I believe there are four "givens" for an learning eco-system:-
1. Learning's no longer an event or even a process - it's embedded in work;
2. Multiple approaches to supporting learning interventions must be readily available (mainly, but not exclusively, bite-sized);
3. The learning eco-system must support a combination of formal and informal learning - with the emphasis on the latter; and
4. Cross-function communities and working must be the norm rather than the exception.
There's probably several more "givens" but that's my starter for ten!
The phrase has been around for a number of years, usually in association with informal learning. I sort of buy this concept but just like 'Blended Learning' the danger is in extending the metaphor too far.
First, it got muddled by metaphor. Blended learning failed when it got bogged down by banal metaphors. I've heard them all - blended cocktails, meals, even alloys. Within the ‘food metaphor’ mob we got courses, recipes, buffet learning, tapas learning, fast food versus gourmet. My own favourite is ‘kebab learning’ - a series of small bites, repeated in a spaced practice pattern for reinforcement into long-term learning memory, held together with a solid spine of consistent learning content and objectives. Only kidding of course, but that's the problem with metaphoric blended learning. Who's to say that your metaphor is any better than mine? I even had some fool at the Learning Technologies exhibition come up to me with a 'fruit blender' trying to explain the concept in terms of a fruit smoothie!
What happened to analysis?
Blended learning needs careful thought and analysis, the consideration of the very many methods of learning delivery, sensitivity to context and culture and a matching to resources and budget. It also needs to include scalability, updatability and several other variables. All this talk of meals and metaphors has been going on for several years. What it led were primitive, indigestible (sic) 'classroom and e-learning' mixes. It never got beyond vague 'velcro' models, where bits and bobs were stuck together (now that's a metaphor).
Blended learning became blended TEACHING
Second, blended learning books turned out the very opposite of Blended Learning theory, namely Blended TEACHING. Attempts at defining, describing and prescribing blended learning were crude, involving the usual suspects (classroom plus e-learning). It merely regurgitated existing 'teaching' methods, usually around some even vaguer concept like 'learning styles'. Note how vagaue concepts reinforce each other in training. When it did get theoretical it went wildly overboard, with the ridiculous ramblings of the Lego Brick brigade (Hodgins, Masie etc), espousing the virtues of reusable learning objects.
Let me put forward my own food metaphor – blended baloney. What do you get when you blend things in a mixer without due care and attention to needs, taste and palette? What we got was baloney (dull, tasteless sausage meat).
Use the phrase by all means but let it work as a simple metaphor at a simple level to suggest learners interacting in complex ways in complex environments and not being shoved into classrooms. That should suffice.
I agree totally that we should just allow Learning Ecosystems to work as a simple metaphor and not get too bogged down in the analogy.
There's a parallel between Learning Ecosystems and Communities of Practice. CoP's have a much more rigorous theoretical background, but are harder to hang ideas upon. Learning Ecosystems have no underlying theory, but provide a useful picture, a peg on which to hang ideas.
They both look at similar situations, but just from a different point-of-view.