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

Is this informal or formal?

Is this informal or formal?

by Greg Verhappen -
Number of replies: 34
I was just doing some 'homework' and a thought occurred to me:

Let's pretend that I am introducing the concept of ecosystems and food webs.  I start with the question where does milk come from?  (Answer-milk cartons...)
Where does bread come from? (The store...)
Where does chicken come from? (The farm...)
Where do apples come from? (The farm...)

What a great starting points!  Now, I ask students, working in small groups, I ask the students to try keep asking "Where does _______ come from?" until they can get no further.  Then I ask them to share their food chain with each other  to look for similarities and differences between them.

Homework...where do you come from?

Formal structure?  Yes.  But is it formal or informal learning?  I don't know...

Any suggestions?
In reply to Greg Verhappen

Re: Is this informal or formal?

by Christie Mason -
I'm beginning to suspect that formal/training occurs when you assume you're supplying answers and informal/learning is when you invite questions that generate partial, even incomplete, answers from diverse resources.

Christie Mason

In reply to Christie Mason

Re: Is this informal or formal?

by Derek Chirnside -
And formal/training is in situations of tight objectives - like our receptionists who learned a new phone system last year.
Informal/learning includes recognising that sometimes learners have ideas to contribute as well.  Like old receptionists who remember things to contribute to new training in telephones.
Informal/learning also exists in domains where knowledge is not able to be completely codified/described.  These domains live with incomplete and partial answers.
In reply to Christie Mason

Re: Is this informal or formal?

by Jay Cross -
Christie, I'm with you that formal/training supplies the answers. It assumes there is an answer and tells you to buy it.

Informal learning provides sources, pointers, facts, etc., but leaves it to the learner to assemble his or her own "right answer."

I recall boozy sessions at college many decades ago debating whether truth was absolute or relative. We may be grapping with a similar issue here.

jay
In reply to Jay Cross

Re: Is this informal or formal?

by Christie Mason -
Yep, I think that's the most succinct way of defining formal/training vs informal/learning.  Pushing answers vs inviting questions. That's probably why I've found more insight about how people learn from sales resources (Socratic Selling, Selling the Way Your Customer Buys, etc) than I've learned from accessing any training resources.

I suspect that's also where training went off the track when it comes to eLearning.  Using simulations, storytelling etc to supply "interaction" has always felt like more like training's traditional methods of pushing answers, instead of allowing learners to ask questions and supporting their quest to find their own answers.  That's probably also where KM went off the track by mandating participation instead of attracting/selling participation.

I'll even push the idea a bit and state that you could pretty much avoid 4/5ths of the ADDIE nightmare if you just listened to the questions from the learners and made it easy for them to find existing solutions and diverse resources (which is pretty much what the internet supplies).  That would probably take care of 70% of the learners' needs.  Another 25% could probably be handled by supporting the fluid creation and participation of  Communities of Interest (CoI is not the same as a CoP - Community of Practice) where groups of participants would work collaboratively and interactively to define their own answers and in the process locate and create resources to feed the learning of the 70%.

What about that last 5%?  That's about the same amount of organizational learning supplied by training anyway, so let them continue to supply the answers for mandated training and create quizzes.

Christie Mason
In reply to Christie Mason

Re: Is this informal or formal?

by Nancy White -
I am totally nodding in agreement what what you are saying. But I also think there is a reality check here. And I need help!

What do you do when you set up informal learning, but you are working in a culture that is so acculturated to spoon fed, linear, GIVE ME THE RIGHT ANSWER practices that they balk at thinking for themselves.

What do you do?
In reply to Nancy White

Re: Is this informal or formal?

by Christie Mason -
I get sneaky. ;-), or some may call it guerilla marketing.

Get permission to "prototype" your efforts with different parts of the organization.  They will love it and drive your point upward and outward.  This is my all time, guaranteed way to success IF you truly do listen and respond to the learners.  I rarely find that top down agreement is necessary.  Sometimes it may take a bit of misdirection so that mgmt thinks your giving them what they told you the employees need while you're really listening to the learners and responding to what they tell you the need and how they need it.

It's an easy ROI to do online testing and then as long as the testing is online it's an easy case to make that the materials should be put online in PDF/static HTML and from there to put in bits and pieces until you have a dynamic environment (seems to take about a year).  Your initial presentation may be that's it's "JUST" pre/post materials so you can slide into it w/o causing undue alarm,   but soon the clamor will be heard for all materials to be available.  Use free log reports to prove times and amount of access to support your case to start building/buying a platform. Post short "feedback" (never call them assessments or evaluations) forms next to the materials.  Collect, collate and present the results.

Partner up with marketing and/or sales to "trade" resources.  Then show how that "trading" is, in essence, a basic eLearning or KM platform.  Also concentrate on how you can get invited to be involved with "training" customers to buy your org's service/products or customer support.  The closer you move towards an org's customers the more political power and budget bucks you get.

Use business buzzwords like scorecard, improving quality, reducing cycle time.  Get your elevator speech ready and if the VIPS smoke, then hang out in the smoking area.

I even made up an ROI calculation, I have a background in sales and accounting, number that I called learner breakeven.  It compared current costs and length of time it took for a new hire in one dept to become effective vs learning from a community of experts  We broke even day one.  We just put the materials online and put a static navigation around it and we won the learner's hearts/minds, then their managers and then other departments ("I didn't know our product did that"), then they were forwarding links to customers all over the world (with names like Volvo and other massive Int'l brands) who forwarded them to their customers and then ... dot bust.

Get experts involved easily by taking the time to sit down with them, find out what questions they get all the time and are tired of answering, promise them that if they work with you know they'll never get those questions again, then put together an easy to update/navigate structure and you'll now have the experts making your presentations to the VIPS.  Experts may not have much formal power but when they're on your side you'll find how they have tremendous informal power.

Whatever you do, stay away from HR and, if possible, the training department.

Christie Mason


In reply to Christie Mason

Re: Is this informal or formal?

by Nancy White -
Great advice! This is great for selling up. I have already identified some things I can do to help the decision makers move forward in their plans and encourage more informal learning.

How about selling to participants who complain that informal learning is too much work? LOL

Actually, that is not the question. The question, or perhaps more clearly, the practices I'm looking to uncover are those that offer participants a quick win to see the power of informal learning. So they can shift their learning time investment from meaningless "check the box" courses to driving their own learning.

So far one thing that has worked well was to post an introductory reference text (transition from the familiar), then ask each person to share the project they are working on and let the group offer peer consulting. People found value in trying to articulate their projects clearly on the outbound communication, and got feedback, pointers to resources and even some offers of help on the inbound. This was not "fill in the blanks to answer the questions, " but a few questions to tee off an inquiry into their work.

We just started week 4 and I think it is sinking in that this is not a course about reading materials and maybe answering a few quizes. They are interested. They are a bit skeptical.

What they are saying now is the invitation to informal learning asks them to devote more time and attention beyond reading an article on the train on the way home. Heaven help us, they have to THINK. Not regurgitate. Decades of training enculturation is challenged!

My goal is by the end of 7 weeks each person had at least one lightbulb moment!
In reply to Nancy White

Re: Is this informal or formal?

by Sarah Haavind -
Nancy asks,

From Re: Is this informal or formal? by choconancy on Mon Jun 5 12:45:00 2006:
What do you do when you set up informal learning, but you are working in a culture that is so acculturated to spoon fed, linear, GIVE ME THE RIGHT ANSWER practices that they balk at thinking for themselves.

Christie uses ?guerilla marketing? to convince the decision-makers upstairs. But she also says ?IF you truly do listen and respond to the learners.?

So how do you show that you are listening ? how do you respond in a way that, as Nancy hopes, will sell?

From Re: Is this informal or formal? by choconancy on Mon Jun 5 15:04:00 2006:
...to participants who complain that informal learning is too much work?

?how do you give them her ?quick win,? or ?lightbulb? moment?

For online participants, here are a few things I do:
  • I make sure social community is established and people feel welcome and then
  • I ?sit on my hands? in the public forum (so as not to interrupt the participants? choices of direction) and
  • instead offer effusive praise and specific private feedback to participants who have made particularly rich contributions to the learning and growth of the community as a whole.
(In my world, the term isn?t ?community of interest? as Christie mentions (though I like that one!), but ?community of inquiry in which students listen to one another with respect, build on one another?s ideas, challenge one another to supply reasons for otherwise unsupported opinions, assist each other in drawing inferences from what has been said and seek to identify one another?s assumptions? (Lipman, M. (2003). Thinking in Education. New York: Cambridge University Press).

  • When I sense dialogue might wither without intervention, I post an intervention that is comprised largely of material drawn from participant postings, woven together in such a way as to highlight an intriguing tension between ideas, mirror insight in a way that might spark new insight, or triage argumentative comments toward more constructive directions.

  • I moderate as much as possible by not interrupting, but rather
  • by supporting, scaffolding and nurturing the ideas of others.
  • I do not address individuals publicly.
  • Instead, I raise their ideas up for group consideration with community language (speaking to the group) rather than personal language (addressing only one or a few members).
These strategies I find work well for ensuring that participants feel heard and therefore remain invested ? invested, that is, in continuing to push their own thinking and share it publicly with the group.

Answers to Nancy?s question are my passion, and I?d love to hear from others who have discovered moves that are particularly successful online. What do you do?
Sarah

In reply to Nancy White

Re: Is this informal or formal?

by Christie Mason -
You're very smart to look for the quick win and then build from there.  The key is to make sure that you're focused on "wins" as defined by your learner/participants.

I've been thinking about a sales technique that I picked up from NLP many years ago.  First, you emulate the physical patterns of the person you're attempting to create a connection with, then when you want to test the alignment you break that pattern and see if the person follows your lead.  You can't lead someone who doesn't feel that you've connected with them.


If people aren't following where you're leading, you need to go back and realign with them.  My first suspicion would be that they're not hearing/seeing/feeling WIIFM because it's being presented in ways that don't align, don't connect with them.

I like the peer <-> peer approach but remember that not everyone seeks or wants a collaborative learning environment.  Informal doesn't require collaboration, it's an optional choice.  There are a lot of reflective learners out there and forcing them to collaborate is closer to formal training techniques than it is to supporting informal learning.

I found this from exploring something someone mentioned on this forum at some point, thank you to whoever that was (I added the bolds).  I could have been, but wasn't particpant #8.
Breaking down learner isolation:: How social network analysis informs design and facilitation for online learning
Conclusions
The egonets from the social network analysis and the follow-up interviews seem to indicate quite strongly that participating in a variety of group tasks, in which grouping is varied, increases learning by allowing participants to interact more intimate and activity oriented conversations serves to encourage closeness. However, whether or not feeling closer to a community member makes it more likely you will learn from them seems to be dependent on a number of factors.

One factor is the personal learning agenda that each member brings to a community. These personal learning goals appear to impact greatly on the degree of closeness a member wants or needs in order to meet their goals. In other words, the value proposition the community of practice holds for each member can be very different and while personal learning outcomes may be met, closeness may not be needed at all in order to achieve these goals.

For example, participant 8 was strongly driven by seeking access to experts in the field. Thus for her, closeness to fellow participants was not seen as a key factor in achieving this goal. She was information, or domain and practice driven. Consequently, her interactions tended to be transactionally biased resulting in numerous weak ties. In contrast, P11 was coming in looking for people with shared interests, from diverse cultures and who could help him in his future work. Thus for this participant learning was strongly tied to closeness as a result of this personal long term goal. He was both informationally and interpersonally driven and he tended to be community and practice biased. As a result, he tended to be both transactionally and interactionally focused resulting in strong ties with a few participants who met his personal goals. P12 also came in looking to connect to people with shared interests, particularly those in similar work areas as her, but wasn't necessarily looking for longer term work relationships beyond the workshop. She was also keen to experience the dynamics of an online CoP. Out of these three, she was perhaps the most focused on community and the egonets seem to reflect this strongly with stronger ties than the other two.

...
Another key factor impacting on learning and closeness is the degree of choice participants are given. ...This, coupled with the fact that the workshop involves them in a number of simultaneous activities with different member?s over a short time frame, makes for an intensive experience which engenders closeness and at the same time increases the likelihood participant's will meet their personal learning goals. Within such a context it is perhaps difficult extricate the exact nature of the relationship between individual activities, learning and closeness.

Christie Mason
In reply to Nancy White

Re: Is this informal or formal?

by Ann Busby -

Nancy said, What they are saying now is the invitation to informal learning asks them to devote more time and attention beyond reading an article on the train on the way home. Heaven help us, they have to THINK. Not regurgitate. Decades of training enculturation is challenged!

So, Nancy, a lot more work for you, but it sounds like you're getting there! Ann

In reply to Christie Mason

Re: Is this informal or formal?

by Ann Busby -
Thanks, a lot, Christie for your plug to "stay away from HR." I agree with you, but unfortunately, am stuck with HR-as many Training Departments are. But we do some of what you're suggesting, and it works. Thanks, Ann
In reply to Ann Busby

Re: Is this informal or formal?

by Christie Mason -
Sometimes you can work around HR/Training by partnering with sales or IT and "prototyping" learning resources that support their needs. Both have political clout and connections that extend through out an organization, or at least they should.  The basic idea is to partner and prototype with whatever department has informal power.

Ann, what other approaches have you used, successful or not so successful?  Everyone, what other methods have you used that didn't involve group activities? 

Christie Mason

In reply to Christie Mason

Re: Is this informal or formal?

by Ann Busby -
Christie, we do partner with IT and business SMEs for our online learning, and business SMEs for instructor led development. Your question about methods used that didn't involve group activities would imply to me that one is working in a vaccuum-and we don't do that. We can't presume to know all the answers. Instead, we act as guides through the development and delivery process. Not sure what else you might mean, so I'll see if anyone else responds (though I hope no one else has the constraints of being part of HR :) Ann
In reply to Ann Busby

Re: Is this informal or formal?

by Christie Mason -
I admit that I already knew you did that, just thought it would be good reinforcement to put the concept into the discussion.  Plus, this isn't just some crazy idea, you do it and it works.

I agree that no learner is an island but the discussions seem to be trending towards facilitating group interactions in the same space/time and I was trying to keep alive the concept that there also needs to be opportunities for learners to learn within individual space and time.  I think of them as the "midnight learners".  Those are the learners that need to learn but there's no group available or desired, maybe it's midnight and they're all sleeping.  That learner at that point in time needs individual access/permission to participate with group based resources but they don't need live access to the group members.  Hope that didn't sound too muddled, it was tougher to present than I thought it would be.

Another way to to phrase the difference would by asynch (
asynchronous) vs synch  (synchronous) group interactions.  This forum is an asynch interaction with a group of people that don't have to be all present in this space at the same time.  I suspect that I tend towards asynch structures for learning rather than synch structures (classrooms, eConference, teleConference) because there is no such thing as everyone in a group learning the same things at the time, at least I've never seen it happen.  Each person learns asynch even if they're present in a synch environment.

Hope that clarifies what I was seeking.

Christie Mason

In reply to Christie Mason

Re: Is this informal or formal?

by Ann Busby -
Yes, it does, Christie, and perhaps we should consider synch vs asynch in formal and informal learning. Most people need time to digest new info, and as you pointed out, cannot do that without having access asynch. Thanks for clarifying your thoughts, you midnight rider you ;) Ann
In reply to Ann Busby

Re: Is this informal or formal?

by Christie Mason -
The lone rider scanned the seemingly infinite darkness and a flame of hope began to pierce  her hopeless drudgery when she noticed a pinprick of light far ahead of her.  As she rode closer she could see shadowy shapes and misty faces lit from the random sparks of the campfire's illumination.

The lone rider briefly joined the circle surrounding the light before resuming her journey through cold-dark-fearful places, seeking other circles of light that she could help connect together to someday vanquish the darkness.

Christie Mason

In reply to Christie Mason

Re: Is this informal or formal?

by Ann Busby -
our first non-ghost story, I love it! Ann
In reply to Nancy White

Re: Is this informal or formal?

by Greg Verhappen -
Ditto re: what Nancy White said:

What do you do when you set up informal learning, but you are working in a culture that is so acculturated to spoon fed, linear, GIVE ME THE RIGHT ANSWER practices that they balk at thinking for themselves.

I'm thinking that in junior high/middle school levels, the key is to make it personal, make the students feel like they are really chewing on something substantial.  I just read somewhere (I think) that, at that age, they want to feel useful and contributing.  Allowing them to just talk and then encouraging action might be one way...Hmmmm... There's that social justice theme seeping in again, eh (grin)...

In reply to Greg Verhappen

Re: Is this informal or formal?

by Christie Mason -
Man that is the biggest challenge of all, reintegrating informal learning into the educational system.  We live in a world that starts spoon feeding children information while they're still in the womb.

I did some volunteering with Junior Achievment, because I had some fond memories of participating in the program when I was in high school. Imagine my surprise when I found they'd moved away from the experiential model of "set up a business and ..." to "give these scripted, incorrect and out of date, economic presentations to high school students who are already fed up with being spouted at by self appointed experts".

I walked in, the student's body language disconnected and that made me nuts.  The next session I returned with string and crayons (kindergarten supplies) and we did some on topic ice breakers and then I had them draw the person they wanted to be in 5 years.  From that we mindmapped into how they would get from being where they're at now to becoming that person.  Those mind maps gave me the topics, presented as session questions, for the rest of the program.

We did interactive & some paper based, personality assessments and multiple intelligence and other self knowledge topics.  We, not me, talked about how those traits applied to making money, self motivation and other aspects of being a successful, responsible (response able) adult.

I handed out stick 'em stars and had them rate one exercises' results which lead to a wonderful, unexpected,  discussion of politcs in the workplace because many of the students voted by popularity, not the merit of the work, some even cheated - or was it just successful gaming of an unfair system?

I really, really doubt that it's the students that are balking at not getting spoon fed.  I think it's just that they've learned not to expect anything other than "teaching to the test".  Change the structure and they respond like dusty dry plants given a water and fertilizer.  Everyone listens to WII-FM you just have to tune into their frequency before they can hear your broadcast.

When all is said and done about current teaching methods the details don't matter, what matters is the results and the results are dismal.  Yet we continue to use the same methods and expect different results.  We teach students to be successful in a world that doesn't exist (except within the educational system - the word tenure immediately pops into my head) and then get surprised when they're not successful. 

With all the money tossed at the educational system I've always wondered if it wouldn't be better to go back to the one room school house. Different ages mixing, different topics cross fertilizing each other, students encouraged to use different types of intelligence ... it just all sounds so much better that what we currently have.  Less fixed costs for real estate and b
eauracratic overhead.  Oh but then teachers would have to think, listen and respond to the students as individuals, which puts that whole idea back on the fantasy shelf.

To need to learn is natural, it's a survival instinct that is eons old.  It's just truly unfortunate that what we've taught our children is how to not learn.

Christie Mason

PS - If you ever want to break open a session for older students or adults just break out the crayons.  The smell creates a whole new environment and opens up the potential for new structure.
In reply to Christie Mason

Re: Is this informal or formal?

by Ann Busby -

Christie Mason

PS - If you ever want to break open a session for older students or adults just break out the crayons.  The smell creates a whole new environment and opens up the potential for new structure.

Christie, there you go-change the milieu! Ann

In reply to Ann Busby

Re: Is this informal or formal?

by Christie Mason -
Milieu - what a great word to say, it feels nifty in my mouth.

I still struggle with how to do the crayon trick online, there's very little shared history to reuse and redirect.  Maybe just the fact that it's online is enough of a change?

Christie Mason


In reply to Christie Mason

Re: Is this informal or formal?

by Ann Busby -

Maybe just the fact that it's online is enough of a change?

Christie Mason

Hmmm, there's a heavy thought. Yes, putting it online is a big change. But so many get lost without some guidance. So here's another to add to the fire:

What we are doing here is informal because there's no "sage" guiding the discussions or learning. However, it is in a structured environment, we are limited to the abilities of the software we use. Therefore, my question is

Are discussions inside a structured environment considered "informal learning" or are they sharing information/knowledge. The key to me is the word "learning." There is no guaranty that anyone is learning anything-but we sure are sharing some great stuff! Perhaps the real key is what each individual's expectations of any learning environment are? And is the exploration of these expectations one of the "dividers" between informal and formal learning?

Just thought I'd muddy the waters a bit more :) Ann

In reply to Nancy White

Re: Is this informal or formal?

by Ann Busby -

Nancy asks what do you do when spoon fed folks balk at thinking for themselves.

We run into that all the time. So here are some things we do-work most of the time, but not always

1. Break them up into small groups and ask them to discuss what they they do know about the subject/topic. Have them pick a spokesperson and debrief the group

2. Next, still in their small groups (we've found that most of our introverts will participate in groups of no more than 6), ask them what they want to learn-or ask them what they learned from the other groups

3. Keep asking questions until you have run out of their answers, supply them with what they didn't bring up, then ask them in their small groups again what they'll do with what they just learned (or what more they'd still like to know)

4. Or, and I've said this before, make it into a game. Our folks are very competitive. Doesn't matter what the prize is, they love to compete. Debrief the same way-in small groups so everyone participates.

Small groups can be done online as in f-2-f situations. Anyone else?

In reply to Ann Busby

Re: Is this informal or formal?

by Nancy Riffer -
I have another thought about how to involve adult online learners who are used to a teach-to-the-test environment.

Give students/participants a number of models of types of informal learners -- in our debriefing session there was discussion of people who focused on reading everything lightly, others who read what "grabbed them." Christie identified herself as a butterfly. Could we provide role models of choices of ways to behave that participants have. The information sharer, the questioner, the social soother, the one who challenges, the one who crosses disciplines to bring in new ideas.

My example list may not be the one that is useful. I am thinking about Sarah et. al.'s book on Facilitation. It describes different ways of facilitating and what they are helpful for. There might be a comparable list for participants. What if we provide new informal learners with alternative ways of getting hold of this kind of learning by describing what we have seen exciting participants do. Then they would have something to focus on doing rather than be blocked by what they can't do.


In reply to Nancy Riffer

Re: Is this informal or formal?

by Nancy White -
Some great stuff here. First, thank you, everyone. I feel like I just stepped into a coaching lounge! Ahhhhhh.... Clearly, my facilitator hat is off at the moment.

What I'm noticing is that we seem to have lots of practices around using groups to stimulate informal learning. Going to the idea of different models that Christie and Nancy R have mentioned, what are some practices around nurturing informal learning in individuals. Or is that an oxymoron?

The report back I got this morning from a group of participants who ARE co located (in Rome - but the workshop is all online) who had coffee was:

1. We want you to do more preparation of the material as facilitator. We want smaller bites. We want answers. We want templates for the activities, not just questions.

2. We can give you 15 minutes, but not an hour (I was intrigued by the thought that they are giving me time... hmm, lots of food for thought.)

So I'm thinking again about the idea of "small wins" that open up the possibility of their driving the agenda. Smaller bits of exploration and thinking with some structure, but structure that opens up, not narrows, the destination.

I'm wondering how much of it might be individual rather than group. (They see group organizing as onerous perhaps?) Or to riff off of the role idea, suggest more specific roles that enable creation of their learning path, rather than me "creating" it for them.

By the way, there are some successes, despite the pleas  of "I have no time." One group has discovered itself and the interest around a community of folks who deal with internal and external communications in the org. They lit their own fuse today. YES!!!
In reply to Nancy White

Re: Is this informal or formal?

by Nancy Riffer -

Let's celebrate every step!  Everyone is welcome to a piece.

Attachment cake_confetti_md_wht.gif
In reply to Nancy White

Re: Is this informal or formal?

by Derek Chirnside -
Nancy: what do you mean by this word?

From Re: Is this informal or formal? by choconancy on Tuesday, 6 June 2006 10:37:00 a.m.:
                                    riff


From Google:  define:riff

Related phrases:   riff raff   riff-raff   riff language   google riff   stutter riff   pe-riff-er-al

Definitions of riff on the Web:

(1) A relatively simple, catchy repeated phrase. May be played behind a soloist or as part of a head. Often in a bluesy style. Riff tunes are made up of riffs, characteristic of the black bands of the 30s. (2) A pre-packaged phrase used by an improviser when he can't think of anything else, especially one which is especially catchy.
www.apassion4jazz.net/glossary3.html
What happens when someone takes your choir robe.
cantabileboulder.org/glossary.php
Short fragment of melody, usually repeated many times.
www.jazzinamerica.org/l_glossary.asp
Term used in pop, rock and jazz for short phrases used as background or as building blocks for solos.
simplythebest.net/music/glossary/music_glossary_r.html
A multimedia format which allows graphics, audio, animation, and text to be stored in a common manner independent of platforms.
www.cybernet1.com/hcs/glossary.htm
Generally associated with the guitar, rather rock, the riff is a rhythmic pattern characteristic of a composition. An famous example would be Deep Purple's Smoke On The Water which every guitaris learnt to play on a single string with one finger. It's tain - tain - tain, tain-tain, taintain ! Can be applied to Brass... I'm clear, ain'tI? ;-o)) ?subject=Commentaire Dico ECVST : RIFF">FeedBack
www.espace-cubase.org/anglais/page.php
a Berber living in northern Morocco flick: look through a book or other written material; "He thumbed through the report"; "She leafed through the volume" a jazz ostinato; usually provides a background for a solo improvisation play riffs
wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

In reply to Derek Chirnside

Re: Is this informal or formal?

by Nancy White -
Choir robe stealing!! No, no, I mean it in the musical way. To riff off of anothers theme or solo. You play one line, and I improv off of it. I riff off of it.

Off that last lin: S: (n) riff (a jazz ostinato; usually provides a background for a solo improvisation)
In reply to Nancy Riffer

Re: Is this informal or formal?

by Greg Verhappen -
There have been a number of comments about using small groups for encouraging informal learning, spoon feeding, learners want 'sit & git' rather than thinking and possible strategies around this.

I think that we need to consider the learner's (individual and group) deeper needs before we are able to fully discover answers as to how to engage students informally.  First, I can be actively engaged in a formal learning  environment as well as an informal learning environment.  Perhaps both can look the same from the outside, but it's the inside that counts?

With that in mind, what do I think are the needs of learners that get habituated through K-12 schooling?  The biggest is the need to please.  As young students, the teacher is the idol (to many)--like a mom or dad but not at home. As a result, the students want to be valued and feel appreciated (that need of belonging).  By the teacher's actions (through structured curriculum, classroom routines, and testing) as well as through the cultural expectations surrounding what a teacher is or should be, pleasing the teacher is critically important.  The positive reinforcement that the students receive through assessment, praise, directed focus, modeling, etc. all contribute to the subtle message of 'giving the right answer' creates value and acceptance and recognition.  (This is simplified, of course, to highlight the contrasts.)

If this is true, consider how we as parents or teachers can create changes with our children through such things as appreciative inquiry or positive reinforcement.  Perhaps a very subtle teacher change can create great changes in the learning environment....

What if we didn't reward the 'right' answers?  What if, in our learning, we were simply silent with the right answers and responded genuinely and positively through evidence of thinking?  Since learners have been socially conditioned to respond to the sage of the teacher and the corresponding praise, might this be a critical turning point towards self-responsible learning?  Imagine if you did it consistently in adult education either in groups or alone? Who knows.... just a thought as I was reading this...

Personal story to support this:  When doing my Masters I took a course on Critical Language Awareness.  I had to create a learning biography--had no idea what one was but they showed two examples for a few seconds and gave no more direction.  I hated it.  I struggled with what was right and ended up making a chintzy periodic table of my learning life (I was a science teacher at the time).  It was received pleasantly.  The other beginning classes were equally frustrating because I was getting nowhere.  FInally, I said to myself--too bad! You (the instructors) were not being any help.  I'm just going to do what I want in this course and if you don't like it, too bad.  One of the best courses I ever took!  (It turns out that's all the instructors wanted.)  My friend, who was also in the course, did not get to that stage and struggled with the lack of explicit direction that I eventually learned to read implicitly.  She thought it was one of the most useless courses she ever took...We did equally well.  For my closing project, I redid my learning biography and built a 3-D model tree out of coat hangers with colour coded leaves showing various highlights and important quotes from my learning life. Still couldn't tell you exactly what a learning biography is, but I know what it was for me.  This was extremely well received....  I was always respected, never rejected, but it still made a difference in the subtle turn of extra praise when I started thinking for myself.  I learned a ton informally through this experience while learning a bunch of formal stuff in the course content too!


In reply to Greg Verhappen

Re: Is this informal or formal?

by Christie Mason -
Greg, this may be true but I question if it should be true
"Since learners have been socially conditioned to respond to the sage of the teacher and the corresponding praise, might this be a critical turning point towards self-responsible learning? "
I don't think every learner is conditioned to respond to external praise and I can't remember a time where I considered anyone (teacher, parent, manager) a sage.  Don't know if I was born that way or if it's because of something that happened to me when I was in 3rd grade that made me so ashamed, and confused, and hurt,  that I couldn't tell my mother about it until I was in my early 20s.

At the beginning of the year the teacher announced that NO ONE was supposed to work ahead in the workbooks (no idea why she mentioned it, that's not usually a big problem in a classroom).  A month or two went by and one evening I was bored and I completed the workbook.  Yes, I knew I had done wrong to learn before the teacher had taught me (imagine that - learning w/o being a taught - heresy), but I got interested and just kept going.  I hid this shameful action from the teacher and the class for several months until one day when the frustrated teacher asked "Didn't anyone do their homework?" and I raised my proud little hand and said "I did, and I also did the rest of the homework for the year."  Even though I knew it was forbidden to learn ahead of the group, I guess I still half expected to be praised, or at least accepted.  Well I wasn't praised, I was forced to erase the entire year's work in a silent classroom with all the kids staring at me, it took a very long time.  Mom said she didn't see me smile for a month after that but I'd never tell her what happened.

Did I learn as a way to receive praise?  No, I learned because I was interested, even loved learning.  I was still a mostly A student during the many, boring years left in my educational prison but I don't think I ever gave myself permission to enjoy learning until my late 20s, maybe not even until the 'net was born.

I don't think I've ever been motivated to do anything from external motivators.  I've accepted that I had to do certain things becasue of external constraints but not motivated towards doing them only motivated away from perceived penalities of not doing them.

I was just reading one of the links that Nancy posted and I agree with the concept that a teacher is first and foremost a role model.  To me that means that no one should be a teacher, or a trainer,  who doesn't personally love to learn and is motivated by the joy of helping others to learn.  Yet think about all the push back from teachers and their unions about requirements that teachers continue to invest themselves in their own life long learning journeys.

Christie Mason

In reply to Christie Mason

Re: Is this informal or formal?

by Greg Verhappen -
Wow, Christie! What a powerful story of 3rd grade! It certainly illustrates and reminded me how much influence teachers of all kinds can have on our learning attitudes. It also struck a chord in me that reminded me of a very unconsious similar experience that was not raised in my consciousness until I was in my late 20's. Of course it was not nearly so defining as yours.

I had decided to spend five weeks one summer in Mexico living with a family and trying to learn Spanish. (Lots of great informal learning stories there!) One of the daughters was in her mid twenties and she taught Spanish to English speakers. One day after about 3.5 or 4 weeks she was talking about how impressed she was that one of her students was already conjugating various complex past tense verbs (or something like that) even though they were only studying simple past tense. She gave me a couple of examples. I remember very clearly saying to myself: "I could do that. It's just that the teacher didn't want me to. She wanted me to do this." That night I pondered on that and realized that throughout all of my formal education career, I had done exactly what the teacher wanted. Although I was creative in my problem solving, I never went beyond what the teacher was really asking. I got very good marks, but when I understood what the teacher was teaching, I daydreamed and asked myself a lot of what if questions. It never occured to me to give more than the teacher asked. On further reflection, the conclusion that I came to was that the reason was because I was just trying to make the teacher (unconsciously my idols, role models, and sages) happy.

The questions that I ask in light of that (even though I have always considered myself an independent-self-directed lover of learning) is why? What was it about my opinion of the teacher that tacitly conditioned me to want to do what they said? Copy their modeling? Exactly listening to their words of wisdom? Want to please them? Be appreciated by them? What deepest need within me made me respond that way and not just do my own thing throughout school?

Now, what if the teacher was aware of this deepest need of mine and rather than recognizing my efforts to conform to her expectation and directions, gave me the personal/private recognition I was looking for when she/he saw me appreciating discovering, learning, and challenging limits that were relevant to me instead? I received that kind of feedback in my Critical Language Awareness course and it has had a very significant impact in the direction I took in my Masters, the self-directed learning I did afterwards, and what I am learning in my doctoral studies. I thank Dr. Bryant Griffiths and Dr. George Labercane for that.

That's just one reason I agree with you, too, when you said:

I was just reading one of the links that Nancy posted and I agree with the concept that a teacher is first and foremost a role model. To me that means that no one should be a teacher, or a trainer, who doesn't personally love to learn and is motivated by the joy of helping others to learn. Yet think about all the push back from teachers and their unions about requirements that teachers continue to invest themselves in their own life long learning journeys.

Thanks again for sharing, Christie. Very much appreciated!

In reply to Greg Verhappen

Re: Is this informal or formal?

by Ann Busby -

And I have a story from kindergarden that shows how I've always marched to my own drumming-the teacher had us stand up and whistle a song, but cut us off before we were through. To this day, I can't remember if I kept whistling because I wasn't finished (stubborn) or just didn't hear her-but got sent to the pincipal's office anyway. It was so emabarassing, I didn't go back, just flat refused. My mother was stuck taking care of the teacher's daughter ( a deal they had), even though I never went back! Teachers do shape not only our learning, our life expectations, but even our self-concepts. Lot of power for one person, isn't it?

I too always got good grades, but found it easy to regurgitate what was put in front of me (except Geometry-man, that was another language!). So how is it that I'm still an excited life-long learner? Is that something even poor teachers can't beat out of us? Ann

In reply to Christie Mason

Re: Is this informal or formal?

by Nancy White -
As I read this, the song "what's love got to do with it" ran through my head. In a very unscientific way, for me, love has a lot to do with this. 
In reply to Christie Mason

My Thought for the day

by Derek Chirnside -
A very great musician came and stayed in [our] house. He made one big mistake . . . [he] determined to teach me music, and consequently no learning took place. Nevertheless, I did casually pick up from him a certain amount of stolen knowledge.
[Rabindrath Tagore quoted in Bandyopadhyay, 1989: 45]

Today I have a sign up on my door saying "Busy but disturb-able".  I am compiling a booklet on "Understanding Online Communities" for a course starting in July, and I am trying to hide.  While fixing references, I stumbled across an old link with the quote above.
Stolen Knowledge: This is an article by John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid.  A quote from the article:

The point is illustrated in our opening quotation from Tagore, the Indian poet, musician, and Nobel laureate. Describing the role of the instructor hired to teach him music, Tagore writes "he determined to teach me music, and consequently no learning took place"-at least, no learning in the terms laid out by the teacher and his syllabus. But Tagore reveals with wonderful insight that something important and profound did result from interactions between these two: "Nevertheless, I did pick up from him a certain amount of stolen knowledge" (our emphasis). This knowledge Tagore "stole" by watching and listening to the musician as the latter, outside his classes, played for his own and others' entertainment. Only then, and not in dismembered didactic exercises, was Tagore able to see and understand the social practice of musicianship.



PS: I make no claims to understand this.  :-)