⏩ Future Normal: Stealth Learning

What if...learning was truly fun?

Every generation has its moral panic, and Tiktok has certainly triggered plenty of handwringing. But what if Tiktok was a force for good? A place where you wanted your kids to hang out, because it was a place of self-improvement. Where they learned things, at the same time as enjoying themselves.

That’s the provocative thought at the heart of this week’s journey into The Future Normal: Stealth Learning.

The Normal

You go to school for a set number of years when you’re young. There’s a teacher. You follow a curriculum, designed to get you to pass a bunch of tests. You work on homework assignments largely independently. Grades are awarded by the teacher.

The Future Normal

Learning will become embedded in the platforms where people spend their time. It will be social. It will be visual. It will encourage participation. Chris Anderson defined the online learning environment as a giant global laboratory of ‘crowd accelerated innovation’.

That was back in 2010, before influencer culture, social media and the metaverse were omnipresent in people’s lives.

Now, learning is on the cusp of a new era: fun, immersive, rewarding. The boundaries between entertainment and education will blur. Did someone say ‘edutainment’? ;)

Instigators & innovators

Roblox: the metaverse meets the school of life skills

The Economist reports that Roblox has 37 million daily players, including 3/4 of US children aged 9-12. Parents aren’t freaking out as the game platform is largely positive. Players can even learn about digital civility. Users can also create games themselves, learning everything from coding to community management. Some also make millions of dollars.

#LearnOnTikTok: infinite scrolling through 60-second ‘teachers’

You can learn a lot on TikTok, from cooking to beauty to languages to science. John Mayer shares guitar tips. No wonder the company leaned into this with its $50 million Creative Learning Fund.

Assassin’s Creed - Discovery Tours

The main game sees players fight their way through quests. The Discovery Tours remove all the combat, allowing players to explore the historical environments and cultures of ancient Greece and Egypt. The producers have even included audio guides, similar to those found in museums.

Masterclass: the Netflix of celebrity online classes

If you’re going to learn, you might as well learn from the best. That’s the core idea behind the beautifully-shot, celebrity courses that Masterclass sells access to, for $180/year. Masters (aka ‘teachers’) include Gordon Ramsey, Serena Williams, Steph Curry and FBI negotiator Chris Voss.

Labster: science learning, without the mess

Labster creates virtual STEM lab simulations. Students can run a variety of high-tech experiments, from studies of bacterial growth to the biodiversity of an exoplanet. Science becomes risk-free, affordable and accessible.

J&J x Oculus: training surgeons in VR?

VR training is currently expensive, so is confined to specialist, high-value skills. But the results are promising: Johnson & Johnson found that 83% of VR-trained surgeons were able to perform surgery in a lab setting with minimal guidance, whereas none of the traditionally trained surgeons were able to do the same. What happens when Flight Simulators get even more realistic?

What if…?

You challenged yourself to create content that was entertaining first, educational second? 

You went to where people already willingly spend their time? Can you learn from those who know how to grab (and hold) people’s attention?  

You empowered people to learn from each other, rather than from a formal ‘teacher’? 

The virtual learning experience was faster, cheaper, safer and more effective than a physical equivalent? 

This newsletter (and upcoming book) is an attempt to explore what the world might look like as we leave the pandemic behind.

We'd love your feedback, tips and advice. Will new technologies and social platforms usher in a new era of learning? Or will we continue doomscrolling our way to the lowest common denominator?

Let us know by replying to this email or, even better, comment on LinkedIn so that others can benefit from your insights.

Thanks for reading, and see you next week!