Have We Entered Learning 3.0?

As may be obvious, the title of this post was inspired by Thomas
Friedman’s book The World is Flat, in which he argues that fundamental shifts in world markets have led to Globalization 3.0. My
impression is that the world of learning is also experiencing
fundamental shifts, suggesting that we may have entered Learning 3.0.
It seems that a number of factors have come into play to allow for more
collaborative learning than previously possible.  People, such as those
in the Ho’ohana Community, are using the new opportunities to redefine
how they learn. Friedman devoted over 600 pages to his thesis.  Having
neither Friedman’s eloquence nor breadth of knowledge, I’ll share my thoughts in a few paragraphs, then encourage
the community to teach and learn from each other.

Learning 1.0
has been around throughout the ages and continues today. I see it as characterized by
"push" learning, wherein those with particular knowledge teach others.
Push learning happens in homes, classrooms, and workplaces, and traditionally occurs in-person.
Think of the master craftsman teaching the apprentice or the algebra
instructor teaching a classroom of high school freshmen. The teacher,
or teaching institution, is primarily responsible for deciding what subject matter the student
needs to learn and how education will be

During the heyday of Learning 1.0, college students selected an
area of specialty, learned enough to get an entry-level position in the
field, gained on-the-job experience, and remained in the same industry
(perhaps with the same company) for the duration of their careers. Society
came to count on the regimen and pace of Learning 1.0 and built
institutions to support the model. 

Learning 2.0 came about
because of several shifts that allowed for what I view as "pull" learning.  Pull learning allowed students more control to over the
subject matter they chose to explore, as well as the timing and
location of learning.  While much learning still occurs in-person,
technological advances in communications allowed for distance
learning.  While much of learning is still front-loaded in elementary
and secondary education, life-long learning became the catch-phrase for
a whole new approach. Individuals often
experienced waves of learning in which they could undertake new
learning initiatives at various times throughout their lives. 

changes became much more common; some voluntary and some thrust upon
workers because of layoffs and skills obsolescence. Learning 2.0 allowed
these workers to make these career changes successful, as institutions
arose and adapted to meet the new demand. Online degrees, night and
weekend coursework, and non-traditional college students abounded. 

3.0, for the sake of this thought experiment, is characterized by
"collaborative learning". Learning is distributed across communities,
so that individuals teach
and learn from each other. Learning not only occurs in waves, but is
also a continuous, fluid process of research, discussion, and
discovery. Learning 3.0 is made possible by recent technological
improvements in connectivity, which make location largely a non-factor,
and by unrestricted access to knowledge. Students interested in a new subject can
spend less time seeking information, allowing more time for
collaboratively building upon existing knowledge. Learning
3.0 takes advantage of informal means of learning, which supplement
rather than replace more formal forms of education.

An example of Learning 3.0 is Moodle, the
open-source software that is sparking a flurry of collaborative
learning in (none other than) the education industry. The website
explaining the philosophy behind Moodle is instructive, and I’ll quote a few key points.

asserts that learning is particularly effective when constructing
something for others to experience. This can be anything from a spoken
sentence or an Internet posting, to more complex artifacts like a
painting, a house or a software package.

Social Constructivism
[] extends the above ideas into a social group constructing things for
one another, collaboratively creating a small culture of shared
artifacts with shared meanings. When one is immersed within a culture
like this, one is learning all the time about how to be a part of that
culture, on many levels.

Connected behavior is a more empathic
approach that accepts subjectivity, trying to listen and ask questions
in an effort to understand the other point of view. [] A healthy amount
of connected behavior within a learning community is a very powerful
stimulant for learning, not only bringing people closer together but
promoting deeper reflection and re-examination of their existing

Your job as a ‘teacher’ can change from being ‘the
source of knowledge’ to being an influencer and role model of class
culture, connecting with students in a personal way that addresses
their own learning needs, and moderating discussions and activities in
a way that collectively leads students towards the learning goals of
the class.

It is with a great deal of humility that I even
broach the question posed by the title of this post.  Perhaps it is
simply that my learning experiences have shifted fundamentally.  Yet
when I read about classroom teachers embracing Moodle’s philosophy of
collaborative learning, and when I participate in the collaborative
learning that has taken place in the Ho’ohana Community this month, I
continue to wonder, have we entered Learning 3.0?

Related Post:
Can academia teach collaborative learning?

TechnoratiBlaine Collins is the author of the Stronger Teams Blog, a collection of thoughts about teams, teamwork, collaboration, and team leadership. He draws upon three decades of experience in managing, leading, and
participating with teams in various businesses and the public sector. His most important roles in life are as husband, father, and son.  He is an avid football (soccer) enthusiast. 


  1. says

    I’m fascinated by the emerging learning models we humans are experimenting with. More fascination comes when I watch the Discovery channel nature shows and observe learning at its most fundamental – with animals, birds, and insects. I need to read this post more carefully and digest the Learning 3.0 idea – what is it, really? And, why do we need it?
    Are “influencers” really the key? Is connected behavior more effective? I believe we each learn differently – and that in observing those around us, we pick and choose what stays in our brains as “learning”. That seems like a ‘collective approach’ but – is it more ‘individual’? And, does it work?

  2. says

    Blaine – it seems to me you’ve put a good case together for learning 3.0.
    This forum, this month, Rosa’s genius in drawing together such a wealth of learning experiences and amazingly diverse contributors has certainly shown me a different style of learning than I have ever experienced before.
    Not only have I learned about the “Compulsivo Literosa” condition; and to ask which “tent” I am in; and to be ignorant; and to learn a new tech language; and to want what she has in her marriage; and to value serendipitous learning; and to be inspired to have conversations with my children about how they learn; and to go back to the classics; and to be aware of my ‘inside out tendencies’ and do outside in things…
    (deep breath – that was all off the top of my head…I know there were many more learnings, please forgive me if I didnt mention you!)
    I have also learned about writing blog posts, and being brave, and showing up authentically, and about how amazing this community is and how inspirational Rosa is to us all – sometimes so amazing it scares me and I wonder whether I could ever make such a contribution. (I have even been inspired to un-lurk and get over the doubts:)
    If this is what Learning 3.0 is about, then I guess the answer (from me, anyway) is it sure seems like it!

  3. says

    Blaine, I have read Friedman’s book also. I am fearful that Learning 3.0 will become another overused buzz word.
    For all the advances that there have been in technology, I think the basic learning experience remains the same today as it did previously. The learner needs to be ready. The “what’s in it for me?” needs to be present. If these two conditions are met, then the actual learning connection can be made.
    The difference is that where the two people involved in the learning connection or exchange needed to be co-located before, they can be almost anywhere today.

  4. says

    Yvonne, Karen, and Steve, I’m going to be tied up most of the rest of the day, but I wanted to quickly thank you for your comments.
    Yvonne – you are on to something with the idea that others influence our own learning. Just by your mention of what we can learn about learning from nature, that sparks my interest to do some research in that area.
    Karen – Your comments are inspiring. I think many of us share your sentiments and haved had similar experiences this month. I’m so glad you decided to un-lurk! Please let us hear more from you.
    Steve – I deliberated a good deal about whether to use the “3.0” tag because of the very concern you raised. Still, I hope it is useful for allowing us to jointly explore where we have been and whether/how learning is evolving.

  5. says

    Fascinating topic for discussion, especially since my podcast today is about ‘Learning to Learn’. Peter Drucker stated that “our most important task is to teach people how to learn.”
    Right now I am in the midst of creating new tools for my coaching clients. Some of them are training tools for their staff on topics like sales and selling, creating a position vision for employees jobs, to a guide to write a business plan.
    I am using a combination of auditory, visual, and kinesthetic modes in these new tools. I create the ‘structure’ for the learning opportunity by adding a layer of audio coaching and ‘framing’ (why the task is important) the opportunity, then provide a unique tool that allows the ‘student’ to prioritize, journal, and identify their particular ‘gaps’ in knowledge, skill, or attitude that needs to improve. They also have access to other resources depending on their needs.
    Plus their managers can use the system as a coaching tool and with the additional resources the ‘student’ can continue on a path of constant and never ending improvement, independently.
    Change is fluid and so our ability to learn and adapt quickly needs a different approach, tools, and methodology. I like to say that “It is like changing the tires on a racecar while it is still going around the track.”
    Whether is it 3.0 or 4.0 matters not. What matters is what are our learning needs and what tools do we need to continue to grow and develop?
    The opportunities ahead are significant. How we respond and our ability to innovate and re-invent learning will determine our momentum and success. I think we can rise to the challenge. What do you think?

  6. says

    I like the Moodle mindset (can I call it that?) because it sounds like they are setting up the teacher to be in more of an apprentice-type relationship with the student. The student learns through the relational connection and modeling that happens with the teacher.
    I think we can call it whatever we like, the key will be to transition current teaching/learning models to fit this paradigm. From my view on a University campus, that is going to be the tough part.

  7. says

    The opportunity that I get excited about in terms of this kind of collaborative environment Blaine is the extraction and possible use of latent knowledge. Without the collective effort of the community, certain individuals might not be aware of what they can contribute. But once they are and they do, it just elevates the level of energy that much more!

  8. says

    Greg, Tim, and Dave, thanks for the comments!
    Greg – I like these ideas and tools for accelerating learning. One of the most critical times for organizations is when change is coming rapidly, requiring quick adaptation across the workforce. It is easy to become reactionary, thereby missing opportunities, or to adapt too slowly and flounder. I’d be interested in how the combination approach works out overtime.
    Tim – I’m sure Moodle would like the mindset tag! I’m curious about the resistence you are observing from within the university. I can surmise that change is difficult for faculty members in institutiions with strong traditions and culture. Are you hearing rumblings for change from within? Is there any pressure being exerted to transition to a new paradigm?
    Dave – Your comment about “latent knowledge” is a nugget that is easy to miss. By drawing out that which is buried, there is a net gain in learning that would not otherwise have been realized. At times, the uncovered knowledge may trigger others to reveal even more latent knowledge or insight, creating still more benefit for those involved. That is exciting!

  9. says

    There’s a fascinating discovery learning porgram going on my organization with Learning 2.0. 330+ employees are learning together about social networks and web 2.0 tools by blogging and experiencing it.
    From the sounds of it, you’ve characterized it as L3, but we’ve termed it L2 becasue it embraces the concepts of Web 2.0