Defining the digital age and its influence on work integrated learning

If you hadn’t realised by now, this blog is often used as a notebook to record ideas in development. This is by no means complete, but the record is there.

Did you catch the high buzz word content in the title of this post? It can possibly mean only one thing, academics and grant writing. As a jobbing academic – saw that phrase used last week and like one definition, but then found this definition from professional wrestling which perhaps better fits some aspects of grant writing – I’ve fallen into writing a research grant on very short notice and with no real planning and forethought.

The perspective taken with this grant has evolved in an ad hoc way over the last week – which itself says something about the reality of this sort of work and how it is far from planned and relies much on chance – into something which may be looking at how the digital age might influence work integrated learning. This post is an attempt to quickly define what is meant by the digital age.

Don’t go looking for the definitive answer. Even if such a thing does exist, you won’t find it here. The following is hoping to be enough to given an idea and excite folk… the end I’m hoping it’s sufficient that I don’t need to do anything more.

If you have better definitions, resources etc to share, please do.

The following starts with the definition, following that is the rough working that went into forming the definition.

Defining the digital age, at least our interest

Davidson and Goldberg (2009, p. 15) paint a picture of the digital age bringing to an end the future of conventional learning institutions unless they recognise the urgent necessity of fundamental and foundational change. This research seeks to engage with, evaluate and respond to the type of fundamental and foundational change being created by the digital age. Changes so foundational that Lankshear (2003) describes four ways in which the digital age is challenging what it is to know and how this has potentially far-reaching implications for educational practice. Technology, however, will not transform learning by itself, instead it will be shaped and constrained by social, cultural, and economic factors (Warschauer, 2007). These changes and challenges should be properly considered, challenged and engaged with. After all, as Selwyn (2012) suggests there may be subtler and less disruptive methods through which educational institutions can effectively engage in the digital age, than radical alteration or disposal.

The future of learning institutions in a digital age

I’m starting my boning up on this topic with Davidson and Goldberg (2009) and some related resources – including Tony Bates’ review. The book was collaboratively/openly developed via a website. Practicing what they preach. I believe what I’m referencing (Davidson and Golberg, 2009) is a report, rather than the complete book.

Davidson and Goldberg (2010, p. 49)

This book advocates institutional change because our current formal educational institutions are not taking enough advantage of the modes of digital and participatory learning available to students today.

(this quote is from Bates).

So, what are the changes wrought (or to be wrought) by the digital age?

  • “Modes of learning have changed dramatically over the past two decades” (p. 8)
  • “How do collaborative, interdisciplinary, multi-institutional learning spaces help to transform traditional learning institutions and, specifically, universities?” (p. 11)
  • “A key term in thinking about these emergent shifts is participatory learning. Participatory learning includes the many ways that learners (of any age) use new technologies to participate in virtual communities” (p. 12)
    Which brings up echoes with connectivism and Downes’ views on what becoming a professional is (becoming part of the community of professionals).
  • “The concept of particpatory leanring is very different from “IT” (instructional technology)….IT tends to be top-down, designer determined, administratively
    driven, commercially fashioned. In participatory learning, outcomes are typically customizable by the participants.”. (pp. 12-13)
  • “This puts education and educators in the position of bringing up the rearguard, of holding desperately to the fragments of an educational system which, in its form, content, and assessments, is deeply rooted in an antiquated mode of learning” (p. 14)

The big quotes

  • “The future of conventional learning institutions is past—it’s over—unless those directing the course of our learning institutions realize, now and urgently, the necessity of fundamental and foundational change.” (p. 15)

In the end, not the sort of thing I was after, but will purloin a couple of quotes.

Rethinking the future of schools in the digital age

A bit of Selwyn (2012?)

(Selwyn 2012, p. 11)

Yet as with all debates about the “future” of education, it is important that we take time to properly consider and challenge these proposals and assumptions

(Selwyn 2012, p. 14)

We should be wary of giving up on the entire notion of the industrial-era school or university as it currently exists. Instead, it may be more productive – and certainly more practical to set about addressing the “problem” of formal education and technology in subtler and less disruptive ways than radically altering educational institutions or even disposing of them altogether.


Brown, J. S. (2001). Learning in the digital age. The Internet and the university: Forum (pp. 71–72). Retrieved from

Davidson, C. N., & Goldberg, D. T. (2009). The future of learning institutions in a digital age. Digital Media. The MIT Press. Retrieved from

Davidson, C and Goldberg, D. (2010) The Future of Thinking: Learning Institutions in a Digital Age Chicago: The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Selwyn, N. (2012). School 2.0: Rethinking the future of schools in the digital age. In A. Jimoyiannis (Ed.), Research on e-Learning and ICT in Education (pp. 3-16). New York: Springer.

Warschauer, M. (2007). The paradoxical future of digital learning. Learning Inquiry, 1(1), 41-49.

One thought on “Defining the digital age and its influence on work integrated learning

  1. Pingback: Online resources | digital era

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