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

Storytelling around informal campfire

Storytelling around informal campfire

by Susanne Nyrop -
Number of replies: 14
Hi again,

Forgive me for starting yet a new fresh campfire forum as I would not really know where in the structured Moodle environment to share my pleasant story about meeting at unexpected guest in a webcast with students. As I told you in my introduction I was invited earlier this week to be a virtual guest with a grade 8 classroom and their teacher. When I called on the Skypecast I was happily greeted by two different classes in two locations, one in New Hampshire and another class not far from Washington DC. I could sense their excitement when some of them were stepping forward to ask me some questions for introduction. Then, I told them one of my long boring stories about a very special old rabbit who had been sailing on the seven seas in an old three mast schonner, and this rabbit came to live with us in the countryside where he showed us his independent way of living as he had never been in a cage, and did not tolerate being a prisoner but smashed his cage and ran out in the free, still living nearby and often playing with our dog - but too wise to get caught.

Well, this is a conversation piece, a narrative that I've refined over the years as it happened some 30 year ago, but  suuudenly I felt unsure if this teenage audience would find this very exciting at all, or  just want ro run away screaming. As I could not see them, I started to feel a little wobbly about next step, hoping for an opportunity to change track.

Suddenly there was a surprise guest interruption: a newcomer in the webcast academy community had been invited by the session leader:  mr. Morteza from Iran, an English teacher studying for a masters doing resesarch in oral listening skills in language learning, and using computers and internet for these purposes. I was kindly asked if I minded his presence - and we all welcomed him heartily. Now the students who had probably prepared pretty trivial questions about domestic animals in Denmark, had a live representative of the Iranian nation which is under pressure from the US government, and their improvised questions were pretty much the same as I would have wanted to ask him! Mr. Morteza was  very polite and diplomatic, yet more than happy to share with us how he honestly  felt about nucelar energy plants and the disgust against nicelar weapons and warfare, and he was also happy to tell us how schools work, girls and boys are separed in primary and secondary schools, but studying together at the university - where 65 % of students are women! We also discussed the problem with the minority of extremist muslims versus more open and liberal interpretations of Islam as a religion. Then, some students started to ask both of us about our countries' favorite sport and about which languages we speak. It was both lively and natural, and at the end, there was almost this campfire feeling of trust and instant presence. Two girls age 14 wanted to continue having a onversation with me after the schoolday was over and they wanted to hear more animal stories! And then again some more informal and improvised talking about serious matters.  We runed over the the 9/11 day when they were just 9 years old and recalled the situation very lively - one of then had been visiting the WTC two weeks before, and the other had family members in the fire brigade.  They told me they were happy to speak with an Iranian as htey would probably never have had this occasion, and it strikes me how these informal, intercultural encounters may really change the stereotypic views on one another. These  Worldbridges webcasts surely are bridging the world

This was an amazing  and intense situation with a very clear online precence feeling. This made me feel so priviledged to be part of this community of Webheads in Action - English language teachers with a strong urge to experiment with computerized interaction,some of us more multimedia or social science oriented but with commonly shared references, helping each other as peer learners. Oh, and also often using terms like informal learning environments in our everyday collaboration. Actually I googled this combination: webheads + informal + learning when this Scope seminar started, and a lot of relevant and memorable hits popped up.

Well - that was part of some crossing everyday learning trajectories (an expression from Vygotsky's activity theory coined by Yrjö Engeström (University of California, San Diego and University of Helsinki

) I htink this trail may lead to yet another metareflective story!


In reply to Susanne Nyrop

Who's got the first ghost story?

by Jay Cross -
In reply to Jay Cross

Re: Who's got the first ghost story?

by Christie Mason -
I don't know if this qualifies as a ghost story but, to me, the spookiest topic of all is ISD/ADDIE.  Just thinking about it causes my innards to quake and turn to jelly.

Christie Mason
In reply to Christie Mason

The ADDIE Nightmare

by Jay Cross -
Christie, that's a great tale. I'll begin. ADDIE's military heritage is probably responsible for the fiction that design takes place in discrete steps:
ADDIE style
Closing a step before going to the next precludes going back to add new insights or fix mistakes. (It does make it easier to administer contracts.)

Real design is more like this, where one step informs another, backward as well as forward:
holistic design
ISD is akin to economics, where  a fellow recently won a Nobel prize for the insight that people are not rational decision-makers, thereby invalidating a wide swath of the discipline. ISD downplays human aspects of real-world learning, things like emotions, preconceptions, the impact of noise in the environment, and the back-channels that transfer ideas sub rosa.

with feedback

These things draw me to informal learning as a moth to the flame. ADDIE and most ISD is reductionist; informal learning is open-ended. My model for informal learning, which I sometimes call natural learning, looks more like this:
tapestry
What makes ADDIE so scary is its priesthood. They are fundamentalists.  They pray to one God. She looks something like this:

ID
It's science fiction.
In reply to Jay Cross

Re: The ADDIE Nightmare

by Susanne Nyrop -
Jay, I agree - this sort of reductionist flow diagram has very little in common with real life as it cannot possibly capture what's really going on inside each participant - and it does not consider the other persons involved, the past , the motivation, the surroundings or environment.

I was not sure what ADDIE was short for, so just in case someone else needed to refresh memory or find out more, this useful google hit gave me some easy definitions (from U of Texas multimedia dept.)
http://www.edb.utexas.edu/multimedia/isdresources.htm

My reason for sharing with you my webcast expereicne with US students and a teacher from Iran was, I think because going right over to Scope forum from this event, made me think in terms of informal learning, and consider all those many different learning moments such improvised intercultural conversations may provoke and support in teh individual as well as from a community view. This was about social studies, about online learning and communication technologies and strategies, language skills and collaboration, and as some of these students will also be involved in editing the event and posting as podcast, there will also be a distribution of potentially all of the above in new constellations.

And then, this grandmother is taking care of three preschool grandchildren age 4 to 6 this weekend, incredible golden learning moments happening all the time!!! Our best toys are my video cell phone - and doing the dishes and new but dirty dresses in soapy water by hand! Video taping such trivial but powerful actions together and reviewing what happened make them relflect and chare with me things I was not aware of myself.
In reply to Jay Cross

Re: The ADDIE Nightmare

by Corrie Bergeron -

Jay,

I don't know anyone who treats ADDIE as a series of discrete steps in a unidirectional flow.  We left "throw-it-over-the-wall" behind a long time ago.  Even when I was developing multimedia on contract for IBM, 3M, and AT&T, even when I was a PLATO, we treated the phases of analysis, design, and development as iterative.  What you learn in a later phase might feed backward and influence the work done in a prior phase.  

ADDIE is a bogeyman.  It's not real, not at least the way you tell the story.

Corrie

In reply to Corrie Bergeron

Re: The ADDIE Nightmare

by Christie Mason -
ADDIE is still very real in most training departments.  Some may have applied different terminology to it but anytime you find a linear authoring process, that's dear ol' ADDIE.  She may have on different clothes but her personality is still the same. 

It's been my experience that trainers who have other influences, such as multimedia or database design or marketing or web design, "get" iterative prototyping as a development tool. 

But, go to any ASTD meeting and talk about an iterative, prototype development process and you'll see that ADDIE is alive and well.

Christie Mason
In reply to Jay Cross

Re: The ADDIE Nightmare

by Bruce Jones -
LOL .... Where were you when I was being chastized for a paper dissing the rigid structure of ADDIE?  I went to a school that is extremely conservative and discussed constructivism only as a new age far out theory.  

I have argued with profs and bosses that the ADDIE format needs to be revisited and given the definition you give it in your wecond illistration.  In all reality it probably is more like the fourth illistration.
In reply to Bruce Jones

Re: The ADDIE Nightmare

by Corrie Bergeron -

Depends on the situation.  In informal learning, it's all mixed together most of the time. 

But When you're developing training materials for someone else to use, especially materials that are so complex and rich that a team is needed to create them, you have to have some sort of structure.  ADDIE is a useful structure, especially when it's made flexible enough to reflect the reality that you learn things in development that influence design, and in production that influence development.

Too much rigidity is not a good thing, though.

In reply to Jay Cross

Re: The ADDIE Nightmare

by Ann Busby -

Jay & everyone:

Isn't it sad how "stuck" some are on this/similar models. I do see one use for it: if you've never developed "formal" learning experiences for adults, it's a place to start. But only that-it leaves out too many important things which many of you have already listed.

I remember back in the early 80's when I was in elementary education and came in to the government developing adult training for the military. The ISD process did give me a big picture on how to develop training for adults. However, since then, I've learned so much more about enriching those experiences, sharing knowledge, building in reflection time, and action planning for how to use the learning in the workplace, your life, or in other words-application.

This is such fun-talking around a campfire with others who have similar goals-keep talking, keep sharing, we're all expanding and growing!

BTW, anyone want some of my s'mores? Nancy isn't the only chocoholic around :) Ann

In reply to Jay Cross

Re: Who's got the next ghost story?

by Jay Cross -

Here's really scary one: the Forgetting Curve.

Forgettign curve

I don't care to debate the scale on the curve. Context rules. However, there's little question that most of what we learn is forgotten before we have an opportunity to apply it.

In the corporate sphere, knowledge gained in workshops conducted a month or two before application has almost all vanished by the time it's called for.

College? Ha, ha, ha. I've forgotten enormous amounts of European history, the calculus, French, physics, literature, and on and on and on. Half of what I'd learned probably dropped out of consciousness two weeks after the final exam. After several decades, most of what I learned has dissipated.

Informal learning is often followed by immediate application. (You learned something because you needed to do it now.) Formal learning, way in advance of application, is a viciously wasteful process.

Ghost
In reply to Jay Cross

Re: Who's got the next ghost story?

by Corrie Bergeron -

That bogeyman lurks in nearly all learning situations, Jay.  How much of what you learn informally do you retain **if you don't use it**? 

Here's an example that combines the cognitive, psychomotor, and affective domains:  I mentioned that I play guitar, and a little mandolin.  I was jamming a couple of years ago with a fiddler who taught me a tune, "Whiskey Before Breakfast."  (No, we weren't having any.) I learned the tune by ear, lick by lick, as we played together for maybe a half-hour.  Today, I couldn't play that tune to save my life.  I don't know if I would even recognize it if I heard it.

Another example:  I had a problem to solve in Flash about a year ago.  I went to the developer forums, got some suggestions about using UpdateAfterEvent and SetInterval, and after some thrashing around, got it to work.  Now, I've got a similar problem.  I'll have to reverse-engineer my previous code to figure out how I solved it, because **I don't remember** the solution.  All I remember is that it used those functions. 

And yet, there are things I remember from college, presented in a formal setting, that I recall clearly decades later even though I have not used them.  The formula for the molecular weight of a gas:  MW=dRt/p  (The professor said his cat was named "Molecular Weight," and cats have a habit of scratching dirt over pee...)  Rod O'Connor's Freshman Chem "colloid lecture" was infamous - you did not want to sit in the front few rows unless you wanted to get sprayed with shaving cream and pelted with Jell-O cubes.  The reflexive properties of the conic sections, thanks to Dr. Witt's Calc II lecture on "The Stand-up Conic."

This is information I have neither needed nor used since Reagan was President, but I can't forget it.  Why?  I think it's because it was presented with humor.  Laughter makes connections in the brain.  Actually, any strong emotion does that.  Primitive societies use terrifying initiation rituals to teach critical cultural and survival lessons to their youth.  What you learn when you're scared you're not likely to forget. 

So keep the ghost stories coming.

In reply to Corrie Bergeron

Re: Who's got the next ghost story?

by Nancy White -
I suspect there is also the impact of brain functioning. If memory serves (haha) things learned earlier in life are stored in different ways than in later life. So informal learning and retention also have biological components. I can remember the songs I learned to play in a bluegrass band in college and can sing songs from high school in Portuguese, but can't remember the song I learned last week.

So as I get older, I have to use informal means to re-remember. :-)
In reply to Corrie Bergeron

Re: Who's got the next ghost story?

by Jay Cross -
Connie, the use factor is precisely my point. If I learn, say, Mahayana Buddhism, in a formal class but don't use it, it disappears. (Barring having a dramatic or funny presentation that cements it in memory.) And of course, I may be able to recall a few fragments like the Four Noble Truths (although I can't remember what they were.)

Since informal learning is primarily discretionary, I wouldn't try to learn about Mahayana Buddhism unless I had a need for it. That need would drive me to apply what I'd learned.

The Forgetting Curve is but a generalization. Exceptions are everywhere. But by and large, learning way in advance of application is wasteful.

Anyone remember the Guido Sarducci skit about the Five-Minute University. In five minutes, you learn what the average college graduate remembers from school. In concluding, Guido says he's thinking of opening a law school. "Got a minute?"
In reply to Jay Cross

Re: Who's got the next ghost story?

by Nancy White -
How does the forgetting curve interact with the online affordances we have for informal learning? Like the ability to come back to this thread (which I had, yes, forgotten) and relive it? Or how the overflow of input I get online seems to make me forget faster?

It's like heaven and hell all rolled into one. Will our online lives be essential to informal learning? For some?