What Learnist’s Growth Means For The Future Of Education

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Learnist, everyone’s favorite learning curation tool, has received $20,000,000 in funding from, among other investors, Discovery Communications. That’s a lot of coin, and a heavy investor.

Its users have increased by 400%, and user-engagement is up 100%. Data can lie, but by any measure that’s progress.

What this all means could be significant for education. A few possible takeaways?

1.       Information is going entirely mobile.

The Learnist iPad app has evolved, making it not just functional on Apple’s mobile device, but the optimal way to actuate it. You can now add content through the iPad with fewer clicks than possible on a desktop. And a built-in Google Search function makes finding new information to add as learning dead simple.

Ease of use is always a threat to adoption and user engagement—one reason pinterest continues to do so well. The simpler to use, the more potential for meaningful engagement with the platform—and with content. The takeaway for education then is parallel: Increasingly mobile interaction with dynamic content.

How long it takes education to respond to this shift will impact both the scale and depth of this change.

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2.       Information Is No Longer Static

Blogs have been a significant driving force in the growth of the internet. More so than social media, blogging gives users the chance to establish a voice, share information, and personalize detailed publishing in a way major media outlets have ignored for years.

But blogging is static. You write a post and beyond the echoes through social media or hits via Google searches, that’s it. Very little updating and care-taking of publishing here is done, ironically mirroring the trend here established by books and magazines. Digital tools like Learnist suggest a different approach. As new ideas emerge, boards have to be revisited and revised to maintain credibility. This is not a small shift—and is only likely to hold true if the tools used to perform said revisions are convenient and simple to use. As Learnist grows, how they address this issue will be critical.

For education, this means not just eBooks and social media integration, but “anti-curriculum” that centers students as creators, curators, and collaborators of digital media.

In fact, how information changes in form–and who does the repackaging–may surpass the information itself in terms of importance. (Cue McLuhan’s sinister laugh.)

3.       Information Management is a 21st Century Skill

Of course, all of this suggests that curation—choosing what to save, where to store it, how to update it, and when to recall it—is more than a response to information overload, but a 21st century skill all of its own.  Learnist isn’t a strict curation tool, but it is a tool used in a kind of curation process.

For education this means not new standards that tell teachers what to teach, but to untether students—in classrooms and on mobile devices—to be able to respond to a persistent and brutal influx of constantly changing data.

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4.       There Just Might be a Shift in focus from Content to People

Learnist encourages updates to information not simply to honor the fluid nature of the internet, but the constantly changing diversity of media resources available on a given topic. This changes how a topic is perceived, and so in pursuit of credibility learning boards must be updated, added to, revised, and cared for as a kind of digital ecology that reflects not only the latest on a given concept, but the latest from a user him or herself. In this way, a learning board becomes a kind of digital signature for a user.

This is what I think needs to be understood about this topic.

That’s a matter of personal brand as much as anything else. For education, this shift could be the most difficult for institutional models of education. Public schools and higher education are simply not built to honor the individual learner. Even the most well-intentioned efforts and whole child initiatives fall short of what’s possible. The takeaway here then might just be not a revised curriculum and schools, but alternative models of learning that are designed with very different expectations from the very beginning.

Image attribution flickr user flickeringbrad; What Learnist’s Growth Means For The Future Of Education

  • Charlie Chung

    Very thoughtful commentary, thanks! It goes beyond the it-is-a-great-sharing-app verdict and points to some subtle ways it may be different from other things. I especially like your point comparing it to blog–blogs have tons of fabulous content, but the whole blogging paradigm (e.g. blogrolls) assumes that dated content is less relevant somehow. I think you’re spot on regarding a new update-based paradigm that the web allows vs. the print publish once paradigm…thanks!