Apple Watch and the Inevitable Emergence of “wLearning” – #AppleWatch

IMG_8025.PNGI, like millions of people around the globe, was riveted by the Apple Event during which the Apple Watch was unveiled. I’m a tech geek, and always like trying out new toys. I also always look at how new technologies can be used to support people in their performance and learning.

As the watch was being unveiled, they talked about the interface. They talked about the touchscreen, and the challenges associated with a finger that essentially blocks the entire screen when touching it. The solution was innovative and yet familiar: a digital scroll wheel.

It’s really a great solution, serving multiple forms of input. But while this new input device was innovative and full of potential, a bit of fear crept into my mind as I pondered it’s potential.

Holy cr@p… People are going to use that wheel as a next button.

The next day that fear was somewhat confirmed, as a friend contacted me and said she saw a new term being used in a message on Twitter: wLearning. That’s right… Watch-based learning.

Funny as that idea might sounds, I don’t see this as a joke. It’s going to happen. In the context of our work as performance and learning professionals, it’s representative of a habit our industry needs to break free from.

Technology has been opening doors to new possibilities for performance support and learning for decades, arguably no more so than in the last decade. It’s an exciting time to be working in our field, and to explore the possibilities that are available to us.

But history fills me with concern. Our industry has a long track record of taking new technologies and shoehorning old methods into them. We struggle to break away from the lecture-driven templates that we have been conditioned associate with “learning” since our days in classrooms as children.

We see most elearning and mlearning following a prototypical course model. Don’t get me wrong, I’m actually not a hater of the course. I think courses are fine and can be very effective… in the right context. My problem isn’t with the course model; my problem is with the course model being used as the default.

Picture1Apple Watch (and tech like it) does have some tremendous potential to support performance and learning, but only if we look at it differently. It’s only by exploring what’s new about the technology, and identifying the doors that it opens that were previously closed off that we are able to use Apple Watch, or any new technology for that matter, as a way to enhance performance and learning.

So by all means, be excited by Apple Watch, and the likely explosion of wearable tech that will follow. Explore the performance and learning possibilities that are available via these new technologies. But approach it with a curious mindset. Don’t look at how these devices can enhance what you are already doing; look at the new possibilities that are present in the unique affordances of these new technologies.

And whatever you do… PLEASE don’t call it “wLearning”.


10 Responses to Apple Watch and the Inevitable Emergence of “wLearning” – #AppleWatch

  1. Craig Taylor September 11, 2014 at 1:50 am #

    Hi Dave,

    Alas, I fear it’s already started with a well known ‘guru’ setting up a wlearning Twitter account and site 🙂

    Ho hum


    • LnDDave September 11, 2014 at 1:56 am #

      Ho Hum indeed. Hopefully people will focus on potential of this new tech beyond just a new outlet for existing push-content methodologies.

      • Nick Leffler September 12, 2014 at 11:29 am #

        I think a group (small) of people will focus on the potential of it while other groups (large) will abuse it, as with most things. I don’t think this is unique to our industry by any means.

        Trends come about and they have the possibility of being abused, I’ve seen it in UX. Heck, I’m sure I’ve even abused it in UX unknowingly because that’s not my main field of expertise, but I try!

        Best we can do is keep fighting the good fight and be patient with people, not everyone has the resources and access to ideas that we do. It’s our job to propagate those alternate ideas, just like you both have been doing 🙂

  2. Jane Bozarth September 11, 2014 at 5:40 am #

    Some were already using the term “wLearning” for “wearable”: Google Glass, FitBit, etc. but yes, I saw “course on a watch” yesterday, less than 24 hours after the Apple announcement. Please. Just. No.

  3. Chief NuggetHead September 11, 2014 at 8:39 am #

    It’s shiny and it’s new. Shiny new objects get abused at first. Let’s hope the L&D industry has learned from our history so you won’t be as concerned.

  4. Melissa Milloway September 12, 2014 at 5:37 pm #

    Great article! I agree with all of your points. The first thing I thought about was the next button too. I’d like to see an article with positive ideas for using a smart watch to SUPPORT training. I think it would be cool for safety training especially. Not that you couldn’t use a phone but it would be cool for the watch to identify and alert you when you are training and you make a mistake and it gives you feedback. I bet it could be done with sensors.

    • Melissa Milloway September 12, 2014 at 5:37 pm #

      support is the key word in all of this 🙂

  5. EJ LeBlanc April 8, 2016 at 6:48 pm #

    That “NOT A NEXT BUTTON” graphic made me laugh pretty hard.


  1. Apple Watch and the Inevitable Emergence of “wLearning” – #AppleWatch - e-Learning Feeds - September 11, 2014

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