The internet is the most powerful learning technology ever created. I believe that its effects will overshadow the printing press or even writing, assuming that it hasn’t already happened. Unfortunately, while the purpose of many websites is learning, they often fail to fulfil their potential. Social media are worse, because their purpose is not learning at all, but rather trapping your attention to the point of addiction.
The platforms available to contain, curate, and communicate knowledge, skills, and understanding are astounding. Academics and practitioners sharing their expertise publicly, universities allowing learners to audit courses for free, global online collaboration – all point to a future of learning that was unimaginable and impossible just a generation ago.
But no one is getting it right yet.
Blogs provide the opportunity to share ideas to anyone with an internet connection. However, they remain difficult to filter and organize without a huge investment in time. My own collection of feeds, dating back about ten years, numbers nearly 1000. There is no hope of actually keeping up with so much content.
Massive Open Online Courses are a step in a positive direction, but unfortunately achieve dismal retention rates. With few exceptions, they emphasize content over social connection, resulting in low satisfaction.
E-learning is almost entirely proprietary, either for the edification of a brand or corporate training. While their intent is admirable, the online offerings by universities are almost always examples of the most basic function of the technology available: video recorded lectures and online tests. A revolutionary system can’t be built with a conservative mindset.
The staggering volume of video being uploaded to social networks does contain fantastic learning material, but do you filter signal from noise? A serious learner prefers fewer distractions, but social video platforms fail to focus our attention on the most useful content. Learning isn’t easy; distraction and diversion are. The potential for online video learning is being squandered.
The possibilities of social media for learning promise the greatest authenticity for learning. While people do use them for that purpose, they are regrettably not designed nor intended to promote learning: They exist to addict you.
“These new addictions don’t involve the ingestion of a substance. They don’t directly introduce chemicals into your system, but they produce the same effects because they’re compelling and well designed.” Adam Alter, Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked
Social media are designed to keep the user scrolling and clicking. They appeal to the same systems in the brain that are triggered by discovery and exploration, yet without any real life experiences or benefits. In social media, attention and privacy are the commodities, and people are beginning to realize how dire of a problem that poses.
A different goal
Learninate is not here to appeal to your base instincts. I want you to use the site to teach and learn. Encourage each other to leave the screen, put down the device, and use what you’ve learned in your life. Our purpose is not stimulation and distraction, but authentic exploration, discovery, and inspiration.