Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Informal Learning: What next?

I know I've mentioned informal learning networks before, and how easy it is to learn when not in the classroom. (Ouch). New pedagogy research has been exploring why this is so, and how we can change the way we teach to better leverage self-regulated, self-paced, engaged learning. UWT is leaping into this conversation with pilots of Google Apps, blogs, Twitter, Persistence Plus and more to connect to students to each other and the outside world for deeper learning. Not just schooling, but relevant and applied learning. 

Pick up the book Informal Learning to learn more about the difference, or take heed of the author (Jay Cross, the "Johnny Appleseed" of informal learning) when he says:

It’s easy to poke fun at the foibles of schooling. Learning is active and most schooling is passive. What’s taught in school is often superficial, boring, and irrelevant. Since school learning isn’t reinforced in real life, most of what’s learned is forgotten before it can be put to use. Could you pass your college’s final exams? Grades that once seemed so important turn out to be meaningless outside of school systems.

Ok, perhaps he has a point. Memorizing facts from a textbook and spitting them back in APA format isn't the stuff our learners will remember five years from now. They'll remember the ideas that changed them. That awakened new understandings, interests, identities. Schooling can leverage this by starting with those ideas and digging deep. Leverage the Web, leverage media, leverage collaboration, leverage the creation of public opinion and identity (blogs, wikis, YouTube posts, Twitter?) in the learner. Teach them to be global citizens. Get their heads out of the dry textbook and into the world. 

There's a million ways to do that. One that I find lovely, and so simple to incorporate, is TED. As it grows, more disciplines find their brightest minds showing up to do a talk. Take a look. Here's 2012's Top 20 Talks (so far). 

Wouldn't it be fun to have our learners create their own TED talk on the Web? Passion in 10 minutes or less.   I'd much rather see them try than grade 5=page, APA format papers. Just sayin...