Education Opinion

Technology Changes Approach to Learning

By Learning Forward — June 20, 2013 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

In my last blog, Lessons from Workforce Learning Leaders, I shared my reactions to attending the Chief Learning Officers Breakfast Club conference sponsored by Chief Learning Officer magazine. As a K-12 educator, I’ve been attending the learning sessions it sponsors and reading their publications to get the business world’s perspective on teaching and learning. The magazine is aimed at tracking the trends in global enterprise education and supporting executives who oversee, authorize, fund and support learning and development programs.

During the morning-long interactive panel, I listened to Raj Ramachandran, University of Phoenix; Eric Brunner, GP Strategies; Bob Blondin, Xerox Learning Services, and moderator Lew Walker, head of AT&T Learning Services, ponder three key questions about learning. In my last blog, I shared what the panelists and audience discussed about the changing nature of work. Now for the second question, what is the changing nature of learning?

So what and how has the nature of learning changed? How are learners different today than a decade ago? What unique qualities describe learning in our fast-paced 21st century school and work environments? Despite the unnerving rate of change both corporate and K-12 education leaders have experienced in recent years, the panelists and participants concluded the nature of learning really hasn’t changed. Everyone agreed adult learning theory is still solid, and, in effect, for something to be defined as learning, it must meet four criteria; it must (1) occur in context, (2) be active, (3) be social, and (4) be reflective.

So if learning theory is still relevant, why does the field of learning feel so different? Why do learning leaders, across the board, feel that learning has been turned upside down? What the panelists conjectured and the audience seemed to confirm is that how these four criteria are being approached now makes the nature of learning appear to be changing. What’s happening today, according to Marcy P. Driscoll, dean of Florida State University College of Education, is that, increasingly, technology is the tool being used to enhance the learning experience and address each of the four learning theory criteria, thus, learning feels differently today than say 15, 10, or even five years ago. By using technology, learners now control the learning landscape, tipping the nature of learning on its ear.

Now, with instant access to social media and online course materials, learners are quickly building personal learning networks customized to their unique learning needs. Easy access to reasonably priced hardware such as tablets makes it simple for learners to create a learning environment with or without the assistance of a teacher, coach, or facilitator. For example, Project Tomorrow reports that 27% of middle school students and 35% of high school students use digital textbooks. According to PBS, 91% of instructors have access to computers in their room. And, digitaltrends.com notes 58% of college students prefer a digital format for textbooks.

No wonder learning feels different now. Learners do it using tools and in environments never tapped before. Learners control learning inputs and outputs because technology has opened access to content once the exclusive domain of the learning leader. Learners can now be their own “chief learning officers.” The natural outgrowth of this change is that what learning leaders know and are able to do has changed dramatically.

For my next post, I’ll talk about what the Chief Learning Officers panelists said about the final question, what are the skills and competencies required for learning leaders today?

Carol V. Francois
Director of Learning, Learning Forward

The opinions expressed in Learning Forward’s PD Watch are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.