It is a golden time to be a learner of any age. Although the pace of technological change is accelerating to almost a blur, it has opened up new learning opportunities for individuals of all ages to access learning at a time, a venue and a pace to suit their personal needs. It is as if every learner now has a personal coach, able to tailor the learning session’s objectives to the needs, styles and aptitudes of the individual.
In the last fifteen years we have moved through Web 1.0, when the ‘experts’ created an encyclopaedic library of resources for us to access as consumers through the internet, to Web 2.0 when we began to author our own material and resources through social network sites, the YouTubes, Facebooks and Twitters in which we were connected internationally. Web 2.0 has proved a huge training camp for people to experience the internet and establish their confidence and competence as contributors, not least older learners who were in danger of being left behind by the sheer pace of technology. Ofcom’s recent 9th Annual Communications Market Report recorded that the largest rise in internet access had occurred among 65-74 year olds in the UK.
Web 3.0, the phase we are now entering is sometimes referred to as the Semantic Web, and by careful observation of our preferences, anticipates resources and presents them to as diagnostics and suggestions. Currently we see this in terms of the books that are featured when we return to a bookselling website. The books suggested to us have been selected based on the patterns of our previous page selections. In learning , the web is increasingly acting, not only as our personal trainer but also as our sports psychologist, using a network of information held about our attitudes and behaviours to tailor our next learning goals and reporting on our current performance. Previously, assessment on the web confined itself to recording performance in simple tests, now the drive is moving to establishing personal best performance and guiding choice to increasingly complex learning outcomes. An example of this increasingly complex learning interaction is a new website called Dendrite (www.dendrite.org.uk) which begins the learning session with diagnostics which are displayed as a spider’s web of data and guide the learner to the specific online video resources to prioritise improvements in performance.
We no longer need a large and expensive computer sitting at home, as internet based resources are available from your smartphone. The trend is towards personalised learning with the learner making the important decisions about what, when and how to learn.
For the learner of any age, the equivalent of the personal gym, personal trainer and performance analysis suite is now at your fingertips. As a friend of mine, training for a charity triathlon, demonstrated by posting her personal best times from her performance data logger to her Facebook page. It certainly shamed some of us to leave the couch for the gym!