Informal Learning and Transnational Education II
I was pleased to find a comment attached to yesterday's post by none other than Jay Cross, responding to my thoughts on his "Informal Learning - the other 80%" article. I don't want to overstate this -- but it's a great thing being responded to. It's that way on lists and discussion forums too. You post something with something of yourself embedded in it. Someone responds. You feel noticed. Listened to.
The reverse is true as well. Sometimes you work up a nice thought provoking post and nada. Whistling in the wind. It's embarrassing. Doesn't make you want to do it again anytime real soon. With blogs, the archives and permalinks take away that sting a little. It can always happen.
The fact that it was a Jay Cross comment helped me to another realization: The way to get someone's attention these days is to publish an inbound link to their blog. Email is all spam and too many opt-in newsletters and is losing its charm. But with web services like technorati, emails, logs, and RSS feeds can keep you up to date on everyone whose train of thought crosses your tracks. Frankly, this rocks.
It's a feel-good experience when you're doing it, which doesn't mean that's all it is. The comment which has precipitated this post was substantive, not a mere, "interesting ideas" reply. What he actually said was:
I don't look at formal/informal learning as an either/or situation. Both have a role to play. When learners are after structured experience and credentials as proof of learning, the formal component better be larger.
As I've pondered what "informal" learning means, I've realized that it's really unauthorized learning. It's figuring things out as one wishes. It's self-determination.
Self-determination works if you know what you're after and have some ideas about how to get it. While I'm no expert in TNE, it strikes me that students need formal learning in order to appreciate the what and how-to prerequisite to self-sufficiency. You gotta start somewhere.
Now that's what I call advancing the conversation.
The focus of most Transnational Ed at this time is undergraduate degree programs. Much "What" and "How-To" is still needed. Still, informal learning cannot be dismissed from this context. In fact, undergraduate education is the best place to start building adult self-sufficiency muscles.
To this point in its less than illustrious history, TNE has not become famous for its sophisticated pedagogy. With free public Internet videoconferencing, and asynchronous technologies galore -- plus an awareness of The Other 80% -- maybe its time to change the basic TNE teaching model.