Perpetual beta: Learning about Learning Technology

Harold Jarche talks about work in ‘perpetual beta‘. It’s a great subversive notion: ‘we’re not there yet‘. When Google launched, for a number of years it’s logo showed ‘beta‘ underneath: a business still exploring, taking software notions of community testing and agile development and applying it to work. My own new business, SeaSalt Learning is therefore working in constant beta: learning, sharing, changing.

Learning Technology in beta

Learning technology can facilitate learning, but doesn’t guarantee it: we need a mindset for great learning design

It’s my second day at Learning Technology 14, a huge London affair with suppliers, clients, thinkers and writers all merging together to share ideas, and my second day of sharing my own reflections around the current state of learning technology. Yesterday i painted a map, outlining six key areas where technology has impacted on learning in the Social Age: infrastructure, sharing, curation, broadcast, scoring and subverting. Today i want to reflect on the changing nature and applications of learning technology and understand how it helps us to learn.

It comes back to ‘beta‘ again: curation isn’t a one time event, it’s constant if it’s going to remain relevant, be that a Social Leader curating their community spaces or a business curating their brand. In the Social Age, we have to be responsive, at speed, with authenticity.

Technology itself can facilitate great learning experiences, but doesn’t guarantee them: that’s why i called my last book ‘Mindset for Mobile Learning‘. It’s more about how we use it than what it can do. Mindset is about understanding our evolving relationship with technology: how it supports performance, how it enables ideas to be amplified and shared, how it subverts formal hierarchies and power structures, processes and formats.

That’s the third time i’ve used the word ‘subvert‘ and it’s deliberate: from the way technology has subverted the publishing industry to how it’s revolutionised Instructional Design and communication, technology puts power into our own hands to control and influence on a global scale.

But we have to elevate ourselves above the conference floor, above our everyday reality. When we fall into ‘solutions‘ mode too early and try to buy the latest, greatest and coolest thing, we just perpetuate poor learning. We need to develop solid learning methodologies and approaches and use the technology in service of that. We need to be agile in our approach: develop awareness of the marketplace and use it to inform our thinking, but use the amplification of social channels to develop and refine our own ideas, then pull in the technology in service of that. In other words, put our own horse in front of the cart. Don’t get pulled around by technology: use it to enhance what you can do.

Get that right and you’ll be in constant beta: growing stronger through your understanding and networks. A true learner in the Social Age.

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About Julian Stodd

A learning and development professional specialising in e-learning and learning technology.
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8 Responses to Perpetual beta: Learning about Learning Technology

  1. benoitdavid says:

    Yes, we’re always learning, and it’ll never end. But we need closure to properly progress. We need finality in the endevours we undertake. Too often we find ourselves saying “please, let’s make a decision… we’ll get back to it if needed, but for now, we need to close it.”

    Agile is actually great in that regard, it allows and fosters the idea of continuation. But it does so by focusing objectives, get something done, wrap it up, and move on to the next… all the while keeping an eye on what has been done (evaluation) with the parallel objective of making it better. But that doesn’t mean going back and fix it: it means putting it back on the table as we move forward. It is a state of mind.

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