Formal Learning/Informal Learning/Just Plain Learning

There are no real interest new ideas in this post, just some reflections on a personal venture of mine. I felt the need for self-disclosure - satisfying the basic human need to share and communicate.

It's been a long time since my last post. This is mostly due to an assignment I am writing for an MA I've just started. I've toyed with the idea of doing one for a while now. I work in an academic institution but my role is mainly one of learning design, advising people on learning design, delivering training, setting up VLE pages. There is no immediate imperative to become 'academic'. However, I resolve to do one for the following reasons:

- It's free (as a member of staff at the Institute of Education)
- The subject matter is ICT in Education so it should be topics that I can relate to
- I aim to learn, learn, learn. This is the main reason. I'll be forced to research areas where I currently scratch the surface giving myself an academic rigour to some of my ideas. That's the theory anyway.
- I'm a firm believer in informal learning. My use of this blog and reading other blogs is my primary learning method and it works for me. However, for many of those in education they want to stamp of approval that an award like this gives. It's the only language they understand. So by doing this I will hopefully gain respect, gain validity. The validity I want is validity for my ideas and suggestions around learning technologies.
- I hope to gain insight into being a student in Higher Education. I've already done a lot of this. I'm learning first hand about the type of students we get, the approaches the lecturers take and difficulties students face.

I did two thirds of an MA 5 years ago but never got around to finishing it. At the time I couldn't see any real point. It had no real impact on what I was doing but now is different. So now I am starting again from scratch and viewing it as a learning exercise. The only real downside is that studying competed with my time previously devoted to my informal learning in the blogosphere. I will hopefully manage this better from now on.

I will also say this. It's hard to study and work. I'm used to working, coming home and not working. Now things are different. However, I guess this is now in line with my views on learning. Learning doesn't just happen within formal education structures, it happens all the time at the learner's discretion. I'm trying to view much of my work as learning so why not extent this out beyond the four wall of my office. I think that makes sense.

Happy Xmas everyone.

Digital Natives

I've been reflected on the digital natives issue after reading The 'Digital Natives' debate: A critical review of the evidence (by Bennett, Maton and Kervin, 2008.

The argument is well put that there is an element of 'moral panic' that brings unnecessary emotional reactions from both of this debate. Defenses are put up and little progress is made. Overall, I think to say that there is little empirical evidence to support the claims made about how we should change education because of the digital natives is fair enough. However, it's difficult to study changes to education which haven't happened. You can't study what hasn't happened!

Personally, I don't like the term digital native because it suggest a generational thing which isn't helpful. It's as if humans are intrinsically different from 1990 onwards! Rubbish. However, we can learn something very important from all human interaction with ICT over the last few years and think about how we should be educating people as a result. What I mean by this is that we are using Web 2.0 because they allow us to communicate in better and deeper ways. We are a social species. If we weren't, there would be no facebook, no twitter. Or at least not with the same widespread use. These tools were develop because of an inclination to communicate, to play, to create, to experiment. Why now? Because we can. We simply couldn't before. Or at least, most of us non-techie's couldn't. A lot of these tools are simply ways of interacting in different and deeper ways. So the fact that we, as humans, are doing this or want to do this is an important message.

Is it such a leap to think that there are lessons here for education? Not for me, but to a certain extent this is a leap of faith. The paper talks about digital natives being held up to "active experiential learners." No, this is what they want to be; this is what they are doing by choice; this is where we can surely accomodate them through formal education.

Overall, if you want labels I prefer the digital visitor, digital resident distinction made on the Don't Waste Your Time blogpost - Digital Native/Immigrant … or Resident/Visitor?. This is mostly because it doesn't distinguish between ages.