Jay Cross, the author of the well-known book on Informal Learning: Rediscovering the natural pathways that inspire innovation and performance, has just posted an article on Informal Learning 2.0 in his Internet Time blog. In thhis article, which also appears in the August 2009 edition of Chief Learning Officer magazine, he talks about his concept of learnscapes:
"Learnscapes are the factory floor of knowledge organizations. The “scape” part underscores the need to deal at the level of the learning environment or ecology. The old focus on events such as workshops won’t cut it in the ever-changing swirl produced by networks. The “learn” part highlights the importance of baking the principles of sound learning into that environment rather than leaving it to chance."
But what I want to pick up on in my post here, is Jay's definition of informal learning. I am often asked to define "informal learning". Recently, I have seen all kinds of definitions - often contradictory - emanating from vendors to practitioners - but Jay, clearly articulates the difference between formal and informal learning here, and this is one I shall be using to help people understand the concept of "informal learning":
"Learning is formal when someone other than the learner sets curriculum. Typically, it’s an event, on a schedule and completion is generally recognized with a symbol, such as a grade, gold star, certificate or check mark in a learning management system. Formal learning is pushed on learners.
By contrast, informal learners usually set their own learning objectives. They learn when they feel a need to know. The proof of their learning is their ability to do something they could not do before. Informal learning often is a pastiche of small chunks of observing how others do things, asking questions, trial and error, sharing stories with others and casual conversation. Learners are pulled to informal learning."
Source: Informal Learning 2.0, Jay Cross, Internet Time blog, 8 August 2009
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