Last month at Learning Technologies UK I finally had the pleasure of meeting Clive Shepherd in real life. We vowed to read and to review each other’s new books, a promise he kept right away and on which I was delinquent. I did download The New Learning Architect to Kindle right away – it’s available solely in handy ebook form—and did finally settle down with it last weekend.
Clive does a great job articulating a problem that’s nagged at me for a long while: as one trend surfaces, separate camps emerge and the implication of a winner and loser takes over the discussion. We saw it with eLearning v. classroom learning; we’re seeing it again now with informal learning v. formal. Shepherd argues that learning occurs in several contexts, with formal learning only one card in that deck, but still a useful one. He then offers a nice tour through tools and approaches within each context. It’s the goal of L&D, he says, to build not classes or courses but environments in which people can learn, and those environments can come in several forms. Suggesting we are ‘architects’ raises the bar, asking us to move to a more efficacious position above the ‘order taker’ function we’ve been fulfilling for far too long (“Yes, sir! That’ll be an order of Teambuilding with a side of Conflict Resolution!”)
Novices will find this very useful—there is a lot of support here to help them step off on the right foot,and I think it would be a fabulous resource for those coming to the field with no preconceived notions. Experienced practitioners will likely be more interested in the information around informal and social learning as well as the excellent profiles of several successful learning architects. Another thing experienced people might need? Perhaps some new perspective on the place of learning in the learner’s world. Shepherd talks a great deal about the case for and ways of achieving bottom-up change. The idea appeals to me, and I admit I’m even more interested and optimistic about it given the recent events in Egypt. While I was reading I occasionally Tweeted quotes from the book (did you know you can post to Twitter directly from Kindle? Like this). Shepherd’s idea that, "You build a learning culture by building an appetite to learn. This is predominantly a bottom-up, peer-to-peer process” caused a good deal of bristling, mostly from people who seemed to feel this could not happen without upper management control or L&D orchestrating it. People used words like ‘partner’, and having upper management involved in culture change, but we’ve seen how that looks so far and, well, it mostly ain’t working.