Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Formal/Informal learning

It's been a while since I last blogged. This is mainly due to getting married and going on honeymoon. A welcome distraction from my Learning Technology Learning.

Recently I've found myself reading more academic articles than blogs. I aimed to catch up with my blog reading but it's been enlightening to gain some academic perspectives. Overall, blog reading is easier. It fits in with my informal learning ethos and lends itself to the extraction of ideas which I can then weave together as I reflect. Academic article reading is hard but rewarding. Hopefully I can achieve a good balance of learning from both in the future.

A recent bit of learning has been around formal learning on reading the paper Theories of formal and informal learning in the world of web 2.0 by Charles Crook (2008). He says:

"It is the act of deliberate teaching that ‘formalises’ learning. But deliberate teaching is complemented by deliberate learning. Ideally, both parties in the
educational contract have a degree of this intent – albeit not equally well or equally enthusiastically developed."

It is easy to bash formal education but the above reminds us that, in essence, its a wonderful thing. It's about deliberately engendering learning and this should be celebrated. So what's the place of informal learning? I promote informal learning because I know how powerful it can be and I would disagree with the notion that the only "proper" learning is done through formal education. Where it's good quality a formal course is the best and easiest way of accelerate your learning in a certain subject. But such instances are not always available when, and where, you want them. This is where informal learning comes into play. It's take a certain skillset and mindset to do it effectively but these can be learned. And certainly from my perspective, technology is fundamental to being able to realise it.

The above quote hints that motivation isn't always there with formal learning. Essentially in schools, we are forcing people to learn whether they want to or not. Or, at least, we are trying to. Informal learning only exists where there is motivation to learn. But if we took away formal education I'm not so sure that everyone would jump into doing it themselves enthusiastically. The learner control aspect is often mooted is a big plus the informal learning and that this can aid with learners who are disenfranchised from formal education. Here there is a clear role for informal learning and what we need are processes and support mechanism in place to help learner get started.

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