Increasingly I’ve been struck by the need for education systems to recognise and embrace the role of informal learning-but maybe thats an oxymoron. If we define informal learning as that mediated by a teacher/instructor, to a set curriculum- then informal learning has no place- or does it?
I’d argue that Informal learning increases as students become mature/autonomous learners. What many senior school students enjoy is the space for independent learning. When they hit university-its this aspect they seem to relish (I did). Ellen Wagner’s interview with Jay Cross stresses the need to embrace informal learning especially for training and enterprise learning. Jay states: informal learning has run out of steam. Informal learning according to Jay is spontaneous-an inevitable aspect of human behavior. Most eLearning is merely an extension of the classroom he claims, beginning the need for reform in how we think of eLearning-accommodating for knowledge workers who are co-participants and not just receivers of learning.
What then are the characteristics of informal learning: I’d offer-personalised, self directed, collaborative, social, passionate, spontaneous and inspirational. The term ‘informal learning’ is perhaps more useful than ‘personal’ learning (which always seemed to be double speak in the context of any learning). The concept of PLEs though might assist in better understanding how we can bridge between the formal and informal aspects of learning.