Learning is Connecting

“Education over the Internet is going to be so big it is going to make email usage look like a rounding error.” – John Chambers 1999

Cisco’s CEO, John Chambers, was right, but not the way most people understood it at the time. As everything gets connected, we have to re-think our ideas about education and training. While education over the internet may not be as pervasive as email today, learning over the internet is massive. Learning is happening on every social media platform. It’s just not being controlled by educators and trainers. For example, there are how-to videos on YouTube, learning-oriented chats on Twitter, study groups on Facebook, and professional communities on LinkedIn. Google Plus may soon become the biggest social learning platform, as it integrates with collaborative documents, and real-time video Hangouts that can automatically be recorded and made available via YouTube.

Jane Hart has asked learning professionals over the past several years what are their best web tools for learning. Here are last year’s top 10:

Twitter: Social network and micro-blogging site
Google Drive/Docs: Office suite & file storage service
YouTube: Video-sharing site
Google Search: Web search engine
PowerPoint: Presentation software
Evernote: Productivity tool
Dropbox: File storage & synchronization
WordPress: Blogging/website tool
Facebook: Social network
Google+ & Hangouts: Social networking & video meetings

It’s remarkable that these top 10 learning tools are not specifically designed for education. On the internet, work is learning and learning is the work. Education, especially formal instruction directed by some authority, is losing out to individual, and most importantly, peer to peer learning on the internet.

Dave Evans, Chief Futurist at Cisco, sees the nature of education is changing.

“Of course this is about more than simply raw network speeds; the Internet of Everything will also impact some of our basic assumptions about the purpose and nature of education. People today generally agree that the purpose of education is to convey knowledge. But if all the world’s knowledge is instantaneously available online via smartphone or Google Glass, how does that affect what we need to teach in school? Perhaps education will become less about acquiring knowledge, and more about how to analyze, evaluate, and use the unlimited information that is available to us. Perhaps we will teach more critical thinking, collaboration, and social skills. Perhaps we will not teach answers, but how to ask the right questions.”

I don’t think it is a question of the nature of education “perhaps” changing. I see the signs of change everywhere. The nature of professional education is shifting away from business schools and towards communities of practice. Every day is a learning day in emerging organizations where members share and freely cooperate in creating new practices that the B-schools are still coming to terms with. We cannot wait for the accepted business theory, as we develop new business practices.

Here’s a thought from long-time online educator, Roger Schank:

So, while I am declaring online education dead, because every university is doing it so the market will soon be flooded with crap, I am not declaring the idea of a learning by doing mentored experience dead.

Cisco: by @gapingvoid

This post is brought to you by InnovateThink and Cisco.
I retained all editorial control.

Further Resources:
http://www.fastcompany.com/41492/ciscos-quick-study (Sept 2000)

8 Responses to “Learning is Connecting”

  1. Jim Drake

    Today’s education is NOT about information, per se; it is about critical thinking and process that may lead to knowledge. How do I locate the most beneficial information? How do I know this (is this knowledge)? What is the process for making this determination? What framework is most appropriate to help me interpret my information/knowledge? How do I go about evaluating causation? Or, is it merely correlation? Teaching these, and other, processes is primary; knowledge is secondary. There is an abundance of knowledge; how do we gain wisdom, the rare commodity in this equation?

  2. Helen Blunden (@ActivateLearn)

    Great post once again Harold. I agree, “I see change everywhere”. In my observations, it’s not only learning teams in organisations or institutions that need to change and recreate the traditional ways of training into learning experiences. It’s wider than that. I have smaller businesses, some of whom are vendors who offer training products and services to the public or to organisations who are scratching their heads trying to figure out how to get “into the 21st century” as their clients ask for more blended programs – shorter programs – but still achieve the same outcomes. Dare I say it, the tools that Jane offers as tools for professional development are not for learning people alone – they’re for everyone. This is where I’m grappling to understand the enormity of the change and how, for the first time, you’re not only helping a client design and develop the learning experience – but you need to teach them how to use the tools so it becomes part of their social behaviour to build their own business, brand and reputation.

    (Oh by the way, thanks for the recommendation of the book Reinventing Organizations. I can see our organisation is an amber but strange that Human Resources is a fierce but fiery red)…

  3. Ewen Le Borgne

    I couldn’t agree more on the point of Dave Evans that “perhaps we will teach more critical thinking, collaboration, and social skills. Perhaps we will not teach answers, but how to ask the right questions.”

    IMHO, that connecting you are talking about is really about that indeed and the tools that we are using will stay on top because they help us get to that critical expertise and collective enquiry (not just accessing information) and helping us sharpen our personal and collective capacity to question and learn.

    But in most organisations in the field I’m in (global development), progress is still very slow. It’s something we want to explore in one of the upcoming issues of the Knowledge Management for Development Journal which we want to dedicate to ‘facilitation’…

    Thanks for your great inspiration, as ever…


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