage learning from such sources rather than banning them – they’ll use them anyway.

The reality is that you are either in, or you will get left behind – it is an irresistible force – learners will and are using these tools, although I must stress that the tools are not the most important factor in learning – they will always remain, just that – tools, which will change and evolve constantly.

However, there is a possibility that there could be a sea change in ‘learning culture’ – away from individualism to a more collective, collaborative learning culture – which can only be a positive step in my view.

Learning professionals need to be able to embrace, exploit and leverage these tools to help facilitate learning, whilst adapting them to the learning contexts and learning styles of learners – this will cut the most ice.

Lifelong Learning is all about learning throughout life – sorry to state the obvious – to keep pace with the demands of technological change in the workplace and in the job market.

If we, as learning professionals, are not keeping pace with changes in technology, and ultimately in learning, we are not setting a very good example, which affects credibility in the long term, and we will, ourselves, meet the fate of the dodo.

The importance should be put on the HOW of learning and not on the WHAT, although we need to keep abreast of change, technology provides the WHAT and is an ever changing and evolving variable – the focus on the HOW learners learn is a largely stable variable.

It may be a bit premature to talk about Learning 3.0, when a whole lot of us aren’t even in to Learning 2.0 (if indeed that exists) yet, but it will almost certainly be about presence, but not so much in the sense of being present, more of being able to access learning outside of the formal learning environment.

It looks like the saying, “Content is King” is coming around again – but’s let’s see what happens – content is finite so who or what will be the next King?

One of my concerns is that this ubiquitousness and volume of learning ‘materials’ and content may, in fact go a long way to encouraging passive, surface learning – which, in my opinion, is where learning professionals need to find their place in underpinning, consolidating and ensuring that quality learning takes place in the new Learning environments.

A learning professional’s standpoint must now focus squarely on learning strategies, learning to learn and process – once these are firmly embedded then anything is possible.

I return to my original question – Are we up for the challenge of Learning 3.0?

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