A New Ecology of Learning


Ecology is “the study of interactions among organisms and their environment.”  Apply this concept to your learning portal. Get eco-minded: reduce, reuse, recycle. Blend formal and informal learning options. Crowd-source content too by creating a social community of practice with forums and knowledge bases.

Just as adaptation, diversification, and natural selection occur in nature, we need learning infrastructures that can do that.

I’m a big fan of the theory “distributed cognition” which posits knowledge lies not only within an individual, but also in the individual’s social and physical environment.  I’ve incorporated “distribguted cognition” in previous posts too — Why Less is More than Ever Before  and Create More Problems for Education — because I think it’s so important to consider the ecology of learning when designing training and education experiences. That is, the learner in situ.

I made a simple visual representation of “distributed cognition” as it applies to many work and learning environments:


While “digital” spaces are evermore available, don’t forget the physical workplace. Include learning resources throughout the workflow and workspace. Consider simple and colorful job aids; attach process posters on the wall, a troubleshooting diagram on the side of the laser printer. Insert links to job aids, colleagues to contact for assistance, and other resources in team email messages. There is much for us to remain mindful about, yet it is hard to remember all things. Make access to training and supports easy within a new ecology of learning..