Big Ideas in Learning Technologies

A one-page View from Stephen Downes

If we look a little bit beyond the obvious changes coming to learning technology as a result of analytics, virtual and augmented reality, and badges and blockchain., what are the big ideas that are lurking there? Here are some.

  1. Interactive Notebooks – Text of the future (which will include images, diagrams, charts and the rest) will be interactive. Change one bit of content in the notebook, and the rest of the notebook will respond algorithmically to that change, helping people learn by experimentation.
  2. Courses in Containers – the day of the learning management system is waning. Courses of the future will be like computer applications that run in portable containers you can download and run in a protected environment on your computer.
  3. Content as Open Data – as the half-life of a learning resource trends toward zero, we will be looking for ways to create new learning materials using live data from (say) demographic information, research results, economic data, media, and live sensor input.
  4. Graph, not Story – we will no longer think of a course as a single linear narrative. Instead, every subject will be presented as connected webs of data and information. These will look different depending on our point of view, and we will need to consider these varying perspectives.
  5. Content Addressing – copies resources will be distributed across the network and will be retrieved by mans of a content-based address – an encrypted key that uniquely identifies it, guarantees its provenance, and can be chained with authors and other resources.
  6. We are the Content – the most important content we will be working with as we learn will be content about ourselves – what we’ve read or viewed, what we’ve done, who we’ve talked to, what we’ve created, how much skill we’ve shown, where we can go from here.
  7. Automated Recognition – it will no longer be necessary to take tests or complete assignments in the future. We will pursue our own interests in our own way, finding ways to contribute to the social network, and our competencies will automatically be recognized by connected AIs.
  8. Community as Consensus – in the past, communities were defined geography or by sameness, but in the future communities will be defined by how they interact with each other, what they consider to be evidence or proof, and how they arrive at a consensus on things that matter.
  9. Redefining Success – ‘Success’ in the future will not be defined by test scores, competencies or employment opportunities, not by competencies, nor even by skills and expertise, but by agency: can we learn, think and do for ourselves in a changing and complex environment?

What we learn depends on why we learn, and the idea of agency is to enable this to be shaped by the learner. Learning technology and pedagogy needs to support and reflect this, ensuring that the learner has the capacity to express and preserve their interests and their identity.