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. Change Agents Worldwide, composed of free-agents and salaried professionals in large organizations, is an example of this new kind of learning community. Every day is a learning day in CAWW as the over 60 members share and freely cooperate in creating new organizational 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

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)

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