The Learning Age

This isn’t the Information Age, it’s the Learning Age; and the quicker people get their heads around that, the better – Prof Stephen Heppell

This is a quote from a short video on the future of learning which asks the key question, What do we want to do? (with all of this networked information technology).

There is little doubt that we need systemic change to prepare for the Learning Age, the signals are everywhere and the conversations are getting louder. Here’s an example: I recently met with some people in a large organization who are working on some new learning network initiatives. I mentioned that I was connected on Twitter to a person working on similar things and that I could connect them. On checking the name, we discovered that all of these people worked in the same organization but didn’t know what the others were doing. One limiting factor was the iron fist of the IT department, which doesn’t allow access to a wide variety of web sites and platforms. People cannot easily connect and therefore they cannot learn from each other. The silence between the silos is deafening.

Starting in the early years, schools need to shift to individualized learning. With 2GB of information being added every second, no one can “master content” any more. Jobs and roles are fragmenting so quickly (what’s a social media expert?) that a single, 12-year curriculum is laughable.

Business models and work practices are becoming networked and global, speeding the rate of time to implementation. The lines between work and leisure are blurring, as with work and learning. Today, about 16% of us can be described as hyperconnected but that is expected to grow to 40%, and I would say those people will be the main drivers of our economies and societies.

Every person in an organization can, and should, begin a journey to be active in the Learning Age:

Accept life in Beta and give up some control by trusting people to do their work.

Help people by enabling connections (outsourcing the IT department would be a good start) and assisting with methods like PKM.

Examine better ways to organize and structure but start the change at the individual and personal level.

Work at becoming better teachers, because when we teach, we learn best.

15 Responses to “The Learning Age”

  1. Archana Narayan

    Thanks for this post. To answer your tweet, “What is your org doing to prepare for the Learning Age?” I started a blog of my own because my organization encouraged me to do so. Each employee at Kern Learning Solutions owns a blog. My team members are active on Twitter, Facebook, Linkden, Second Life, and so on. This freedom has encouraged us to take control of our own learning and to reach out to other learning professionals and learn from them. This widens our minds to new possibilities and encourages us to think out of the box when working.

    As I see it, as a learning solutions company, if you do not encourage social learning, you cannot convince clients to accept is as a solution.

  2. Harold Jarche

    Good point, Archana; teaching & leading by example are quite effective. However, results can take some time and our “next-quarter-results-obsessed” business world doesn’t help.

  3. Dave Ferguson

    At the CSTD conference in Halifax last week, a woman asked how anyone can keep up with the various channels I’d been talking about. (I may have frightened her by displaying my feed reader, on which the “learning” tab had over 400 unread items.)

    I don’t recall what I said, but on reading your post, I recall a line I saw in the Whole Earth Catalog: “take what you can use, and let the rest go by.”

    To me, what that really means is to pay attention to what’s going on around you, but to adapt that to your own interests and needs.

    I’ve barely read any blogs, and even few Twitter posts, these last few weeks; a large client project has occupied virtually all my time. That’s just what’s going on at the moment, the way that when you’re repainting the house, you don’t take a lot of phone calls.

    I spoke recently with Ben Gardner of Pfizer UK (he was involved with the “Meet Jessica” slideshow. Jessica’s connections lean toward the internal, in part because of the company’s infrastructure, but I don’t think they’ll stay that way.

  4. Harold Jarche

    Good advice, Dave; pay attention but don’t get stressed about it. If it’s important, and you have good networks, it will appear more than once.

  5. Amit

    Your post rings a bell. We have had some instances of silos operating in a small team of roughly 150 people (guess that is large enough for formation of silos). Now working on some better KM/sharing practices…
    My take away from your post – “accept life in beta…”

  6. Lori Zittnan


    PKM was what prompted my curiosity in this post. First – because it was an acronym that I wanted to verify (PKM: Personal Knowledge Management). Some of the things that come up on Google under a “PKM” search are pretty diverse.

    But in my search I came back with a good debate about PKM and the argument of whether PKM in corporate America is best implemented under the perspective of PKM as personal, communal or both. The debate is being bantered between Steve Barth and Nick Milton

    Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) = corporate failure?

    Does Corporate Failure = PKM?

    I’d like to hear your expanded take on this particular aspect of The Learning Age journey. Or, maybe it’s a topic for a TogetherLearn unified blog post?

  7. Harold Jarche

    Lori, I don’t think I’ll weigh into an argument on PKM as I’m more interested in making things work for people and organisations. My perspective has been especially influenced by Lilia Efimova and Dave Pollard:

    People may debate all they want, but I want to focus on what works. PKM works for me and for many others, though we may quibble on its definition and nuances. I’m not developing an academic thesis; I am a practitioner and my work is to help my clients.

  8. Lori Zittnan

    Your March 12 post “Sense-making with PKM” included many of the pieces of your 5 page paper the the Understanding Blogging for Knowledge Workers plus a little more.

    I laughed at your explanation of what makes PKM worth pursuing:

    “Effective learning is the difference between surfing the waves or being drowned by them and PKM (personal knowledge management) can be your customized surfboard.”

    If the “proof is in the pudding” then the effectiveness of your own Personal Knowledge Management system speaks volumes.

    Clearly I am at the Sort and Classify stage of the process and still fleshing out the steps that integrate best with my work style. When I settle on a consistent classification that works for me personally, it will end up being beneficial to others or me in any communal environment: Corporate or otherwise.

    Thank you for a very complete response, and giving me pause to process it further.

  9. Harold Jarche

    Interesting thing about my own PKM process is that as soon as it becomes routine I feel that something is missing and start looking for gaps. My latest tool/process is what I do on Twitter, which is really changing my routine.

    As you note, Lori, I re-write a lot of my posts and articles, as I see it all as “work in progress” or “life in Beta”.

    Thanks for your engagement in the conversations here.

  10. Milan Davidovic

    I got here via your Learning to Work Smarter post, and I’m interested in following up on your point that “Business models and work practices are becoming networked and global, speeding the rate of time to implementation. “. Can you point to any sources of information (case studies, data, and so on) for this? Thanks… Milan


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