Smart Learning


Self-directed supplementation of school-based learning

Principal Metaphors

Smart Learning is not explicit about or aligned with any theory of learning – and, consequently, direct references to learning are most often suggestive of Folk Theories.
  • Knowledge is … material; objectified facts
  • Knowing is … mastered material
  • Learner is … a gatherer (individual)
  • Learning is … acquiring
  • Teaching is … N/A




Smart Learning is an umbrella notion that reaches across technology-enhanced systems designed to support individual learning that are adaptable to learner needs and preferences, context-aware, mobile, tapped into digital resources, and able to interact with other learning systems. Moving beyond “delivery models,” Smart Learning is intended to offer guidance, hints, and other timely and situationally appropriate supports.


The basic premise of Smart Learning – that is, of optimizing learning by customizing experiences to each person in contextually sensitive ways – seems sound and just, provided the discussion stays within the frame of individual learning. It would appear that social, cultural, and ecological considerations are secondary (at best) within this frame. Additionally, Smart Learning is intimately tied into use and surveillance of technologies associated with mass data collection, prompting concerns around still-emerging legal and ethical issues.

Authors and/or Prominent Influences


Status as a Theory of Learning

Smart Learning is not a theory of learning.

Status as a Theory of Teaching

Smart of Learning is a theory of teaching – albeit one in which the human teacher is replaced by smart devices.

Status as a Scientific Theory

Research into Smart Learning is tied into research on “smart technologies,” “smart cities,” and so on. That is, Smart Learning is nested in rapidly growing research initiatives and commercial projects associated with hyperconnectivity and mass data collection – domains that are simultaneously spawning massive pools of empirical data and extensive debates on ethical issues. Significantly, few proponents of Smart Learning show signs of being at all attentive to the metaphors and other theoretical commitments that drive the movement. As such, despite its reliance on advanced technologies, it cannot yet be described as a scientific theory.

Map Location

Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2019). “Smart Learning” in Discourses on Learning in Education.

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