Connectivism and Informal Learning

Interesting to see the trend towards informal learning (refer to Viplav Ed Talk), via different pathways – connections with eportfolios, learning landscape, and community of practice approach and connectivism.

Does it mean that learning embraces all aspects of learning – both formal and informal and education? Once quoted, 80% of informal learning comes from social networking. I still would like to see how formal learning is distinguished from informal at this age, as it seems that there are a lot of formal and informal learning happening at institutional level. It could be misleading to conclude that attending a course in an institution is a pure formal learning, or attending a class strictly comes under formal learning. It depends on the context, the structure of delivery. Blended delivery (a combination of face-to-face and elearning) could be a combination of formal and informal if networking are blended with formal classroom face-to-face teaching. And eportfolio could only be useful if the learning is goal directed or oriented from the learner’s point of view.   More often, such eportfolios have been institution driven where learners have to submit- for competency assessment (Recognition of Prior Learning – RPL) to ensure compliance to assessment criteria and accreditation of courses.

All these formal and informal learning could be confusing to the educators and learners in terms of what, why, how, who to learn with, especially as these approaches are relatively recent, and there has not been a comprehensive research comparing and contrasting each of the approaches.  Every approach has its own merits and demerits.  As explained in my previous posts, where there is a solution, that could lead to various implications and problems.  Changes at systemic and personal learning and education are involved in each of the approaches.   A clear understanding of these approaches via Connectivism, Network Learning and Community of Practice perspectives could help learners in focusing the “most appropriate and adaptive” approach to adopt.

Would it be easier if we could clearly indicate why and how informal learning could complement and supplement the formal education in simple terms?

EPortfolios, community of practice and Learning Landscape, social networking are part of the non-formal learning approaches, and could be viewed in the context of Balanced Score Card basis. You give a weight of importance and time to each of them, based on pattern-recognition, way finding and wise selection of connections and time-management.  You could then continuous implement and review the effectiveness and efficiency of each approaches on your own learning.

The Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle of learning is implicit in all these approaches.
Whatever approaches that the educator and learners have considered, what is most important is WIIFM (What is in it for me (the learner))? 

What are your passions?  What interest you?  How would you achieve those goals? Who would you be connected to?  How much time could you afford to spend on those communities or network connections?  Do you learn through such informal network connections?

7 thoughts on “Connectivism and Informal Learning

  1. Pingback: Pages tagged "informal"

  2. Quite often the difference between formal and informal learning is that whether the learning was intended or unintended. Formal = intended outcome; informal = unintended.

    I would think that the process of sense making that connectivism requires would allow for a lot of unintended learning.

  3. Thanks Jon for pointing out the major difference between formal and informal learning. That may also explain the emergence of knowledge and learning which are the important outcomes of social networking.

    In the process of sense making, we use our senses to “read”, “decode” and interpret the message, information, and perceptions of others. The navigation over the net may require a lot of efforts in reaching a deeper understanding of the message and information through all senses, but is important in order to construct the personal knowledge that make sense. The development of multi-media tools and technology may assist in the facilitation of sense making. An example could be the use of gestures in Second Life where the sender could choose to present and the receiver to hear and see.
    MSN surely has got a lot of gimmicks of gestures to stimulate chatting. Has twitter built in with such features?
    How would you interpret those interesting gestures via the tools in the communication process and social networking? To what extent do they help you in sense making?
    I greatly appreciate your sharing of insights into this area.

  4. I agree that chatting/IM software seems to have a lot of additions to ensure that one transmits the meaning of the written word, so much so that there’s a great wealth of shorthand out there to convey meaning.

    I also think we’re not there yet, meaning that the technology is behind in the ability to add a layer of subtlety that as humans we add automatically when having a conversation. Sure, we can skype together and talk and you can get visual clues but that isn’t the same as having a conversation and picking up on hundreds of subtle cues that might add to understanding.

    I suspect that we’ll get a second sense, for lack of a better word, to assist in sense-making online. I think we already have that, in that we meet an online personality (much like how you and I interact) and as we read more about that person we form an “understanding” of who that person is – at least who they are online.

    I’ve only been using twitter for a couple of weeks – as part of an experiment for usefulness really – and it doesn’t allow for much simulation of chatting – beyond emoticons.

  5. You have raised an important point in the second sense to assist in sense-making online and the formation of an understanding of who that person is.
    I have not tried twitter much as it seems to be more useful if one is chatting with closer “online friends” rather than mere sharing of information – may be too short message there, that may lead to misunderstanding. Even then, as most of us leads a busy life, it could be difficult to have that chat on twitter with everyone else.
    How would such tools add depths in understanding in the conversation? As conversation is crucial to informal learning (via social networking)

  6. I don’t know, but I suspect that the only way that Twitter will add depth is through pattern detection and sense making will occur when one can detect patterns to the conversation.

    I am surprised that Twitter has held my interest this long – I’m not using it with my personal social circle, but with my edutech social circle – mostly people I’ve met through CCK08.

  7. So pattern detection in conversation could be crucial in social networking, and that will be a deciding factor on who one would like to connect to (the wise connection). Twitter is more useful (for you) in case of “weak link” and when the conversation are based on social interests of particular “group”. Have I interpreted your message correctly?
    I found these twitter very interesting in that it will only allow short messages. It means one has to be precise! This is surely different from our daily F2F conversation, which requires explanation… And once we have formed an image (or understanding) of the person, our conversation content will go into deeper levels (and interests). Will this happen with people using Twitter?

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