SCoPE Seminar: Informal Learning: May 15 - June 4, 2006

Welcome Informal Learners!

Welcome Informal Learners!

by Sarah Haavind -
Number of replies: 49
Welcome to the latest Scope seminar. As I've prepared to co-lead our collaborative exchange with Nancy, I've realized that informal learning is sort of like inquiry: it?s tough to hold onto and replicate informal learning experiences for others. As soon as informal learning is set into a structure, it?s easily lost. However, also like inquiry, informal learning is no less valuable for its slippery ways.

This three week seminar is intended for those interested in the inherent potential of understanding informal learning more deeply. Please join us with your latest insights and questions about informal learning! We?ll weave together the latest, cohesive quilt of knowledge nuggets, gems, half-baked ideas, as well as emerging approaches to informal learning using our newest tools ? blogs, del.icio.us, RSS, whatever! Come on in, let?s play?to get us started, please introduce yourself and offer some initial thoughts or compelling experiences of informal learning. What do we know?

In reply to Sarah Haavind

Re: Welcome Informal Learners!

by Nancy White -
First of all, I'm thrilled to be on this adventure with Sarah, whose work I am always benefiting from! Thanks, Sarah.

As I walked out to the driveway this morning to pick up the paper (after 2 Skype calls with colleagues, both trying to figure out the finer points of using Moodle in a less structured manner - dare I say "informal!"), I was remembering what I love about informal learning. It is happening all the time. It is both intentional and opportunistic. It is indivdiual and collective. It can be tiny and incremental, or afford a leap forward. It can be intimate or anonymous.

And then, it is also elusive. That slippery nature, Sarah, is so important. So I'm eagerly looking forward to our informal unfolding on "informal learning." So much that I'm still informally dressed in my jammies!


In reply to Nancy White

Re: Welcome Informal Learners!

by chris macrae -

In my view Nancy is the mission impossible facilitator of the online (and sometimes hybrid virtual and real) community worlds in terms of the deep social , collaboration or informal learning projects she takes on

I was wondering Nancy if you give us a list of 3 or 5 that you have found most moving over the last decade. I ask because I think the range is inspiring and it would be good to see a list of contexts in front of us however partial such a shortlist is

chris macrae

currently jamming at http://yourgandhi.blogspot.com and for http://www.changemakers.net/journal/300603/health.cfm

In reply to chris macrae

Re: Welcome Informal Learners!

by Nancy White -
Chris, besides blushing, I have been thinking over your posting. I have been trying to separate the two strands that come up for me: moving examples of informal learning and the concept of how we nurture and facilitate informal learning. (Then perhaps, the substream of how we do this online or in a hybrid on/off situation.)

I'll start with the easiest: moving examples. I can't say they are the most moving. They are the ones that are moving that I can remember. There are TONS of moving examples. It happens every day.

From 2000-2004 I worked with an amazing group of people in Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan, most closely with a school connectivity project in Armenia (http://www.projectharmony.am/) We were developing the technical and process infrastructure to facilitate people interacting, connecting and working together using the internet to address local issues. Many rural mountain villages are cut off from everything in the winter, and cost of travel prohibitive at other times. But there are shared problems. The team helped get community internet centers set up in schools, did local trainings, then organized online events around themes such as children's health, employment, volunteerism etc. They found people interested across 3-4 villages for each theme and organized online events. Two amazing and touching examples of informal learning here:'
  • The parents who convened online to talk about their children's health with pediatricians from the capital found out there WAS things they could do both to prevent and treat illnesses, even without a doctor. The doctors thought they were there to give advice, but they discovered that there were compelling reasons to get out into the villages and see children more often, and by talking with fellow doctors, they became encouraged to do this and formed an informal pediatrics association to both support their professional development and to coordinate field visits. What happened at the core is that people connected and discovered new learning and resources - each other. Amazingly wonderful.
  • The second example of informal learning in this project was how we did after action reviews and storytelling to evaluate our work. It was slow at first, with most people saying the obvious. "We planned to do this, we did that." Then all of a sudden something changed and one member of the team thought back to our first meeting and the man who convened us. At that moment they started to really see the big picture of what they had accomplished and it was more than just a set of tasks. It was transforming first their own thinking, then helping others do the same. The stories came alive, richer with detail. Our ability to learn from our stories increased. It was a moment of self awareness, triggered by storytelling, that facilitated our leap forward in our informal learning.
So my take aways from this are that connection and self awareness are two key components of informal learning for me.

What are your moving examples and lessons?
In reply to Nancy White

Re: Welcome Informal Learners!

by chris macrae -

I am still catching up with Nancy's Project harmony link. I note a school's conectivity programme eg http://www.ascp.am/en/calendar.html?day=18&month=05&year=2006&regional=1

I was wondering around the world what schools connectivity programs would you suggest as vaut le voyage, or is this the only one of its kind?

In reply to chris macrae

Re: Welcome Informal Learners!

by Nancy White -
Chris, there are MANY school connectivity programs. Much of the ICT funding in the past 5 years has been around telecenters and school connectivity programs. Schools are targets because they have the basic infrastructure (building) to house the hardware. What distinguishes programs, in my view, is how they are deployed. Some are highly structured (yes, FORMAL!) with proscribed curriculum, often focused on basic IT skills. However some are oriented around social networking, community driven programming and, heaven help us, spontenaity as things emerge.

It seems to me that programs which focus on a community's orientation (interests, needs) and then practices that help support those needs, are far richer in possibility. The problem is, most funders are looking for concrete, definable outcomes, so programs have to toe that line. The creative ones find ways to do both. In it's heyday, the Project Harmony program did just that.

I think the concept of discovery is important.
In reply to Nancy White

Re: Welcome Informal Learners!

by Susanne Nyrop -
Hello there!


I'm Sus Nyrop from Denmark - and I'm a webhead! Webheads in Action have been a major reference and informal peer group for me ever since I jumped into one of the weekly Sunday sessions @ Tapped In back in 2000.

Here, there and anywhere else in cyberspace I've found so many friends sharing some of my own passion for the read/write web (which is now also moving into the listen/speak era!

I'm one of those people with "a different learning style" and i can tell you what great advantage it has been for someone like myself to become an onliner. I hop from one link to another, my links history is really amazingly diverse.

I know several of you from earlier occasions; Sarah from a workshop in Global Educators' Network, also Sylvia whom I've even met at a conference live in Toronto - Nancy and also Bronwyn from CPsquare and so on.

This afternoon I was approached on Skype by Lee Baber , a webhead teaching grade 8 students somewhere in Washington US. She's following the Webcast academy track at Worldbridges and she invited me as her virtual guest in this coming Friday's podcast session with her students. Within ten minutes we had set up a loose draft for this session - I suggested I could talk about animals and we found some relevant URLs, then I posted a few lines about myself for the blog, and the rest will be planned tomorrow. This could happen because of trust building between not only me and Lee but also all of those prevoius collaborative events where we have met as true webheads. I've got to stop this endless narrative for now - it is midnight here in Denmark and I want to start early tomorrow as I have to prepare the last details for a virtuel meeting with Nordic school librarians on Thursday where I'm the host (it will be in Danish/Norwegian language and our registered guests are mostly all from Sweden, and we're following up (or hoping to do so) with a Moodle forum conversation. And all that I wanted just here & now was to demonstrate my full sympathy and online presence in this context - hopefully there'll be more time pockets where I can join and share :-)

yours Sus
(URLs will have to wait for now - please ask ahead or do your usual Googling!)
Attachment NS-avis_NielsDamgaard.jpg
In reply to Susanne Nyrop

Re: Welcome Informal Learners!

by Nancy White -
Hey Sus! Good to 'see' you. Your story is one of the reasons I feel informal learning is not only a strategy, but a competency in today's world. Yeah!

Is the school in Washington DC or Washington State? (I'm in the state. The REAL Washington. Grin).
In reply to Nancy White

Re: Welcome Informal Learners!

by Bruce Jones -
Nancy et. al.

As Nancy can tell you my onlline mantra for several years has been the use of online discussions and forums to promote learning in a Socratic manner, especiallu in the area of corporate education.  This could be called informal since no one set(s) up a curriculum ... it just happens.

I am engaged in several other projects at this time so will just look in from time to time to see what is going on.
In reply to Sarah Haavind

Re: Welcome Informal Learners!

by Timothy Wells -

I received notification of this seminar through the Instructional Technology Forum [ITFORUM@LISTSERV.UGA.EDU].

There are so many dimensions to this topic - What can we learn from the way our ancesters learned in a tribal setting?  All of us are learning all the time (gang members, prison inmates, local garden clubs, religious communities) - what makes these setting so efficient?  As we learn more about informal learning, how can we improve 'formal' learning?  How do we assess each other's knowledge? (we seem to have a good 'sense' of who to go to for help at work - how do we determine this?)

I am looking forward to hearing new thoughts and observations.

In reply to Sarah Haavind

Re: Welcome Informal Learners!

by minh mcCloy -

Maybe ALL learning is informal. Perhaps it's just the settings & contexts that exhibit formality or otherwise. Or vice versa. :)

Chaos Theory is going to have to get a workout here. Can't count the number of times some butterfly flitter from years ago, (maybe in a very formal classroom, maybe sitting in a tree), blossoms forth as a useful concept/understanding - just in time & at need. And like the mythic big storm of Chaos Theory the concept/understanding has accretions & interpolations & extrapolations & has developed.

Is this learning? It's certainly a useful & adaptive process.

It presents as being highly informal because I have had no access to the process but perhaps .... mmmm

Here i Have to ask is formal a synonym for structured?

:)

minh

In reply to minh mcCloy

Synonym?

by Derek Chirnside -
Hi Everyone, another very interesting, diverse and multifacted topic.

From Re: Welcome Informal Learners! by minh on Monday, 15 May 2006 5:08:00 p.m.:

Here i Have to ask is formal a synonym for structured?

This is probably a good start.  Also  Prescribed (as in course objectives), Linear, and Predetermined . .

What is scary is the divergence of what people learn when exposed to the same input.  In fact I think this is probably not possible to expose people to the same input, since too much is different in our receptor mechanisms.  Lke water in a flood plain.  It tends to follow a path influenced by what has gone before.  Unless there is a really BIG lump of water.

A little story: in 1999 as part of a teacher professional development project we videoed kids doing practical (science) classroom activities and then played them back with the kids and the teachers having a dialogue.  "What were you thinkng when you did this?"  "What led you to do that?"

What the kids thought, how they responded, what they 'learned' being exposed to the same audible wave patterns in the air (the teachers words) caused radically different responses in their synapses and then their actions.

Some kids had a range of attitudes

eg "What is the teacher trying to say, can I do it, have I got it?"  Others seemed to have a sense "What can I discover about the world, the meaning of life and stuff?" - and little feel for formal goals.
As an aside: we specifically tried to help this second group to realise that in the midst of a school system, sometimes they needed to suspend their creativity and passion for a while and focus on formal goals.  Just until the assessments were over.  :-)

Some students were naturally strongly focused on the formal learning goals.  Others had little sense of these, and seemed to consciously think about things in their minds.  Like "The battery has a soft feel to it, I wonder they it's not like these other hard things?" and a student was examining it with scores from a fingernail.  Absolutely irrelvant to the 'Lesson'.

Informal learning happens all the time, and is of course different in diferent minds.  It's partly an attitude that causes a thought to remain in the brain a little longer, to value it, and to not dismiss it.  I think personally I value this attitude.

As a PS, I discovered a quite interesting non-standard blog recently with some interesting posts on thisMathemagenic ...giving birth to learning...  (with) Lilia Efimova



In reply to Derek Chirnside

Chaos, chance, serendipity, intentional learning and?

by Sarah Haavind -
Informal greetings to you all ? great that Chris, Timothy, Minh, Derek and Jay have jumped on board already <waving happily and smiling>! Nancy is busily preparing her short list of community contexts that Chris requested as well as some additional resources to jumpstart our wiki on informal learning. (You?ll find our wiki at the top of your ?Jump to? list in the upper right-hand corner of your Scope screen.) We hope everyone will contribute resources to as well as start exploring our Informal Learning Resources wiki. Then bring your thoughts and discoveries back here!

Jay presented his new book at an off-site session I attended at AERA last month, on the campus of San Francisco State University (was anyone else there?). His talk was called, ?Informal Learning: Push vs Pull Learning, Democratization of Work, and Workflow Learning.? It was entertaining and thought provoking and we?re glad to have you join us here. I look forward to learning even more about your perspective and insights.

Timothy?s great questions made me think of the last provocative book I know of related to our topic, Brown & Duguid?s Social Social Life of Information (2000). If you don?t already have a copy covered in highlighter and fraying at the edges in your library, I highly recommend picking up a used copy when you put your name in to reserve your copy of Jay?s new book.

Derek?s story prompts one of my own:

Following an AERA session two years ago, Mark Schlager, Etienne Wenger and I were building a description of our vision for what teacher professional development should look like. Key elements included online collaborative tools such as Tapped In 2 and teacher-led inquiry that resembled what Etienne has termed the ?horizontalization" of learning. I added content-based case studies, such as those developed at The Concord Consortium for Seeing Math as context for dialogue. Our collective vision reflected the recognized value of creating opportunities for informal learning.

The challenge seems to be avoiding the pitfalls pointed out when Minh focused our collective lens on the terms ?formal? and ?structured? vs. chaos?is there something more synonymous with chaos that we can shape intentionally? Slippery, isn?t it?More stories, insights, introductions anyone?
In reply to Sarah Haavind

Re: Chaos, chance, serendipity, intentional learning and?

by minh mcCloy -

In the common parlance Chaos has SUCH a bad name - poor thing. Chaos is a given - turbulence, change, the heat death of the universe. So we can't avoid it or work around it or ignore it. Chaos makes itself known whether we acknowledge it or no.

In a swirling glorious chaotic flexiverse I try to develop responsive, adaptive, autonomous learners & to be one myself.

So can we do this? Is it useful?:

  • formal is to informal as
  • chaos is to autonomy or
  • chaos is to adaptability

:)

minh

In reply to minh mcCloy

Re: Chaos, chance, serendipity, intentional learning and?

by Nancy White -
I have to admit some confusion here. (Actually, I think confusion may be a part of informal learning, so I've learned to embrace it!)

minh, can you help me understand the difference between chaos and complexity in the way you are using the term? Or maybe I'm not seeing the "chaos is to autonomy" ... maybe tell us a story to help clarify?

My sense is informal learning is a great strategy in a complex system. But I'm not sure anything helps with chaos! :-)


In reply to Sarah Haavind

Re: Welcome Informal Learners!

by Jay Cross -
Ooooooooooh. Great timing! Thanks for hosting this. I have just completed a book on Informal Learning (due out this November). My starting point is corporate learning but at the end of the day, learning is learning. I am glad to join you to learn, and I'll share what I've found over the last year. Some may want to check out my informal learning site.
In reply to Sarah Haavind

Re: Welcome Informal Learners!

by Bronwyn Stuckey -
How could I resist the topic and even more so when it is facilitated by two of my favourite people! Add Jay Cross and some of the other names I see gathering here and it looks like we are in for some very provocative discussions.
In reply to Bronwyn Stuckey

Re: Welcome Informal Learners!

by chris macrae -

I am not familiar with all the nuances of the phrase "informal learning" (tacit I get) . In any event an issue I keep bumping into is that the action learning people in a community often need most is too contextual for those who govern (or who have authority over the community) to be complete help with , or to be as much help as they believe they are required to look as if they are in control of.

 I personally wish that before leaving school every child could experience a full open space because I think what that changes is the self-organising or co-organising confidence of a person to recognise that one of the pervasive community problems we face is over-government.

Also, thanks for the great case Nancy!

  

In reply to Sarah Haavind

Clarifications

by Greg Verhappen -
This seems like it will be a very interesting scusssion.

I really am quite unfamiliar with the background of informal learning so some clarification would be very helpful for me.  Examples of the types of questions stewing around in my head include:

What are the relationships between informal learning, tacit learning, unconscious learning, and incidental learning (serendipity)?

What role does context and attention play in these areas?

How is unconscious, tacit, and informal learning related to intentional and unintentional teaching?

We can obviously learn many different things at once such as the formal concept in a science class, an impression of like/dislike for the lesson, the fact that plastic ziploc baggies and balloons really have a kazillion holes in them even though they can hold water, etc.

As a teacher and doctoral student interested in instructional design, the motivation behind these questions is that I suspect it is possible to structure a learning environment to increase the probability that inquiry will proceed in a particular direction.  By not paying attention to the myriad of influences on the environment the learning outcomes we expect may not be the ones we intended.  (No comment on whether this is good or bad because there are benefits to both.)   Conscious modeling and explicitly directed attention are two factors that will help. 

For example, in raising my children I will often make comments about things that I have observed such as, "Wasn't that person kind to hold that door open for the other person?  Did you notice how happy that made the other person?"  Is that informal teaching/learning or formal? My boys and I were just hanging out but I valued this as a positive learning opportunity for my boys.  I could easily have done nothing or said nothing.  In both cases, I can't be guarranteed what my sons learned, but I can assume that the probability for learning what I was hoping for was increased by bringing it to someone's attention.

In another example, my youngest son recently commented to me that he noticed that there are many people who used bad language and that I never did.  He just wanted to let me know that he didn't use bad language either.

How do these compare for informal learning?

As you can see, this topic has very interesting possibilities and I am interested in learning more, but clarification on some of these questions would be very useful.

Cheers!
Greg
In reply to Greg Verhappen

Re: Clarifications

by Ann Busby -

Hi, Greg, some very good questions. Your questions:

What are the relationships between informal learning, tacit learning, unconscious learning, and incidental learning (serendipity)?

What role does context and attention play in these areas?

How is unconscious, tacit, and informal learning related to intentional and unintentional teaching?
I think we're using informal learning in context of people sharing. Someone starts with a need (a need for information/knowledge or perhaps need for a service). They start asking around for who has that knowledge/skill. In their conversations, they learn who the "go to" person is, collaborate with that person(s), and learn other stuff along the way. Like the first person you talk to knows a little about answering your need. You tuck that tidbit away, go to the next person who knows the person you need to talk to and you learn what that person likes, so you offer something in exchange (perhaps-what I would do) for their help/knowledge sharing. It's learning from each other, and informal in that no one has given you direction-you are just a seeker. Incidental learning can happen (as you learn from everyone with whom you talk about your need)-but doesn't have to happen. You may get lucky and find out immediately who to go to.

Context-is whatever you seek (the need); and attention-I suspect if you're the one with the need, your attention will be fixed, don't you?

Anyone else? Thanks, Greg, from Ann

In reply to Sarah Haavind

Re: Welcome Informal Learners!

by Bryan Zug -

Very interesting to have come across this seminar after re-connecting with Nancy White (and her blog) last month at Seattle Mind Camp 2.0.

I am currently involved in creating online eLearning gathering points for Children's Hospital at Stanford -- things that range from the informal to the highly structured -- elearning ecosystems, if you will.

Looking forward to hanging out as time permits over the next few weeks -- love the RSS feed for the conversation ?- we really need that kind of thing inside the firewall so we can informalize collaborative learning conversations like this ;)

In reply to Bryan Zug

Re: Welcome Informal Learners!

by Ann Busby -
Brian, I love your term, "elearning ecosystems." It produces a cool graphic inside my minds eye. Thanks! Ann
In reply to Ann Busby

Re: Welcome Informal Learners!

by Bryan Zug -
>>
I love your term, "elearning ecosystems."
>>

Thanks Ann -- I've been using that phrase a lot over the last year -- Not sure if others have used it before.

The last few years I've worked for Healthcare organizations that have been very interested in highly structured software simulation eLearning systems, but have not found the resources to develop things at the 'water cooler/informal' end of eLearning (like reqularly updated FAQ's and easily discoverable help info).

As I've been advocating for a more "balanced" (read human ;) approach, I needed a term that would visually capture the idea -- ergo "eLearning ecosystems".
In reply to Bryan Zug

Re: Welcome Informal Learners!

by Heather Ross -
Bryan,

I am very interested in hearing more about what you've been working on. I'm doing a lot of work with health care related eLearning and just in time eLearning.

I'm also looking forward to "hanging out" around this discussion as time permits.
In reply to Sarah Haavind

Re: Welcome Informal Learners!

by Nancy Riffer -
Hi everyone,
I'm an avid life long learner. I can't help it. I love to learn informally.

In informal learning, I think the learner is the one in charge of the process. Informal learning can take place in a setting with structured offerings or in situations where the learner starts out on his/her own to locate resources.

I'll describe an example of a learning environment that I found effective for my informal learning. I recently participated in a large world conference on line. There were structured presentations, discussion spaces linked to each presentation, chats with some presenters, chats on topics with just a facilitator, and lots of opportunity for anyone to start a chat on any topic at any time. I see this as an informal learning opportunity because everyone was there by choice. Within the setting, one could listen to lectures, read or listen to case studies, interact with individuals of interest, start conversations or chats, etc. One could pursue learning following one's own interests, learning style, available time, etc.  And one could track several activities, walk away or switch activity at any time without embarassment.

I'd be interested in hearing other examples of informal learning situations -- structured or not -- that you found to be effective?



In reply to Sarah Haavind

Re: Welcome Informal Learners!

by Hanan Gazit (VRider) -

Hey all,

Looking forward to an effective learning experience?three weeks is a long time !-)

Here is what I?ve just posted on Jay Cross?s Informal learning Website list entitled: Informal learning with video Stories at IBM (recommended!) 

" Support for Informal learning using video stories can be found within the MMOG community, such as WOWarcraft III. The players learn from each others strategic moves and much more by watching matches replays. This example calls for extanding the NCES definition of Informal learning to include kids as well".   

You?re invited to take a look at additional example: Futurelab?s Space Signpost. The signpost aims to make space science more accessible, by allowing people to chart their own path through the cosmos using a touch screen interface. 
Lets Play!

In reply to Sarah Haavind

Re: Welcome Informal Learners!

by Gunnar Bruckner -
Greetings from Berlin/Germany and thanks for the warm welcome.

Believe it or not, there is value in checking out some European sources around the issue of Informal Learning. A recent  CEDEFOP document (see the attached) is called The Learning Continuity - a European inventory on validating non-formal and informal learning. This one is a great start to shortcut a discussion on definitions and to provide info on specific European countries.

http://www2.trainingvillage.gr/etv/publication/download/panorama/5164_en.pdf

The IL issue is clearly gaining momentum amongst learning professionals as well as amongst managers in their continual quest for increasing effectiveness. Jay and all the others will agree that there is a huge potential to be unleashed...if only we knew how? I suggest to open a thread on very practical ideas.

Ciao...Gunnar
In reply to Gunnar Bruckner

I can't Believe How Many People Here I Know

by Nancy White -
OK, I'm freaking out a bit here. I can't believe how many of you who have posted I know or have bumped into online. It is astonishing. This is for me another benefit of informal learning -- the network of people you can form in a very ad hoc manner. It is stunning!
In reply to Sarah Haavind

Late, but lurking

by Alice MacGillivray -
Hello everyone. I have hesitated to introduce myself, because I am moving into a busy stretch and am not sure I have the energy for the kind of participation that this theme deserves.

Hello to those of you I know, and to those of you with whom I've tried to connect (Jay - I think I had an old e-mail address for you).  And it is wonderful to meet new people with common interests.

I had this site open, trying to decide whether to post, and I switched over to another online conversation briefly.  There I found (among other great things) an addition to a thread about research.  Someone had asked me for more detail about research I am doing with a "network of communities, working together to deliver capability" (in this case - related to terrorism prevention and mitigation in Canada).  The research looks at the intersections of knowledge sharing, complexity and leadership.  A few minutes ago, she had posted a reply with links to several interesting individuals and projects, which are related, and happening outside Canada.  So...as Nancy has said...informal learning happens constantly.

One of the elements of my busy-ness over the next couple of weeks is working with an organization that is locked into formal learning (or thinks it is -- a fascinatingly common paradigm) and wants to explore the informal. 
In reply to Sarah Haavind

Re: Welcome Informal Learners!

by Chrys Horn -

Kia ora from New Zealand

Although I have to admit to being a little daunted by the traffic and the topic (what is informal learning and what different frames are people using to explain, define and think about it?) I thought I'd start somewhere before I get completely overwhelmed. 

I"m enjoying the questions and wondering how much we want to define what informal learning is and how much we want to just define what it is that we want to talk about.

So saying, I'm interested to talk about learning that happens outside formal learning institutions and processes and may or may not happen with intent to learn.  So this includes things like learning groups, the aha moments that arise on a bikeride to work or in the shower or in the middle of another sentence, or learning through conversations in the stairwell. 

I'm struck often by the layers of understanding the develop through learning.  By this I mean I may learning something either in formal, structured settings (or not) and I have the idea, or the theory nicely in my head.  That's one level of learning.  But when I try to put that learning into some kind of new practice, that is a whole new process which often requires me to realise that what I think I'm doing and what I actually am doing are a little different.  I suppose this is about embodying new knowledge, or something.   

This second layer is the layer that interests me most.  It nearly always happens in informal settings and is a very difficult process to institutionalise or systematise and yet it seems to me to be very important if first layer learning is ever to become useful.   This reminds me of a business advisor friend of mine who recently bought a business only to realise how bad she was at practicing what she has "preached" for years.  

Have others noted this and thought about it at all?

Is this simply experiential learning? 

Is experiential learning informal learning?

Cheers

Chrys

In reply to Sarah Haavind

Re: Welcome Informal Learners!

by Christie Mason -
Applying chaos and complexity theories to learning and organizational systems has fascinated me for a very long time.  (http://tinyurl.com/qhnu6)  I don't remember when I encountered "The Edge of Chaos is Where Systems are at Their Optimum Performance" but it's held true during hundreds of reviews of learning and organizational systems. 

Each individual, each system, defines their "edge" differently, plus the definition of that "edge" will change in reaction to situational/environmental changes.  eLearning can support informal learning processes that meet the dynamic edge of chaos as it evolves and changes in ways that traditional training never could.

Christie Mason
In reply to Christie Mason

Re: Welcome Informal Learners!

by Frances Long -
Hello everyone! Just want to let you know that I am here, reading with glee every post that comes through my email inbox. Talk about informal learning at it's best! I love reading your words and following a few links that take me into different worlds. They are sending my mind reeling with different visions and thoughts about better ways to do things. At the risk of stealing from AA introductions... I will say to you -- hi -- I'm frances and I live online in knowplace where we have formal and informal learning activities for people who work online with others.

Great to see some familiar faces here! Even though I have never met you face-to-face, it feels like old home week. So ... back to my online life I go -- but just want you to know that I am here enjoying my informal learning!
In reply to Frances Long

Re: Welcome Informal Learners!

by chris macrae -

I am really very interested in informal learning now its been explained in open relationship permissioning terms as: someone starts with a question, passes it through a network (including peers of tye same age group and why not worldwide please!) and sees who the is voted most practical answerer (or as I imagine may happen connector with the next level of contextual depth of the question)

I have posited since 1984 that the net's main revolution for children's learning could be instructed as: use conversations and virtual tools to find your deepest contextual mentors through life and help others likewise. Clearly questiontrains (as well as cluetrains http://www.cluetrain.com ) if openly agented enable people to find both the contexts and level of practice communities they need to move their experiential edge up tyhe next grade, as well as map who the grandmasters are thought to be. It seems to me that we live in an odd world. When it comes to sports , we can find out who is regarded as the champion very easily. When it comes to deep deep vocational skills of more practical kinds, in most cases there is no map to who does the best work or where apprentice alumin in te svchool of the master circle out to meet ultimately novices and children who could be those who most need welcoming (somehow informal learning seems to me to do with log up maps in specific areas, finds ways of sponsoring grandmasters so at elast the basic paths towards greatness are open and free for all to tread)

I could go on too long if I haven't already!

chris http://ninenow.blogspot.com

 

In reply to Sarah Haavind

Re: Welcome Informal Learners!

by Nancy White -
I had the urge to visualize us...
our camp fire
In reply to Nancy White

Re: Welcome Informal Learners!

by chris macrae -
do you think that if we were sitting round the camp fire for real we'd be more likely to evolve into some action learning projects; put another way, has anyone seen a virtual interface generate projects (other than pure virtual ones) with as much sucess as real meetings. If so, what was the project unleasher?
In reply to Nancy White

Re: Welcome Informal Learners!

by minh mcCloy -

Well given the campfire seating arrangemnets I can politely turn to my virtual left & say  - "G'day jay" :) & my vright - "G'day Christie". :) & wave to everyone.

Nice work Nancy - now if you could just run up a visualization that displays the conceptual connectivities that have been established by the troupe thus far.

:)

minh

In reply to Nancy White

Re: Welcome Informal Learners!

by Michael Randel -

Not too late to join the conversation, I hope!  Michael Randel from Washington DC here.  I recognise some of the names from workshops on 'online facilitation' and 'communities of practice.'  I'm not an expert in this field, but am very interested in what I can pick up in the next few weeks!

Michael

In reply to Michael Randel

community 'round the informal learning fire opens to welcome one and all

by Sarah Haavind -
Our warm and friendly campfire setting will continue to welcome anyone interested in sitting in or joining our conversation on informal learning for the duration, of course! Glad to have you Michael, Nick (hi Nick!) and anyone else who would like to settle in. I don't think "late" is either a meaningful nor a useful term in our informal seminar...
Sarah
In reply to Sarah Haavind

Re: community 'round the informal learning fire opens to welcome one and all

by Corrie Bergeron -

Campfires take a few hours to really get going anyway.  It needs to get really dark, the fire needs to burn down to the coals....

An interesting metaphor, especially for informal learning.  I'm a guitar player, singer and storyteller.  I used to belong to an historical recreation group that did a lot of camping, and so I spent many, many hours sitting around campfires either singing and telling stories, or listening to others do the same.  A LOT of informal learning took place there.

What are the characteristics of a campfire that make it so very conducive to learning?  (I'm musing off the top of my head here...)

There's a shared space.  Shared warmth.  Shared light - and not a lot of it.  Lots of shadows, and a single source of light.  That means there's a focus.  A place to put your eyes.  The fire itself is a dancing, living thing, ever changing, yet always the same.  You can watch it and let your mind wander, or let it occupy your eyes while your ears and brain attend to the song or story.  It reduces distractions.

It's the end of the day.  The activities and busyness are past.  Dinner is cooked, eaten, and cleaned up.  There may be desserts and beverages, but the hard work of the day is done.

There's generally a shared interest. Perhaps the circle has a theme - humor, heroism, tragedy, whatever.  The theme might be explicit "tonight, hero stories!" or implicit, as one performer follows another, unwilling to break the spell. (It can also change direction suddenly, as a person declares that, "After six weepy 'everyone dies' ballads in a row, this has gone from 'ose' to 'more-ose'.  Time to liven things up a bit!" and launches into a rouser.)

There's shared trust.  You're among friends, even if you don't know anyone by name, even if you can't see the cloak-shadowed faces.  It's safe.  Mistakes - forgotten verses, botched chord changes - are forgiven, if noticed at all.  Everyone contributes, even if only by listening.

Yes, I like the metaphor quite a bit.

Corrie

In reply to Corrie Bergeron

Re: community 'round the informal learning fire opens to welcome one and all

by Christie Mason -
Would I be pushing it too far if I pointed out that where individuals gather around a campfire is the edge of comfort between the too bright heat of the fire and the cool shadows of unfathomable darkness?

Christie Mason
In reply to Corrie Bergeron

Re: community 'round the informal learning fire opens to welcome one and all

by Ann Busby -
And intimate. There is something about fire-giver of light, heat, warmth, protection to make everyone around it feel safe and wrapped in a coccon. Nice imagry!
In reply to Corrie Bergeron

Re: community 'round the informal learning fire opens to welcome one and all

by Michael Randel -

Campfires are also spaces in which there is sometimes an activity that involves everyone, and sometimes there are lots of small conversations going on at the same time...  each person finds their own comfort level and way of contributing.

Michael

In reply to Nancy White

Re: Welcome Informal Learners!

by Marsha West -
Marsha West here in Western Washington State.

I'm surprised to see so many familiar names and hear so many familiar voices here. I don't know a lot about "informal learning" in any "formal sense." (That is an oxymoron, isn't it?) But, of course, we all participate in informal learning all the time -- I'm just trying to get the sense of what it means to this campfire group.

I've been following this conversation for the past several days and am fascinated by what I'm "hearing." I'm the one wrapped up in a blanket just quietly listening in back there in the shadows on the edge of the campfire.

I don't have anything to offer here at this point, but I'm thinking as I listen. I was talking to a colleague in California the other day - and he was talking about a wish to set up some sort of informal space in which new teachers could talk with retired teachers - sort of an informal mentoring situation in which problems could be shared and strategies be offered. Would that fall into the area of informal learning? Since it would be voluntary - and learner directed?? I'm not sure about definition of terms, etc . . . . so just thinking . . . .


In reply to Marsha West

Toasting Marshmallows

by Sandy Hirtz -

Hello campfire buddies,

My name is Sandy and I have not been lurking. I have been enjoying the conversation, the warmth of the campfire and focusing my attention on toasting marshmallows to a golden inside melty brown.

Informal learning is a passion of mine which extended to raising my children. My favorite line was "convince me." It was not saying "no" and not saying "yes". You may think that it was terribly clever of me, but it was actually parental survival, a trying to avoid conflict technique. To the children however it was a challenge. They would dash off and conspire and eventually if they had a long enough attention span to come up with a really good convincement, I would say "yes". What happened of course, is that learned to research and think before they asked. As adults, they are the most accomplished debaters and sharks in any confrontation. I shall toast another marshmallow to the results of informal learning.

As I chew thoughtfully on this, yet another virtual toasty malllow and gloat that my girth is not spreading with each one I virtually gobble, I would like to continue with a quote that I recently heard from Greg Link, (bccampus), that we have "evolved from the information age into the information management age."

For most of us, learning is a passion and constant in our worlds and we are therefore selective in our readings and viewings. Informal learning drives us and gives us reason and purpose.

In this information age and time of constant informal learning, how do we allow ourselves time to relax around a campfire without feeling guilty?

And so, I invite you all to join the BCcampus network of Online Learning Communites. The EdTech Community edtech mandate is to showcase postsecondary eLearning initiative, innovation, best practice and excellence and provide an opportunity for professional development.

The Expo Marketplace Community is for anyone interested in eLearning generally - vendors, k-12 educators, post secondary techies and non-techies, institution leaders and decision makers, corporate, developers..... The expo marketplace mandate is to showcase eLearning initiative, innovation, best practice, and excellence in both industry and education. Expo highlights eLearning products, accomplishments, talent, and capabilities across all sectors (including k-12, post secondary, and corporate environments) and provides a forum for opportunity brokering and matchmaking and professional development.

Cheers
Continuously working and learning
Sandy

In reply to Sandy Hirtz

Re: Toasting Marshmallows

by chris macrae -

I am not quite sure about informality but evidently the media we camp communal time round be it :a real circle, a virtual screen or the dratted tv impacts what sort of learning we get. I don't think there's ever been a time when youth have been bombarded by so many fashionable images divorced from reality. But more importantly in my mind since co-authoring a book on it in 1984, the question is will any tv broadcaster unite with the web to connect the smartest action learning worlds of both rather than the dumbest?  Very much a core book for our times on this issue is here

http://www.thelearningweb.net/a_intro/page019.html small extract footnoted; meanwhile if you'd like to change the world and what youth action learns through media, please consider joining our pledge at http://www.pledgebank.com/bbcgames

4. For the first time in history, almost anything is now possible.
   5. Probably not more than one person in five knows how to benefit fully from the hurricane of change - even in developed countries.
   6. Unless we find answers, an elite 20 percent could end up with 60 percent of each nation's income, the poorest fifth with only 2 percent.1 That is a formula for guaranteed poverty, school failure, crime, drugs, despair, violence and social eruption.
   7. We need a parallel revolution in lifelong learning to match the information revolution, and for all to share the fruits of an age of potential plenty.
   8. Fortunately, that revolution - a revolution that can help each of us learn anything much faster and better - is also gathering speed.

In reply to chris macrae

Re: Burnt confectionery

by Andy Roberts -
Chris, I'd like to believe that a change in attitudes to lifelong learning and a power shift in the way information is shared and distributed might somehow bring about this social revolution you describe but I'm not convinced that all of this isn't just sticky froth on top of the real biscuit. How are we going to be able to appropriate the means of production from off of those who employ the rest of the world as wage slaves? Who controls the state and how are they going to give up control over the various means of subjugation which they have at their disposal without a fight? In my mind it is not a question of information and how it is used but of ownership and control of the very material things which we need for our own subsistence. Food, shelter and ending war are the social demands of the day for the masses, while computers and broadband are mainly just an entertaining diversion for those who are already coping.
In reply to Sarah Haavind

The fire burns brighter and the circle larger

by Nancy White -
In reply to Nancy White

Re: The fire burns brighter and the circle larger

by chris macrae -

Andy, these are huge questions; in fact whether century 22 exists for any children has seemed to us future historian guides around death of distance for the last 22 years at http://macrae-nets.blogspot.com and friends' networks to depend on all the people (cross-culturally, worldwide at every locality) standing up and demanding the right to do diverse deep contextual experiments (instead of all money going into education for government to standardise one lowest common denominator of exams) we need to get back some of the money, some of the timke in the community for these experiments; if that sounds like a revolution well mathematicians like Einstein and leaders like Gandhi were absolutely clear this is the sort of higher order system crisis that we cannot get to using rules, laws constitutions of the lower order system we (and every value building or destroying co-creation we link to) have inherited from when we were more geographically separated than connected

worse as we go up the food chain of individually separated nations we need either to take education away from the prime minister's /president's cabinet or demand that instead of having had one minute's attention on it in the last 5 years and most of the rest of te time on wargaming, 20% of all government time is spent on questioning education with the public

I have started this thread as I expect we have to fly below the radar and ungovern education rather than eg ask Bush or Blair for help in getting any of our nations' governments to give education systems from grade 1 to 40 the new open networking attention they merit http://scope.lidc.sfu.ca/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=210

Nancy, also regularly use a roundtable or camp fire model. However I ask each seat to choose a roleplay that may be in tense relationship with each other seat as regards the overall context. If we were to make a list of all the ways that education is served from individuals, to groups eg schools, to government to local community investments and all the demands that are made of education by pupils of every age, by parents, by government, by communities, by employers etc- could we develop a list of seats with one of these roles per seat; and then who would volunteer to play which role. Having a pairwise conversations between roleplayers to see if they can find win-wins or only conflicts in the way that learning systems connect them together is the way my roundtable conversation moves forward. Then we can draw green crossroads between conversational pairs who saw how to work each other's views within the overall human relations architecture  and red crossroads where at least one side did not feel confident the known system works to connect both interests 24/7/365. The more green roads a map has the more the future of education is spinning well for all peoples; the more reds, the more the system is destroying everyone's lieftime potentials . This is - I would argue - the most relevant way of assessing/auditing wherther education is working. Odd, isn't it how extremely different it looks from the assessment that government or media typically does to how eductaion is going? One bit of goodnews: if you agree the roleplays and the pairwise conversation of a deep contextual conversation game like the above; then most of the interactions can be done virtually as long as we all share the pairwise voting and see the pairwise red and green crossroads that results. I believe one of the dumbest addages in the world is if a system aint broke, don't fix it. My addage is always see emerging conflicts or disconnects at earliest possible time as this is always the simplest and least cost time to resolve them. In other words use the system to learn. (I was taught by an engineer that the natural state of tense systems is to degrade unless your audit at each cycle is detecting the next emerging conflict or disconnect. His lifelong work had studied 1000s of tragedies that failed because of blindness to this most simple system stewarding role of true leadership)

We haven't truly stood back and made a complete map of conflicts in education since the invention of the printing press as far as I can see. Though if you have seen such a case since, let's study if a campfire map was made to reform the broken system, or what method worked.