I have been thinking and writing about 'Learning 2.0' for some time now. This is the argument that there has been a paradigm shift in the way students learn - from 1.0 to 2.0, from passive to active, from individual to social and from consumer to producer. This shift seems to run parallel to the development of the web over the last decade, and resonates with many who observe 21st century, digitally mediated learning in all its forms.

The University of Toronto's Mark Federman is a major contributor to this discourse. The writings of Federman's late Canadian compatriot Marshall McLuhan clearly pervades his work. During a live television programme on 21st Century learning recently, he was asked whether the three 'R's (Reading, Writing and aRithmetic) would still be relevant to this generation of learners. Federman's response was slick and insightful, even though it had probably been scripted well in advance of the TV show. He declared confidently that for this generation, the three 'R's would not be as important as the four 'C's. Asked to expand on this, he listed the four 'C's: Connection, Context, Complexity and Connotation. Although these are essentially characteristics of modern life, we can contextualise them as skills or literacies. Here are my thoughts and  interpretation of Federman's framework, illustrated above with one of my most recent slide graphics.

Firstly, learners need to be able to connect. In today's fast paced and change ridden world, learners need now, like never before, to be able to connect through technology to peers, experts, content and services. One of the most valuable assets a 21st Century learner has is their personal learning network (PLN). And we are all 21st Century learners, even if we are not enrolled on an accredited study programme. A lot of what is learned (some claim up to 70 per cent) is informal, and with a powerful enough network of connections to a PLN, there is no limit to what a learner can achieve.

Secondly, learners need to be able to contextualise their learning. Bill Gates once famously stated that content was king. This is no longer the case. Now context is king, because situated learning is powerful, and access to content is just the start of learning. Learning can be contextualised in so many different ways, and this is why personal learning tools are so important. The capability to personalise learning environments, exercise agency over the tools and systems you wish to use, and the ability to apply learning to your own individual situation, are extremely important components of successful learning today.

Thirdly, learners need to be able to work with complexity and be able to interpret, filter out extraneous content, and make meaning. They need to be prepared for uncertain futures, none of which can be accurately predicted. In short, they need to be able to see the wood from the trees. There are many tools available today that learners can use to harness the power of web based content, including aggregation, curation and tagging tools, all of which can simplify complexity and allow learners to gain a purchase on chaos.

Finally, learners today need to be able to make meaning from the mass of content they are bombarded with each and every day. Many learners make meaning through discussion, but increasingly we are witnessing a shift toward user generated content, where learners are creating their own videos, blogs, podcasts, slidesets and other digital artefacts to make meaning.

Graphic by Steve Wheeler

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Skills for Learning 2.0 by Steve Wheeler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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