Revealing and celebrating learning beyond education

Note: this blog post is written to accompany a Twitter chat 8-9p.m. GMT, Wednesday 11 February 2015, follow #LTHEchat

peeking out from under the invisibility cloak

Figure 1 What am I thinking? Dave Young https://www.flickr.com/photos/dcysurfer/4928601429 CC BY 2.0

Learning often wears an invisibility cloak.  It’s not even that we think it’s magic, but rather that it happens in the course of other everyday things like a parent playing with their baby, or someone taking up a hobby.  Our attention is focused on the activity: the learning is often a by-product of enjoyment or making or doing something new.  The learning is situated in its context , in the people and artefacts, and the knowledge may be tacit for the learner, and partially in the artefacts.

Of course, informal learning can be risky as this language learning clip shows

Much discussion about learning assumes a formal educational context, say what is learned in a school or a university ,and though attention may be paid to learning in the workplace or through external activities, such as volunteering, the starting point tends to be institutional.  Some of the learning within institutions is informal, we may ask students to reflect on group work processes.  University courses may include work with external clients, internships, or placements and these provide valuable learning experiences and the stuff of later discussions and reflections. Many universities foster volunteering schemes of mutual benefit to students and the local community.

But what about learning that is experienced outside of formal educations or institutions? Research in music education on how young people learned to become band members has informed music pedagogy.

Can learners draw on their informal learning experiences in their education? What can consideration of informal learning bring to discussions and practice within the academy? For example, I would contend that learning technologists and teachers could learn a lot from experiencing/ studying Ravelry’s use of digital technologies in their community (last few paragraphs of this post). If only VLEs were more like Ravelry!

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