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The evolving culture of informal learning

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Tue May 02 2006

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I'm currently preparing a project for European funding aiming at the development of communities of practice as a structured way of fostering and deepening transfer and sharing of skills, knowledge and competency. Thanks to Jay Cross and others, we know that informal learning is ultimately much more productive of lasting effects than traditional formal learning, whether it be face to face, distance tutoring or the self-access variety of e-learning. (Should simulation be dealt with as a separate category? Clark and others will no doubt have an opinion, but that isn't really what concerns me today).

Communities of practice are part of the response to the need to encourage informal learning and perpetuate its results. But even before any formal organization of this type is undertaken, it occurs to me that the actual amount of informal learning has increased significantly over the past few years, though in a completely unstructured and anarchic way, thanks to the culture of the Web: discussion groups, blogs, etc. as well as the recently acquired habit for many people of googling.

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Which leads me to pose a question to everyone involved in these things: are there any studies or reports indicating a recent increase in informal learning attributable to the culture of the Web? It's clear to me that the kinds of newly acquired habits we can see all around us in the use of the Internet must necessarily increase the opportunities for informal learning, but has their been any kind of identifiable trend or measurable effect that can be accounted for?

All contributions to this debate are welcome (and will help me build my arguments for our project, for which I thank you in advance).

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