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  • Writer's pictureAmy Burvall

Learning in 20: What’s Changed (and Hasn’t) About Learning in the Past Two Decades

When the Learning and Performance Institute (@YourLPI ) in the UK challenged me to a video contest they were having in honour of their 20th anniversary, I thought (as I am likely to do) – why not? Besides – their colours are pink!

The challenge was to think about the greatest changes in learning over the past 20 years, then – and this is really tricky part- create a mere 20 second video expressing your thoughts.

I love a good creative constraint, so I took some brainstorm notes which ended up being way more than I could ever use. (that being said, I might make a longer video in the future with my leftover ponderings).

I decided to be different and create a poem made of couplets.

One, because it would hopefully stand out from the crowd;

Two, because poetry is great way to condense thoughts into meaty but digestible chunks with not a lot of extraneous fluff, and

Three, because the couplets would naturally lend themselves to illustration.

The overview was that learning –

the real way people learn – has actually not changed much in thousands of years.

But the tools that have come about in the past two decades to facilitate communication in particular have propelled us into an

exponentially changing learning landscape.

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Thus, I wanted to end with my soundbites:

Academy in the Ether; Campfire in the Cloud

Of course the former is a reference to Plato’s Akademia, a sort of informal “school” (although I really do not like using that term) on Plato’s inherited property in Athens. Students met under the sacred olive trees  and in lieu of a formal curriculum, rather posed and explored problems. While there were senior and junior members, there was little distinction between teacher and student, and while there undoubtedly were some lectures in a sort of “direct instruction” model, much of the learning took place through discourse – the dialectic method of reasoned arguments and discussion to arrive at a truth.

I think this is a lot like our learning anywhere, anytime and “just in time” as well as in accordance with our spontaneous passions. My knowledge (and I think to an extent ALL KNOWLEDGE) is increasingly dispersed and connective – it relies on the richness of my personal learning network, or PLN, and my ability to know:

who might have expertise


where I might find information


how valid that information is (clue in “Crap Detection” from Howard Rheingold, often referred to as “critical consumption”)

“Campfire in the Cloud” is something I made up a while ago because I love alliteration when I do keynotes, but it really hits home with the fact that we share and exchange our “stories” in the “Cloud” – that is, all over the various spaces we inhabit on the Web. It has become our new “campfire”, that cozy and magical place where our ancestors once gravitated to on endless black nights to do what truly makes us human (in my opinion). Of course, “stories” need not necessarily be textual or language-based…they can be, as we see so often today, purely visual, musical, or a multi-media menagerie!


Learning’s the same as centuries ago It’s about curiosity- and the lust to know Questioning, Tinkering, Making, Reflecting… It’s less about knowledge, and more about connecting

Once, we were shackled by Time and Space Learning was bound to a moment or place Now we live in times untethered Mobile, Social, and Connected – our learning unfettered

(Academy in the Ether; Campfire in the Cloud)


As one can see, I illustrated each line using the technique I’ve been doing for a while- that is, mirroring my iPad to my Mac using Reflector app, drawing in real time using Paper by 53, and exporting each clip into a little Quicktime movie. I compile the Quicktime clips in iMovie and speed them up accordingly. I’ve misplaced my mic so basically used Voice Memo on my iPhone. A bit of work for a 20 second production, but I like the challenge.


I look forward to doing more of this sort of thing- as I mentioned a long while ago in this blog post and this follow up one, I think we are increasingly craving shorter, punchy-yet-poignant media for our learning (and even our entertainment). There’s a lot to be said for simplicity. That’s why this challenge worked so well- it forced me to really synthesize and distill my thoughts and attempt to articulate them in a concise yet engaging way.

So…thanks  LPI...and I wish you all the best on your next 20.

P.S. Excited to say I won the contest 🙂

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#learningandperformanceinstitute #connectedlearning #Plato #edmundmonk #lpi #mobilelearning #social #video #paperby53 #campfireinthecloud #amyburvall #learning #howardrheingold

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