I’m conducting a workshop on informal learning on Tuesday, January 30th. In preparation for the workshop and hopefully to foster some early conversations, I’ll be posting my thoughts on informal learning here for the next week.
My initial reaction, when asked to present a full day workshop on informal learning, was to ensure that what I was going to talk about was not just a bunch of hype on the latest Web 2.0 tools that are being tested by the early adopters in the educational technology field. I didn’t want to be selling a new brand of silicon snake oil, so I tried to look at what forces are actually changing the way we work and learn.
First of all, the ubiquitous connectivity that over a billion people now have has had a significant impact. Search (or Google as a verb) is an integral part of most of our lives. Today, we can publish something online as soon as we feel like it – whether in the form of blogs, wikis, social spaces like MySpace or FaceBook, as well as pictures or videos. We can find almost anything online and we can share our digital creations with the world. We can also connect with individuals.
The main force of the Web is that you don’t need anyone else (postman, broadcaster, photo developer, social convener) to help you reach out to the world and find others who may be interested in the same thing you are. Until recently, we needed an organisation (company, union, association, school) to help us connect with others. Now we can pretty well do it on our own.
One of the main forces of change that will affect how we learn is the weakening of the industrial command & control organisation. We don’t need a third party to mediate our learning because we can find interesting stuff and interesting people (interesting to us, at least) on the Web. I see those workers, who one could call the “Cluetrained’, as already dropping out of the bottom of the industrial organisation’s pyramid and doing it on their own. “It” meaning working, learning, creating and collaborating.
We’re seeing signs of this weakening of the industrial hierarchical model (see Wirearchy for more details), with workers dropping out of the “Corporation” and becoming free agents. Will this trend continue? I don’t know; but it sure appears that a job for life is a thing of the past and learning how learn for yourself, or at least with your own online network, might not be a bad skill-set. Unfortunately, many of us have come through school and training programs where we’ve been told what the learning objectives are and that we will be tested at the end of the course. On completion, we get a certificate to hang on the wall to simulate some kind of actual competence.
The figure below is my first attempt to synthesize these thoughts into a graphic. I’m not an artist, but I’m learning informally
In a less structured and networked world, we all will need to learn in unstructured and networked ways. More to follow …