Learning 3.0 – join the collaboration experiment!

As you may be aware, I am the Senior Policy Advisor for Technology Enhanced Learning at Lifelong Learning UK. Lifelong Learning UK is the sector skills council for learning professionals across the whole lifelong learning sector. We develop professional standards and qualification frameworks and advise on career pathways and workforce development for all people working in this sector.

In my role I’m becoming increasingly interested in the impact of new technologies on the nature of learning and on our learning institutions. We very rarely have an opportunity to take a step back and consider what is happening: how are new technologies changing our behaviour? What can we do to make us more effective as learners and teachers? What will our learning institutions and teaching workforce look like in the future?

I was really inspired by a Twitter project which created a book with tips for teachers – the book downloaded here.

This book was created by asking Twitter users the world over to use the ‘hashtag’ #movemeon to share hints and tips through Twitter.

I would like to try a similar experiment. There is a wealth of knowledge out there, many people are blogging about technology for learning, people are sharing ideas on Twitter and on social networking sites. I would like to invite you to help us gather some ideas on the changing nature of learning. There are three broad areas we are interested in:

  • the changing nature of pedagogy
  • the changing nature of work place learning
  • the changing nature of institutional learning (that is, learning that traditionally takes place in classrooms and lecture theatres)

How are the information age and the proliferation of new technologies changing the way we teach and learn?

What can be done or what is already working with regard to helping the lifelong learning workforce adapt to these changes?

You may submit thoughts, ideas, blogs and essays via Twitter using this hashtag:


or by emailing learning3@lluk.org or by commenting on this blog in the comments section below.

I will collate all responses (all contributors will be acknowledged) and we will see if together we can create a publication which explores these themes and makes suggestions for the future. This project will help us to find out how truly collaborative the web can be!

Follow us on Twitter here: @ll_uk

Find out more about this experiment on the Lifelong Learning UK website: http://www.lluk.org/learning3.htm

And of course, I’ll be blogging the results of this experiment here!


  1. My chemistry teacher once told me ‘cookery is just chemistry without the science’. Looking at learning today, it seems to me that we are making a transition from cookery to chemistry. Up until now we have more or less relied on teaching traditions handed down through generations for the ways in which we organise and deliver learning. Despite the fact that there are many brilliant chefs, new technologies and delivery mechanisms have made us question – pretty much for the first time – what learning is really all about.

    Out of this introspection has arisen a much better understanding of the taxonomy of learning – whether formal or informal, structured or unstructured, pull or push. One thing that is absolutely clear to me is that the past has been dominated by top-down
    ‘one-to-many’ training approaches, which the future will see an increase in bottom-up, ‘many-to-many’ learning approaches. Accordingly the two hottest topics in learning technology today are the rise in rapid development (or user-generated learning content) and social networks for learning. I do not believe that the future is merely a capitulation of traditional methods, but an integration of a variety of methods as appropriate – something like ‘meta-blending’: classroom teaching and mandatory online courses will remain, but their emphasis will shift from information-delivery to awareness-raising, as people depend more heavily on knowing when and how to refer. In line with this, the skillset of learning professionals will probably shift away from the more conventional ‘expert’ role towards the gathering and sharing of best practice – a role I have caricatured as the ‘honeybee’. Courses will give way to awareness + resources.

    But it also seems to me that there are three big gaps in the world of learning: one is the absence of a general consensus over what works well and a theoretical basis for it (a unified learning theory, if you like), the second is a freely available technology for authoring learning content (video and text are good, but really only components of a well-formed learning programme), and the third is a proper mechanism for web-based accreditation so that as our learners become free-range, they can have their skills independently assessed.

    For organisations there are massive ‘system shocks’ resulting from the increased pace of change: our conventional business hierarchies arose at at time when you could be fairly confident that the more senior a member of staff, the more they knew. Now expertise is more volatile, and organisations must find new ways of identifying experts and making use of what they know. Facilitating, rewarding and recognising the contributions that staff make to organisational best practice remains a big challenge.

    Exciting times, but I guess it will be some time before I will prefer food prepared by a chemist over that prepared by a chef.


    • Thanks so much for this thoughtful comment Nick. Perhaps, to take your analogy further, we need a few Heston Blumenthals of learning?!


  2. A business associate of mine recently told me that she never goes to learning institutions to learn something about how to run her business – instead, she goes to “experts” – people who are making money from doing the things she wants to learn about.

    Social media has created an explosion of information like never before. Many experts are online, blogging about their area of interest and expertise. If I want to learn how to improve my internet skills – that’s where I’ll go to find out how. If I want to learn about a professional qualification, I’ll do my research online beforehand even though I don’t expect to do the course CBT style, I’d still download some training tools from a few trainers who might not only teach the course but would also be successful in their professional field.

    I think social media and web 2.0 has had an impact on pedagogy. It’s a well known fact that to be seen as an expert on something, you need only get published. With social media it has never been easier to be published so there are many “experts” from whom the masses are learning.

    The challenge now is knowing whether the expert is worth their salt. We should ask ourselves however, if that challenge has always been present anyway.


  3. Yes, absolutely Xina. I saw a presentation a while ago where somebody said that the key skill we have to teach people nowadays is what Earnest Hemingway called ‘Crap detection’!


  4. I’m afraid I don’t buy into any proposition presenting technology or the use of social media and web 2.0 technologies as new pedagogies, anymore than the introduction of paper and ink. We should not confuse the way we learn with the medium we choose to channel learning through. I’ll support this by looking to ‘critical pedagogy’. Ira Shor described critical pedagogy in terms of “habits of thought, reading, writing, and speaking which go beneath surface meaning”, Paulo Freire employed this approach to learning in challenging domination through thinking critically about their situation.
    Now, if anything social media has opened up the opportunities for individuals and communities to challenge society and beliefs; critical pedagogy for the masses. Has the fundamental pedagogical ideology changed? I’d argue no. What has changed is the way individuals and groups optimise technology through pedagogy. Let us not confuse the how and why people learn with communication tools they employ to make it effective.

    The important message is not to sacrifice pedagogy on the altar of technology.

    “Ah” I hear the cry, “a luddite!” Not so. I doubt there is a more powerful advocate of the use of technology in the furtherance of learning than I. But technology and, in particular, web 2.0 and social media are not changing pedagogies, they simply challenge teachers and trainers to harness the technologies that their learners use and own whilst ensuring that learning takes place. Let us not kid ourselves that we are at the dawn of a new age of learning … the new tools we have and the rate at which we need to professionally develop to deploy these effectively is exciting – but we are not revolutionising pedagogy.

    I’d also argue strongly against the concept of ‘technology enhanced learning’ in favour of the proposition of technology facilitated learning – it is the media I choose to learn through, the impact on the quality of the learning is questionable. Yes, it might be more practical for me to learn online – it saves me time, I do it when I want, I travel less – but is it the learning that is enhanced or other aspects of my life?

    I tweet, therefore I learn ….. not convinced it is the tagline (or #hashtagline) for a new era of learning.

    So, where are we? Well, I’m rambling and reflecting at the same time. I’m going to use my ramblings to comment on a blog – I’m a technology enhanced learner, hurrah!

    I don’t agree we are questioning the very essence of learning for the first time. A very simple review of the literature challenges this, we have been questioning the essence of learning ever since we started trying to understand it, technology simply presents us with another way of testing that understanding. The new spanner with motorised jaws doesn’t make me question the essence of tightening a nut, but it does make it easier for me to do it. And technology isn’t responsible for changing the teacher/learner relationship. For as long as there have been teachers and learners there have been “top-down ‘one-to-many’ training approaches” and “bottom-up, ‘many-to-many’ learning approaches”. It is through critically analysing and reflecting on our approach to teaching and learning that we, as teachers, evolve new methodologies and meet the needs of our learners. It was thus before technology and will remain thus.

    As teachers and trainers we need to understand not how technology can help us teach, but how our learners use technology to learn – which is directly related to the way they communicate. I’d guess that they don’t communicate (learn) through a single, institutionally driven system (VLE), but through many and varied conduits at different times and for different reasons. As teachers and trainers we need to tap into these and recognise they will be different for different learners. Perhaps the best way to achieve this is for our ‘content’ to be able to be pulled through to the channels each of our learners use.



  5. Thanks for this reflective response Lee. This is just the sort of debate I was hoping to open up.

    I too have not been so sure about whether technology is changing the nature of pedagogy at all. However, quite a few people are talking about new ‘digital pedagogies’. I get quite frustrated with people putting the letter ‘e’ in front of things, or even ‘digital’. e-learning should just be learning, digital inclusion should really just be inclusion. The medium is not the message I think is the point I am trying to make!

    That said, we can’t ignore the information revolution that is taking place in our times. It really is as significant as the invention of the printing press.

    Towards the end of your post you began to talk about producing content for learners to access through whichever channels they use. Steve Wheeler at Plymouth University has some very interesting things to say about this. Essentially we’re moving from having a VLE to a PLE – personalised learning environment. His presentation here is worth a look: http://www.slideshare.net/timbuckteeth/new-pedagogies-for-the-digital-age

    And his blog can be viewed here: http://steve-wheeler.blogspot.com/


    • We, of course, (I mean IfL) have been at the forefront of personal learning spaces with our work on REfLECT with Pebble Learning. That said, the future can only be about utilising all of the technologies people use – not one. I blog here, I tweet there, I reflect, here … I showcase here


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