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Recently, I have been involved in various initiatives under the umbrella of “smart learning”. This probably grew from the fact that lately, I have come to realize that while technology can help us in improving learning, a fundamental change is needed in the overall perception of educators and learners to see any real effect. Simply trying to create adaptive systems, intelligent systems, or any sort of mobile/ubiquitous environments is going to have only superficial impact, if we do not change the way we teach, and more importantly, the way we think of learning process (and assessment process).

For me, smart learning is not just another application of technology. We have already created (and continue to create) such applications in various forms, such as adaptive and personalized learning systems, intelligent tutoring systems, mobile learning systems, and more recently ubiquitous learning systems. Smart learning for me is an ecosystem of technology and pedagogy that involves active participation of teachers, parents and others into an individual’s learning process, provides continuous evidence of learning and gaining skills that are seamlessly transferred from one context to another, as individual learners move from one learning context to another. Smart learning integrates evidence of learning happening in various shape and form to showcase competencies, such as in formal classrooms and laboratories; informal spaces, such as social media and small chit-chat during a hangout; workplace trainings that take place on demand; and any non-formal settings.

I invite you to share your thoughts on smart learning…


9 thoughts on : Smart learning – a new approach or simply a new name?

    Aparna Lalingkar

    June 5, 2015

    Yes, the pedagogy is most important for developing any technological application for teaching and or learning. The fact is who develop technology may not have the training of pedagogy and who have knowledge of pedagogy may not have expertise in developing applications of technology. Hence, we need to have a golden center of both. We need to make both technology application developers and pedagogy experts work together. I feel that gap is always there. For instance, a great deal of learning can happen even through social networking site like facebook or even whatsapp. However, these technology applications have been created for different purpose and they have their pros and cons if we need to use them for educational purpose. I am not aware of any applications based on FB or Whatsapp that can surpass the disadvantages and use pedagogical inputs and would be equally popular among students. Let’s take example of games. We all hear that gamification is one of the better ways to gain child’s attention to a learning item. When I talked with our professors here, their experience about offering games or game-based learning material to their children did not cause any difference in the increased interest in a topic but after some days their children began getting disinterested in those game-based learning tools. Now, from educational technology perspective, it will be interesting and equally helpful to find why this transition happened? what are the parameters involved in it? Once we find the answers to these questions, it would be apt for going ahead and modifying those game-based learning tools.
    Also, we must be judicious for use of technology. For instance: whenever I have talked about using ontology for teaching purpose to any person with software engg background, they immediately come at me with the question: can we build ontology automatically from the text? People know the answer. My argument is a bit different. If we are going to use ontology for educational purpose then why we need it to be created automatically by machine? Can we afford to delegate important pedagogical perspectives that can help our children becoming intelligent to a machine whose intelligence we need to design? People fail to understand my perspective. I give another example. If suppose there is a robotic surgeon which can do complex surgeries in less time than a human doctor. I wonder who will be ready to give a patient in the hands of the robotic surgeon for undergoing a major surgery? Hardly anybody will be ready to take that risk as it is question of life and death. Providing education to students must be taken as serious as the surgery issue. We must not leave our child’s education completely in hands of a robot. We need human intelligence, the pedagogy knowledge for assisting to make the learning tools better and better.

    Hongxin Yan

    May 26, 2015

    Great to see this site. To me, how learning eventually happens in human might not change much, but technology can speed up this learning process. We use technologies here and there and sometimes are amazed by what they can do for learning. However, I am wondering if Smart Learning Environment can provide the opportunity for us to systematically examine every aspect of technologies against pedagogy principles, then explore how they can work together effectively in a educational ecosystem, at the end hopefully a smart and pedagogically sound ubiquitous learning environment can be suggested?

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  • Jon Dron

    May 23, 2015

    Great stuff! The ecological perspective is, I think, a productive one, that helps steer us away from over-mechanistic attitudes to education and learning technology research. It is, however, important to distinguish formative assessment, that is necessary part of any plausible pedagogy, from judgement leading to accreditation. Good feedback and careful reflection often does exactly what Clare recommends, even in our over-mechanistic educational systems, but that is not the same thing at all as the formal summative assessment that leads to accreditation and light years away from the abomination of grades. I’ve reflected a little more on this (likening accreditation to an oil-spill in the learning ecosystem) at https://landing.athabascau.ca/bookmarks/view/1060865/smart-learning-–-a-new-approach-or-simply-a-new-name-smart-learning

    Clare Atkins

    May 20, 2015

    I came across an interest quote the other day – I am sorry I can’t attribute it – I believe it was on Twitter – it said “Why can’t we be tested on what we learn rather than learn what we are going to be tested on?”

      Ashima Deshmukh

      June 13, 2015

      I find his thought amazing. In a formal system India CBSE introduced continuous compressive evaluation and the intentions were to text what students learnt rather than to learn what is to be tested. But the idea failed because teachers who were to assess students did not know how to do it and preferred otherwise.


    May 20, 2015

    I agree with Atkins. Assessment still has a lot to grow up. And more and more “need to learn” is happening, as opposed to “bottom up” learning. And this closely links to meeting the need, and hence the effectiveness of the assessment.

    Paul Kirschner

    May 20, 2015


    At our instrituite (Welten Institute at the Open University of the Netherlands) we refer to this as the ecology of education:

    “Education and educational processes are determined by the interactions that take place between learners (i.e., their own individual cognitions, motivation, and regulation plus the social interactions between individuals), educators (i.e., teachers, tutors, mentors and their personal professional theories, methods and development), technologies and media (i.e., the tools that support and enable both learners and educators to optimally learn and instruct) and the environment (i.e., the external conditions and constraints that need to be taken into account). We can call this the ecology of education.”

    Clare Atkins

    May 19, 2015

    So good to see assessment mentioned here – even if it is in parentheses! It seems to me that no matter how much energy we put into the smart learning ecosystem if we continue to assess in the same way we ultimately shoot ourselves in the foot. I am not current around research about this but over 30 years of teaching I have come to believe that how, and what, we assess is a significant driver of learning behaviour and learner engagement.
    I look forward to following your blog Kinshuk.

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