Personal Honours Project - Learning about Learning (2)

Finally, I began to research informal learning or "casual everyday learning". FutureLab recently did a review of the current landscape of adult informal learning using digital technologies. One of the main importances of informal learning, as found by the report, is that informal learning is an important part of individual's learning journey.

Informal learning is defined as "happens outside the curricula offered by formal and non-formal learning activities". It can happen anywhere and occurs at any point from birth to old age. Another example of informal learning is teaching yourself to speak a new language. The informal learner is the self-motivated and self-directed learner and usually defines their own learning goals. 

In the UK, 94% of adults have taken part in some kind of informal learning activity in the last 3 months. This shows the extent of adult informal learning. In a survey conducted to find out the reasons for learning, the results included:

  • I enjoyed learning - 48%
  • To pass the time - 37%
  • To keep my brain active - 33%
  • To be well informed - 26%
  • Due to the need to find something out - 22%

The extent of the use of technology for informal learning shows that currently adults spend 15 hours a week on average learning informally. 79% of all adults say that they use technology of some kind while learning. 82% of men are more likely to use technology in comparison to 77% of women.

Technology that adults use to learn informally includes 15% of mobile phones. As technology develops, learners will be able to access all the services they get from internet on their mobile device. The devices can also be used to send information to multiple platforms in a variety of different ways - phone calls, texts, messages etc. They are also capable of sending different types of information including videos and images. 

75% of respondents were able to cite at least one benefits of using technologies for informal learning including reasons such as it's quicker to find out new things/saves time (37%), I can find out more information (34%) and I can learn when I want (31%).

When used effectively, digital technologies can play a crucial role in enriching and diversifying the adult learning journeys. However, there will be several design challenges I will face (according to the report) when trying to promote the use of digital technologies for learning. The main challenge is digital inclusion:

  • An estimated 17 million people over the age of 15 in the UK do not use computers and internet yet 90% of new jobs require IT skills.
  • 15% of the adult population (over 6 million people) suffer both social exclusion and lack of engagement with ICT.
  • Just over a half of non-internet users are over 65 and 66% of non-internet users lack higher education. 

Lack of digital inclusion and other barriers is preventing 44% of people in the UK from using technology to learn informally.

The report recommends a number of areas for research including how to explore and support the use of technology to transform learning. The report also cites Mitchel Resnick (2002):

"While new digital technologies make a learning revolution possible, they certainly do not guarantee it."

He also suggests that we we need to ensure that digital technologies are not used to reinforce outmoded approaches to learning.