Its been a week of travel and talk. Nothing so unusual about that, I suppose, except that you seldom learn much while doing either. Yet I have a feeling that I have learnt a great deal, and in areas where I thought I was knowledgeable. Clearly, I wasn’t!

On my way to meetings in Italy I had plenty of time to reflect on an afternoon spent with Microsoft and CUP’s Global Grid for Learning (GGfL) on Monday. The slides from my presentation will appear here under Downloads, from which you will see that I am still pursuing arguments around the atomization of learning content, and its reconstruction as teaching plans or learning journeys. This deconstruction commoditizes shared and unprotectable content, but it gives “publishers” a chance to re-emerge as educational engineers, ringmasters in assembling  support services for teacher/moderators  and pupil/personalized learners. Components include the need for atomized resources with which to do this (GGfL) and workflow tools to create such environments (Office 365). So you see why I was speaking between these two vendors. And how important it is as a validation of Learning as Workflow that players like this recognize the change in demand. They know that it is not all teachers who will work in this way, and that the percentage that do will exchange resources and allow others to use and adapt their work in the network. TES Connect ( in the UK, like in the US already facilitate this. GGfL facilitate it by clearing copyrights in advance and allowing schools the ability to keep compliant by becoming a subscriber. The more I listen to GGfL the more I recognize its absolute necessity as a business model in these emerging markets, though I can also see that larger textbook publishers, always trying to buy off change with a halfway house, might have shied away from doing this. After all, only market leaders like Pearson, in this sector, get time to use their current trading as a shelter within which to rethink their market positions and experiment. All credit then to Cambridge for this initiative. In tribute, I used the meeting to launch SABL, the Society for the Abolition of Blended Learning, and was gratified when several members of the audience asked afterwards for application forms!

And tributes were due too to Microsoft. They have their heads around the nature and dynamics of change in learning markets, and rightly see the opportunity to re-orientate the ultimately most fundamental of workflow toolsets in that direction. Already launched in the US ( this seems to me a demonstration that Sharepoint, a communications environment like Lync, a souped -up PowerPoint and the rest of the Office package take users a long way down the track towards a situation where teachers can effectively migrate to moderation. Microsoft are effectively providing a migration path that moves school users to the new tools-based environment, and this is one of the conditional factors in change in school practice.

In the desperation to sell devices much of this has been ignored in the IT sector, and even where one would expect a degree of affinity (as at Apple), specialised educational providers like Edutone ( seem to be the real innovators. Platforms like this require a reworking of current resource thinking so that learning on a tablet emulates the access mode that learners – and their parents – will expect in an App orietated, post-search world. The results of this can only be multiple media (good to see many of GGfL’s allies in photo libraries and educational television in this audience). And the way personalization is done has to be unpackaged (software providers in the room  like T-Learning – – have now built a wealth of experience in creating millions of learning journeys and using them in virtual classroom environments).

And then the learning began, for as soon as I stopped speaking to the audience and started listening to them I realized how rich this terrain is now becoming. At one end of the spectrum there are players like Learning Possibilities (, combining the visionary talents of Steve Heppell with a high value platform, LP+4, and a very appropriate recent announcement about their Education Cloud venture with Microsoft. At the other end was TimeMaps (, an attempt to time chart global history by a father and son team. The Brittons will earn the gratitude of history teachers by re-inventing the historical Atlas, especially if it can be included within the personalized learning environments described here.

So what didn’t we talk about? Well, eBooks, eTextbooks and ePub3 seemed to belong more to the past than the future, though no doubt that will sort itself out in time. And the enabling technologies of eWhiteboards, LMS and VLE were taken as they should be – as givens in the educational environment – sadly we did not talk enough about the home-school dimension. As we personalize, so we have to communicate: eLearning will not achieve its full potential without far greater communication and co-operative working between parents and teachers, alongside the changing relationship between learners and teacher/moderators.


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  1. Learning as Workflow | Advancing the Business of Information on June 27, 2011 15:51

    […] Repost from David Warlock […]