Last week you were encouraged to become a mutant learner and actively harness and embrace technology on your learning journey. This week we’ll learn about the 5 different links or types of Mutant Learners.

The 5 Links of Mutant Learning model is made up of two axes.

The vertical axis on this model essentially represents your activity rate as a learner—think of it as your learning pulse rate. Are you an active learner? Someone who is actively engaged in searching for answers and progressing? Occasionally sharing the knowledge you’ve discovered? Or are you considered a dynamic learner: someone who is vigorously seeking answers and continuously improving yourself. Some may consider you a dynamic force that motivates and affects people with your thoughts and contributions.

The horizontal axis indicates what role you play in the learning economy. Are you actively adding value by creating and contributing your knowledge? Or do you consume and learn from the knowledge that others have produced? Both roles are acceptable because one cannot exist without the other—knowledge must be contributed, or produced, before it can be consumed. As you will see, we strongly advocate not only consuming knowledge, but you should also seek opportunities to contribute to the knowledge base in a community. No matter what your field of study or career track, you have relevant experience that will benefit someone else who has not had those experiences yet.

Now let’s dive into the 5 Links of Mutant Learners, or learning styles, of people in the mutant age.

  • The Initiator. This learner initiates a conversation by asking, “Do you know?” They are dynamic consumers of knowledge. These are the individuals who ask questions on a social networking site like Facebook and LinkedIn and wait for the community to answer. They instigate, prod, stir, and then wait to see what answers they get.
  • The Creator. This learner says, “I will do it.” They are dynamic contributors of knowledge. They know the answer to the Initiator’s questions, and can confidently articulate their response via a blog, wiki, community post, or other online tool. Creators are the lifeblood of the Mutant Learning age. Without these dynamic contributors, the perpetual growth and value of online mutant communities would die.
  • The Learner. This learner thinks, “I want to know.” These are the active consumers. This is how most of us learn every day. We seek knowledge – finding it, reading it, and internalizing it. While there is nothing new about this category, the means through which we gain knowledge has exponentially increased and dramatically changed due to technological, mobile, and wireless advances.
  • The Wanderer. This learner says, “Look what I found.” They are an active contributor to the online learning community. A wanderer is someone who stumbles upon an interesting source of knowledge somewhere on the web and then shares it on Twitter, Facebook, or another online community. While their initial intent may not have been to learn anything new, their online activity accidentally led them to learn something of value, which they then wanted to share with others. We want to make it clear that being a wanderer is not necessarily a bad trait, in fact, JRR Tolkien once said, “Not everyone who wanders is lost.” As long as you don’t spend most of your learning bandwidth wandering, accidentally stumbling across learning fragments can be a refreshing change to the regimented practice of looking for specific information.
  • The Zombie. A Zombie Learner says, “I don’t care.” They are not producing or consuming— they are decomposing. They have no desire to explore and spend little to no effort learning new things or opening themselves up to new technologies of learning. These people are also referred to as Luddites, people who hold on so tightly to their old ways of business that it strangles innovation and new modes of learning. They are not even on the 5 Links matrix, because they don’t contribute or consume, nor are they active in the digital learning realm.

So, which link should you be in? Most people should spend the majority of their time in the first four links, depending on their work-life balance and current projects. While most of your time is probably spent as a Learner, to be a true Mutant Learner you have to take your newly acquired knowledge and transform yourself into an Initiator or Creator. Never waste your time being a Zombie—it will kill your spirit and stifle those around you. To be a Mutant Learner, or someone who spends their time in the four positive learning links, you need to build a Mutant Learning Lab – see next week’s blog post to learn more about Mutant Learning Labs.

(Adapted from the previously published white paper, “Mutant Learning: How to Develop a Social Learning Lab.”)

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