Enough with 2.0

I’ve decided to repent. The phrase 2.0 used in relation to learning no longer sits well with me. I’ve blogged about web/learning/elearning 2.0 (at least 20 references on my elearnspace blog search)…I’ve delivered presentations (Connectivism and Web 2.0)…but I’m at the point where I don’t feel comfortable using the term “learning 2.0″. I mourn my discomfort in this podcast (8 minutes).

I’m concerned because I don’t think learning has changed. The act of learning (how our brain stores, recognizes, and retrieves knowledge) is fairly stable. Our external environment is not. As a result, over the last 30 years, many situations have developed in society that challenge established approaches to learning. Static is replaced with dynamic. Content is replaced (or at least augmented) with connections to ensure that people stay current. My whole intent with connectivism is to present the need to design a new approach and view of learning – one that is not hamstrung by classrooms, but is a thread that runs through the entire fabric of life. Learning as natural as breathing, as constant as a beating heart.

Maybe a bit of my concern is the machete work of language. Technologists use language as a means of beating newcomers into a state of confusion. Our field has more “insider speak” than any other (including medicine). It takes a newcomer years just to understand the language (forget actually joining the dialogue!). We use language as a barrier to newcomers. We should use it as a means to welcome others into the space to dialogue, share, and grow together. We are already at learning 2.0…and 85% of instructors and managers are still not at elearning. Do we really need more new words in our field? What does the phrase 2.0 add that is not added through concepts that are more readily understood (I say this to myself – I’ve 2.0′d many concepts as well).

Current talk and hype about learning 2.0 blurs the line between what has changed and what has not. We don’t have a new version of learning (i.e the act of learning itself). We do, however, have a new climate in which different approaches need to be taken to foster learning. Our old systems don’t work today. But the problem isn’t that we need to rethink the act of learning (30 years doesn’t result in much “evolution of the human brain”). I think it’s possible to get to focused on language (and trying to derive associated meaning) that the potential of an industry is dulled.

While I’m complaining – I would also like to highlight the severe deficiency in our vision in regards to our potential. We are not good keepers of our industry. We are designing courses, blogging, running wikis, and reading RSS. We think that’s where the learning is…that we are doing our learners a service by taking these approaches. But it’s more. Much more. Our myopic vision does a disservice to our field. As learning designers, it’s about designing for life. Learning is all around – TV, newspapers, internet, conversations, etc. We can’t get away from learning. Yet we toil away in front of our computers, designing for this narrow space called “learning”. I think the learning specialist of tomorrow (as early as five years) will hold many positions not traditional to our field. The concepts of learning and technology will penetrate (actually, they have already, people are slow to acknowledge it) into every area of our corporation, organizations, and schools. Those who understand the new space of constant learning will play a key role in helping organizations and people achieve their potential (and the idealist in me says, “to make a better world”). We simply think too small. We think we are trimming the hedges, when we have the potential to alter the entire landscape – to alter the very make up of the soil in which the hedges grow.

Am I splitting hairs with this argument? How can we portray that we are at a new place in regards to method of learning, but still in the same place in regards to the act of learning? How can we grow our scope, our image, our conception of learning and learning design (especially when we break from courses and classrooms).

15 Responses to “Enough with 2.0”

  1. Our brains – and consequently, how we learn – may not have changed much in recent years (though there is some debate on that).
    But our understanding of how we learn has changed substantially, and continues to change.

  2. Hi Stephen – I think we’re in agreement here. The changes in our brains (some have suggested they’re being rewired) pale in comparison to a) how much the environment in which we are in has changed and b) how much our understanding of learning and cognition has changed.
    You article on connective knowledge is an excellent example of an appropriate reframing of knowledge. It’s need, flow and function is different. That needs to be highlighted. But I’m concerned that we are blurring the changed process with the actual act of learning. Learning 2.0 suggests that learning has now changed – i.e. it is better than learning 1.0 (at least that’s how I think in tech terms – the newer version is better).
    I’d like to hear your response on whether we need a new term…or what your thoughts are about my assertion that the additional terminology muddies an already fragmented field.
    Take care

  3. Jeremy says:

    Agreed with all of this, George. One important part of this shift is in people actively taking more responsibility for their learning — figuring out what they need to learn to achieve a goal (maybe to get things done in jobs where they’re empowered to solve problems rather than just being part of the assembly line), choosing when and how to learn, and seeking out the connections they require (resources, people, content, etc). Most of these decisions have traditionally been the responsibility of instructors, curriculum directors and instructional designers shaping courses and programs.
    It’s also true that self-directed “informal” learning has been around forever — libraries, correspondence courses, asking local people questions — but the web really has changed our expectations of what kinds of learning are possible and desirable, particularly in connecting us to each other. You’re spot-on with your criticism of educators and technologists who continue to be constrained by the old expectations.

  4. Roger says:

    I agree that learning 2.0 is stretching a metaphor but I still think web 2.0 is useful for some audiences – even though some are also arguing that technically it might have little meaning.
    We do however need to wave some kind of ‘new learning’ flag to change our expectations of what is possible. Over the last couple of years I have used ‘holistic learning’ , ‘transformational learning’ , ’21st century learning’ , ‘personalised learning’ , ‘integral learning’ …
    They all convey different things but most convey that things are different.
    Actually I’ll have to stop using ’21st century learning’ soon… people are getting sick of hearing it. Perhaps ‘3rd millennium learning’ :-)
    In the end it’s about changing perspectives as much as tools and processes – and it could be argued that changing perspectives is more important than the latter.
    “The eye is blind to what the mind does not see.”

  5. Hi Jeremy – good point about getting learners to be more responsible for their learning. This is a fairly constant challenge for educators (especially at an adult level). Teaching learners how to recognize the important from the worthless…how to function in chaos…how to detect pattern from complex spaces – these are the challenges of educators today. Instead of teaching content, we need to teach skills to manage an abundance of content. The shift seems to be too much for many learners. It is, after all, stressful to accept uncertainty and still move forward.

  6. Roger, I agree that we need to raise a new flag that challenges our sense of what is possible with learning (especially in a digital era). The terms you use (transformative, integral) are valid augmentations of learning. The notion of “2.0″ suggests an upgrading of learning…that some how we now have a new and improved way that we learn (learning is an unclear term at best – do we refer to process? the act? the verb? adjective?). Integral learning represents a type of learning…learning 2.0 suggests a new type of learning (the act – how it happens in our head). When you say “transformative learning”, I know that you are referring to the process and intent of learning (i.e. you are not suggesting that learning (the act in our head) is now different). When we stop using words that link to process…and start playing around with concepts that link to the act itself (as Stephen suggested – some say that our minds may actually be rewired (Richard Restak)…but few would be so bold as to suggest that it is a significant rewiring that has altered the act of learning. Even those suggesting “rewiring” are only providing suggestive, not conclusive, evidence).
    As stated earlier, I may be picking at a small issue…but I’m personally tiring of the confusion I see in instructors in pursuing the “next thing” that is certain to die as hype. I’m absolutely convinced (versus only partially :) ) that learning 2.0 has a short shelf life. Anything 2.0 sets up 3.0 and so on. The quest of continual cool in technology is at the doorstep of teaching and learning.

  7. A good start to a conversation that I think needs to happen on what is actually changing in learning.
    I think how we need to learn has changed.
    A note on language…
    I think that abstruse terms like “transformative learning” (transforming what? how?), “21st Century learning” (could be anything) and “integral learning” (I don’t even know what that means!) are just another lot of jargon that are going to alienate rather than elucidate and I think we would be better off using descriptive, plain English terms like “lifelong learning”, “lifewide learning” and “learning culture” that I think most people would instantly grok, in order to get the message across.

  8. Laura says:

    Maybe what we’re really talking about is teaching 2.0. Learning may not have changed, but in many cases neither has teaching. Professors are still standing at the front of the room lecturing and students are still just taking notes and then doing their best to spit all that out on a test. While some teachers and those of us who support them are trying to create an environment that puts more responsibility on the learner, many are not fighting that battle, especially at the college level. Students have been trained to be very passive in the education and they bring that with them to college.
    How long should this paper be? What should it be about? Will this be on the test?
    Those are the questions they’re asking instead of trying to actually learn. And, yes, it’s hard to get them beyond that, but we absolutely have to try and I think your conception of connectivism is one way to do that.
    I think the question for me is, how do we convince those that aren’t tackling this issue to tackle it? How do non-teachers tell teachers how to teach?

  9. Perhaps learning 2.0 is just our way of indicating that tech has enabled us to get closer to our native intelligence, our personal genius. I am one of those who while not active in the blogosphere am very active in promoting learning tools of all kinds to students, colleagues, and anyone who will listen to my blogvangelism. My learning tech runs the gamut from the pocket notebook from Family Dollar and an Eagle Mirado Black Warrior pencil to a classroom podcast via Blackboard and Moodle. I am a practitioner, an applied researcher into the manifold ways of connection. Connecting might involve memory work, it might involve posing a question, it might involve improvisation, it might involve meditating. I happen to think one of the most interesting pieces of tech (community of practice 2.0 if you will) is Open Spaces as practiced by Owen, Corrigan, et al. This “social software” probably has a higher up potential for college teachers than anything Web 2.0 has offered up. In the end it, too, is just another tool for getting closer to that native intelligence I am constantly striving for as a teacher and learner. Keep on, George.

  10. I don’t really care about the name e-learning 2.0; it was a natural after the emergence of Web 2.0, it was a good tag on which to hang the material in some of my talks, and it made a nice title for the article based on those talks. The article, in turn, proved surprisingly popular – whether this had to do with the name or the content is anybody’s guess.
    What I’m after is captured in part by the difference between the use of the LMS and the blog in learning. This is not a new distinction; I have been on about it for several years now. It’s what I have been putting under the head of ‘learning networks’ (a term that did not capture the public imagination).
    I admit that right now it doesn’t feel like e-learning 2.0 introduces anything dramatically different to the picture. It will. You have to remember that the term denotes the practice that follows given a new technological approach. Web 2.0 is still very much cutting edge. We will feel the difference, the unintended consequences, when it hits mainstream. The same will be true in learning.

  11. Sean – I can see what you’re saying about terms like “transformative learning”. Yes, language is a pain. I do think, however, that even a term like transformative learning has more meaning (or at least more potential for communicating meaning) than attaching 2.0 to a term. You’re right in suggesting that we need simple, plain terms to communicate what we mean. Not sure how to best capture the spirit of the new learning needs/environment through language. The introduction of new terms always runs an adoption cycle – some terms intuitively make sense (I think learning 2.0 makes sense to educational technologists who understand it as a backdrop of elearning – a newcomer to the field, however, will be completely confused). Other terms (like lifelong learning) have been around for decades…but the adoption issue is systemic rather than understanding the term itself.

  12. Laura – I think you’ve hit the real issue. It’s about teaching 2.0. I guess part of the challenge is our use of terms like “learning management system” (when really we mean teaching management). Learning 2.0, as a concept, says much more about changes in teaching strategy than it does about learning. Whereas learning (the act) hasn’t changed substantially, teaching has (well, as you noted, it hasn’t in many classrooms – but it should change – lecture and test methods should give way to a more diverse approach incorporating the multi-faceted aspect of learning).

  13. Hi Terry – I think most instructors fit your profile – i.e. behind the seems evangelism of newer approaches to teaching. A few spout and blog…the rest actually work on implementation :) .
    Stephen: With regards to elearning 2.0 (your article) – in my view, the content of the article is what made it effective – I’m in strong agreement with what you stated about new approaches to teaching and fostering learning. I think you also raise a good point about terminology – “learning networks” as a term doesn’t seem to captivate people…(e)learning 2.0 does. The difference you captured between LMS and blog/wiki/social-bookmarked approach to teaching is critical.
    The notion that learning online is a transformative experience (i.e. the environment transforms the act of teaching itself) is one that you, Jay, and I (among others) have blogged about for years. Teaching online is about more than simply transferring content and process to a new space. it’s about using the internet for its unique affordances in providing an entirely different learning experience (as a process, not an act). Terminology plays such a critical role…and I really don’t have an alternative to capture the nuances of what has been termed as “learning 2.0″. As stated above, I’m concerned that the term will have a short shelf live and defeat the purpose of describing this new space. So, I have new solution, just complaints :) .

  14. Dave Lee says:

    George: Great dialogue. The stuff I new Connectivism was going to generate when you started it. As has been said, Web2.0 makes good sense to me. One, it’s technology. Two, it’s a huge shift in technology that is happening and not just in the learning arena.
    Teaching 2.0 makes some sense, but I too worry that too many instructors will cling to the old ways and methods til the bitter end. Some of those will give mouth service to Web2.0 technologies (use a wiki to write your term paper, but make sure it’s no more than 20 pages long and double spaced when you turn it in. DOH!) To me Teaching 2.0 would include the abolition of linear term papers, team learning (including transuniversity even transnational teams) becoming superior to individual knowledge aggregation, plagerism disappearing as a concept (because citations would be in the metadata of the concepts), and student don’t gain admission to a school but are awarded an apprenticeship with a department. Then you’re talking something equivalent to Web2.0.
    As for Learning 2.0 I just think the term is so limiting in concept to what truly in happening. Are “new ways” of learning being accepted more and more over the past few decades? You bet. But learning styles research, Gardiner’s work on multiple intelligences, and similar efforts have not created new ways of learning. They’ve merely liberated those styles of learning from a tyranny of the dominant paradigm. A paradigm whose genesys is often associated with Aristotle and the Greeks, given credence by Aquinas and institutionalized by the Industrial Revolution.
    No wonder this emancipation seems like a shift worthy of the label of 2.0!
    One of the things that as appealed to me about Web 2.0 is that it seems we are actually beginning to align the tools we use to organize our individual and group conceptualizations of the world to the way the human mind works. The more we learn about what that amazing machine between our ears does second to second, the more ridiculous our past conceptualizations about learning sound. Concepts which seemed cutting edge just 20 years ago are, in reality, simple minded and limiting. Maybe, George, your discomfort with the term Learning 2.0 comes from the fact that Learning 2.0 happened a very long, long time ago but someone misplaced the owner’s manual!
    Thanks, again for the thought provocation, George!
    PS – Where is the Connectivism RSS Feed?!?

  15. corrie says:

    Can we also dispense with “e-learning?” What’s with the need for buzzwords, anyway? Sometimes I think it’s just deliberate obsfucation, throwing a bunch of meaningless words out there to obscure the fact that we don’t have a clue what we’re talking about.
    It’s just LEARNING. Whether it’s 10,000 MMORPG players creating a fantasy empire, 10 students collaborating on a class project (whether presented on posterboard or RSS2), or two people having a conversation over a cup of coffee, learning is learning.
    The only thing that technology brings is a given set of capabilities and constraints. Most of those capabilities and constraints speak more to the logistics of the learning activity than to the learning itself. The selection of a given set of technologies is often driven more by logistic needs than by the nature of the content or the learners.
    For example, industry has adopted performance support systems, distance learning, and JIT training not because those delivery methods are “better” than F2F classroom training but because they are more efficient and less expensive.