The Future of Learning? It’s Here.

I’ve spent the last couple of days sharing stories and talking to some great people: curious, intrigued, speculating, experimenting and learning. Pondering how to take their organisations forward, how to adapt them, change them, to make them fit for the Social Age. Much of the conversation has been about what learning should look like in the future, but the thing is, the future is already here.

Future of Learning

Sketching out some of the themes, i thought there may be value in #WorkingOutLoud and capturing some of the conversations. This is by no means a definitive list, but rather the half dozen aspects of conversation that lodged in my mind this week.

The Knowledge

We are moving beyond learning being about knowledge, to it being more about application: it’s what you do with it that counts. Trite and obvious maybe, but worth exploring ‘how’ we carry out that ‘sense making’ function, how we find out what’s worth watching, reading or listening too, and how we can engineer that into our hand crafted, scaffolded Social Learning programmes. How we can make it happen by design, not accident. It’s easy to observe how our relationship with knowledge has changed, but harder to design with that as a guiding philosophy.

Learning is increasingly distributed: in the future that will be ever more so. Mobile technology facilitated this, as does our evolved sociology, our evolved ways of connecting in communities, sharing, amplifying and discovering. The distribution of learning is good, but with it comes a new contract: if we are engaging with people in the real world, we have to write our learning stories to meet the environment. We can’t just use new channels, like mobile and social, to push the old stories into these new spaces and expect people to engage. New learning paradigms are required for new times, and nothing is more real than the realities of the Social Age: a time of constant change.

Aspects of Authority

There are many different aspects to authority, some hierarchically determined, others socially moderated

Alongside the distribution and individualisation of learning has come the democratisation of authority, the rise of Social Authority, based on the quality of interaction, curation and dedication to the community over time: reputation that is earned and awarded, socially moderated and contextual. We see this on YouTube and, increasingly, as part of our efforts to develop Social Leadership, need to engineer it into current learning design (not future learning design!).

Learning is more applied: or it should be if it’s worthy of the title. Don’t get me wrong, i’m fully in favour of the generalist, of learning for the joy of learning, but if we are making people do it, it must be easily applicable. We can’t waste people’s time with learning stories that are too long, too bland or to abstract. Which is what a lot of organisational learning is.


Finally: we need to consider the facilitating roles, the support offered, the ways we help people to learn and performa. Increasingly that may be social communities as well as formal, hierarchical roles, so we need to recognise and support the people who offer that, as well as ensure the spaces and permissions exist to let it happen.

The future of learning is not distant and abstract: it’s here right now. It’s how we respond to that new reality that will define the success we achieve in adapting our organisations to be fit for the Social Age.

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.
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6 Responses to The Future of Learning? It’s Here.

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