Mobile Learning: day five – why knowledge is no longer enough

My final day working on the new book about mobile learning. Having completed sections on technology and learning design, today i am exploring why knowledge is no longer enough.

Why knowledge is no longer enough

We used to have to know things. Our formal education was largely concerned with making facts stick in our heads and providing us with methodologies for how to find out more facts and join them together. When we joined the formal world of work, we sat through inductions that taught us more facts, as well as some form of codified tribal knowledge about ‘how things really work around here’.

Knowledge was a source of power: know how to use the scanner and you had power over other people. If you were the only person who knew how something was done, you were somehow hard wired into the infrastructure of the place, part of the building, indispensable.

Today, knowledge is no longer enough: the search engines have tamed knowledge, dragged it out of the pages of books, out of our memories and placed it into one immersive cloud that surrounds us. Whilst search engines have collated and filtered it, mobile devices have given us access down at the allotment, on the train, in the office whilst hunched over the scanner and whilst we are queueing at the supermarket.

Knowledge has been liberated: i used to have to know things, now i just need to know how to find things out.

With this change in knowledge have come shifts in power and the creation of opportunities. The skill sets that formed the foundations of success yesterday are eroding, whilst new skills are required to survive and thrive today. The agile learner will win.

Agility is not about knowing things, it’s about knowing how to find them out but, more than that, it’s about synthesising that knowledge into meaningful action. What you know is less important than knowing what to do with what you find out. The agile learner takes action and welcomes change: because the world is changing faster than ever and it’s down to us to develop strategies to thrive in this environment.

Agile learners don’t know the answers, but they know how to find them out and take action, all at speed. Not rashly, but effectively. Agile learners recognise that decisions made today can be learnt from and refined to help us make better decisions tomorrow. Nothing is forever and that is particularly true in the new world. Things that used to feel constant are now changing and things that we expect to change are now changing faster than ever. Our ability to predict the future may not be great, but agile learners can adapt to it fast.

Mobile gives us access to a vast range of resources, but our skill has now become how we discern the good from the bad. Are you a wise consumer of knowledge? What do we take at face value and what do we need to question? In the new world, the skill is less about knowing things, more about our ability to make value judgements, to ascertain how much weight we can put behind information, how credible it is.

There is a great deal of conversation about performance support, ‘just in time’ learning and ‘learning bursts’. The notion is, correctly, that there is value in putting the right information in front of people in a concise format at the right time. But there is more to it that that. It’s not the right information that is important, it’s our ability to do the right thing with the right information. Making the knowledge work for us.

Information itself is sterile, it has no value if we are unable to apply it, to use it. I realise that there is value in just knowing things for the pleasure of knowing them, but i am looking at this from a performance perspective, within the world of formal learning. Abstract knowledge has less value than applied action.

Performance enhancement is about doing things better, more wisely, delivering better results. To do this, we have to learn. Mobile sits as the facilitating technology in this space: the devices have liberated us from the desktop, put us within a fingers width, or voice control, of knowledge, but in and of themselves they do now make that knowledge work for us. Developing our agility is how we will leverage true value from this knowledge. Being unafraid to create spaces for experimentation, spaces to make mistakes and spaces to learn.

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About julianstodd

A learning and development professional specialising in e-learning and learning technology.
This entry was posted in Complexity, Effectiveness, Information, Knowledge, Learning, Learning Technology, M-Learning, Mobile Learning and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Mobile Learning: day five – why knowledge is no longer enough

  1. Fran says:

    I’m skeptical when someone seems to suggest that you “never” need to know something, that there is always time to “look it up.” Do you really believe that or am I misinterpreting what you said.

  2. julianstodd says:

    Hey Fran, you’re right to pick me up on it – it was a rather rash statement! This is why i’ve posted some excepts from the book up – to let people haul me back to reality :-)

    The point i was working on was that the fundamental ways that we access and manipulate knowledge are changing. But you’re right, we will always need some of it in our heads… it’s more about the capability of using the tools to enhance our performance.

    Thanks for the feedback!

  3. Pingback: Tribal knowledge: sharing and informing in the age of social and mobile learning | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  4. Pingback: Creating meaning in social learning: interpretation | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

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