Why I work in ‘learning’

I have had a lot of conversations of late as to why I do what I do and how my career has developed.  The below is a little reflection I initially drafted in a coffee shop earlier in the week…


My primary driver in career considerations, when younger, was that I wanted to do something that would help people better themselves. This was partly driven by, whilst living in Toronto for a year, spending a lot of time in Toronto’s libraries. The library was a haven for me as a temporary resident, providing internet access (when it was not as ubiquitous as today) as well as newspapers, books and entertainment. My academic studies, that followed, in the library/information world further fueled my interest in learning.

I have written before about the particular educational informatics module that was at the heart of my professional focus on completion of my MA and, realistically, still is. My career since then has seen time spent in FE, HE and workplace learning but, in all those environments, my interest in supporting people to better themselves has remained. This has, of course, taken different flavors, from supporting people to pass exams, supporting less able people with basic English language skills, creating an information architecture for tutors and students to interact, developing complex career pathways and learning opportunities, etc.

My view is that personal empowerment is all important, I would argue only with this can you have a truly engaged populace (when it comes to education) or workforce (for organizational L&D). As such I have no interest in being the holder of knowledge, rather the architect and facilitator. This is one area where I differ to some of the people I have met through the years in the learning and library professional communities.

One annoyance of mine, with both the HE and L&D professional worlds is that they too often look for the differences between themselves. I seriously believe you can only support a workforce if you are aware of the school and post compulsory education systems your workplace are emerging from. Similarly universities, as is well recognized, need better links with employers to understand their needs.

Whose education/learning is it then? The answer is increasingly complex, we no longer need a basic workforce for factory, field and forces but one able to adapt. I would see myself as an example of this, taking the ‘I want to help people be better’ mentality to different sectors and roles; the balance of who benefits most from my work will vary between the individual, organization and society.

In terms of L&D specifically I would see the recent recognition of value for skills like curation as, largely, nothing new but recognition of failings in the past. Underpinning all of this is the inevitable move to digital and I’ll post soon some thoughts on some recent posts related to eLearning and the nature of L&D.

I will finish with saying that my ethos of looking to better people and therefore our organizations and society doesn’t necessarily mean I want to work in ‘L&D’. I see the need for far less boundaries in supporting workplace/student performance and there also needs to be a recognition that different traditional professionals are all having similar conversations, for example much of this paper for CIOs will sound familiar to learning professionals facing the need to change for our future digital workplaces.

Author: iangardnergb

My name is Ian Gardner and I am interested in various topics that can be seen as related to learning, technology and information. To see what I am reading elsewhere, follow me on The Old Reader (I.gardner.gb) and/or Twitter (@iangardnergb).

3 thoughts on “Why I work in ‘learning’”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: