Clark Quinn's Learnings about Learning
(The Official Quinnovation blog)

14 February 2017

Meta-Learning Tools?

Clark @ 8:06 AM

I wrote an article for Jane Hart’s Modern Workplace Learning magazine, triggered by my thought that in her tools survey, I didn’t see a lot about a certain set of reflection (c.f. last weeks posts on diagramming) and experimentation tools: meta-learning tools. In particular, for the latter, I wondered about what there was to track your own learnings.  And Jane commented to me that she knew of one, and I was reminded of more.

Now, I don’t know much about any of these, but she mentioned PebblePad, and I noted that I’ve talked with Degreed before, and saw that HT2 has a tool called Red Panda. And I think this could become an interesting area.  Coupled with tools that support learning streams, personal learning could be boosted.

So tools like Axonify, Anders Pink, and EdCast all have varying models about making knowledge available and streaming bits and pieces over time. They’re pull as well, but for one definition of microlearning (that of streaming small bits over time to develop, e.g. slow learning), they could be a valuable part of personal development.

If we then track our learnings (and not just what’s through the tool, but other things we do such as attending events, interviewing people, etc), we can maintain ourselves on a path to efficacy.  That is, if we’ve registered goals, and broken it up into steps, and track our progress (and reward ourselves), we have a higher likelihood of continuing our improvement.

What I haven’t seen, as yet, and think could be an important part of this, is layering on  additional support for learning itself, meta-learning. For each type of learning activity, there could be support for doing that well, including setting and reviewing learning paths.

There’s more pressure for individuals to take responsibility for their own learning (as well as for enlightened organizations that want to support learning). So we need to be getting systematic about not only support for the content, but also for the process. This provides the opportunity is to accelerate the process. And our success.


  1. Hey, Clark! I agree with you and I believe some work is already starting in this area. I’m in contact with Degreed and others and would love to chat more about this. I will email you!

    Comment by Amy Rouse — 14 February 2017 @ 8:28 AM

  2. Amy, look forward to hearing from you!

    Comment by Clark — 14 February 2017 @ 9:30 AM

  3. Hi Clark

    Thanks, great article and thanks for the mention.

    I think you’re right about layering on further support around streaming content and microlearning. One way we’re looking at doing that is by providing the content via an API so it can be embedded in other platforms, such as social platforms. These could then be used to provide framework, coaching, context and support. You mentioned Red Panda – they’re using our API to bring in streaming content from Anders Pink and then people add sense, share and comment in their platform. I think open APIs like these help to remove the silos between tools and modes in learning. Be interested to hear waht you think


    Comment by Stephen Walsh — 14 February 2017 @ 10:12 AM

  4. Stephen, yes, APIs to allow mixins is definitely a valuable approach. I think we’re still short of a vocabulary for context and content to make it easier to integrate across systems, but definitely a step in the right direction. Thanks for the comment!

    Comment by Clark — 15 February 2017 @ 9:57 AM

  5. Hello, Mr. Quinn!

    Thanks for the Axonify mention. I agree with regards to the value of connecting personal learning activity with outcomes to enable ongoing development. I struggle with the practicality of “tracking” everything people do to “learn” given that everything we do – on the job and otherwise – improves our ability to execute. How do we prompt/motivate this type of transparency, especially when the end user doesn’t see what they are doing as “learning.” I’m also curious to explore themes related to self-directed activities, such as reflection, especially within use cases and environments where this can be seen as less valuable or wasting time. We don’t need to over-structure these concepts to the point of tracking it all, but we do need to find ways to capture activities that make a difference so we know where to put our support and promote to others.

    Always welcome collaboration on the topic. I plan to spend a better part of this year examining related themes in a modern workplace context. JD

    Comment by JD Dillon — 15 February 2017 @ 1:57 PM

  6. JD (and it’s Clark, not Mr or Dr Quinn, thanks anyway ;), I agree that tracking everything can be problematic. I do believe in a ‘mixed initiative’ approach, where as much as possible is auto-tracked (yay xAPI!), but individuals can be asked or motivated to track things that can’t be done that way. I think part of it is creating a culture of ‘working out loud’, so it’s natural to be sharing your progress and it is then trackable. It’s got to be seen to be used positively *for* the individual, too, not punitively. Look forward to your explorations. Thanks for sharing!

    Comment by Clark — 16 February 2017 @ 10:06 AM

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