Shift_Learning: The 7 Most Powerful Idea Shifts In Learning Today


shifts-21learning-revisedShift_Learning: The 7 Most Powerful Idea Shifts In Learning Today

by Terry Heick, Director at TeachThought

So we’re taking a stand here. This is all incredibly subjective, but so are the VH1 Top 100 Hair Bands Videos and those are fun, am I right?

So subjective it is. Let’s make a list. A list of ideas that are truly transformational. Not just trends or buzz, but substance with the potential for lasting change–and stuff that’s available not tomorrow, but today.

Utopian visions of learning are tempting, if for no other reason than they absolve us of accountability to create it right now, leading to nebulous romanticizing about how powerful learning could be if we just did more of X and Y.

But therein lies the rub: Tomorrow’s learning is already available, and below are 7 of the most compelling and powerful trends, concepts, and resources that represent its promise.

The Challenge of Implementation

It’s challenging enough to manage a traditional learning environment where the curriculum is handed to you, and meetings are set, and you’re simply there to manage; adding more ingredients to the mix seems like asking for trouble. But the truth is, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to educate children in the face of such radical technological and pedagogical progression.

The good news is, many of the elements of a progressive learning environment—e.g., digital literacy, connectivism, and play—conveniently, and not coincidentally, work together. And better yet, collectively they can reduce the burden on those managing the learning because they place the learner at the center.

While it’s possible to tack these ideas on to a traditional classroom, and then sit back and wait for the clouds to part and the sun to shine brilliantly, you’ll likely be waiting a while. These aren’t single tools to “try,” but news ways to think about how learners access media, how educators define success, and what the roles of immense digital communities should be in popularizing new learning models.

None of it is really complicated—it just requires new thinking.

Shift_Learning: The 7 Most Powerful Idea Shifts In Learning Today

1. Digital & Research Literacy

Digital literacy is a trend that involves the consumption, comprehension, and curation of digital media. This is directly tied to research literacy, as both digital and digitized data sources serve as primary research resources.

2. Shift From Standards To Habits

The shift from purely academic standards to critical thinking habits supports personalized, 21st century learning through a preceding shift from institution to learner.

3. Game-Based Learning & Gamification

Game-Based Learning aggregates the power of learning simulations, social gaming, emotional immersion, and digital literacy to produce a net effect of transparency and participation on the learner.

4. Connectivism

Through social media, mobile learning, blended learning, eLearning, and other inherently connected learning experiences, it is possible to leverage the potential of interdependence and crowds. This occurs simply through crowdsourced knowledge (e.g., Quora, Wikipedia, learnist), visually through curation (e.g., scoopit, pinterest, MentorMob), and long-term through digital communities (e.g., twitter, Google+, facebook).

5. Transparency

A natural consequence of digital and social media, transparency is the opposite of closed, traditional schooling, where the walls of the classroom are tick and the local teachers and policies govern, judge, and process everything.

6. Place-Based Education 

Place-Based Education complements digital platforms that tend towards globalization. While it is tempting for learners to constantly connect with exotic ideas in equally exotic locations, authentic learning experiences allow learners to self-direct personal change in pursuit of social change–and that starts small, at home and surrounding intimate communities.

7. Self-Directed Learning & Play

Self-Directed Learning is almost certainly at the core of the future of learning. To not allow learners to “play” with information, platforms, and ideas is to ignore the access, tools, and patterns of 21st century life.

  • SimplyFun

    Thank you for posting this article! #3 speaks to us in particular because that is what we do at SimplyFun. We make learning fun and easy for children through the amazing power of play! For information on how we build smarter kids and stronger families, visit or follow us on Twitter @SimplyFun

  • Mohan Kamath

    Nice read…useful

  • Eduardo Guagliardi

    It is interesting to note that this framework applies perfectly to what should be also medical education …

  • Alleta Baltes

    I have been thinking a lot about children who the teacher perceives as noncompliant because they won’t pick up a pencil and fill in the worksheet. Maybe the problem isn’t the child but our approach….from compliance to play comes to mind….

    • SworC

      Dead right. There is more to learning than mere compliance. Tell that to our political leaders.

  • SworC

    The jargon and the technology changes but the principles of effective teaching have remained the same for generations. Technology enhances the efficiencies of an efficient system. Technology also enhances the inefficiencies of an inefficient system. Technology provides valuable tools but no amount of technology can overcome a dysfunctional and inefficient system.

    • Nicolas Connault

      The dysfunction and inefficiency of an educational system stem mainly from its underlying philosophies about human learning (I question the wisdom of blindly trusting a scientific epistemology). The simple concept of self-directed learning brings into question the very need of an educational “System”, let alone its inefficiencies :-)

  • Sheri Edwards

    My favorite: From Standards to Habits. Now that’s a transformation, one that benefits learners and teachers — and futures because the “habits” developed lend themselves to all situations. Thanks for sharing the graphic and other information to ponder.

  • Adrian Stokes

    Excellent thinking!