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Down the rabbit hole … May 19, 2013

Posted by IaninSheffield in Musings, Resources.
Tags: , ,

After watching a YouTube video, have you ever been enticed to click on one of the thumbnail links to other videos which appear after the video has finished? Or maybe followed one of the thumbnail links to other videos which are listed to the right of the main frame? I know I have. Which set me thinking about how YouTube can be bent to serve our learning needs in three ways, based on the three different approaches to learning I’ve previously reflected on.

forms of learning

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo by ianguest: http://flickr.com/photos/ianinsheffield/7338094308/

The boundaries between formal, non-formal and informal learning are fuzzy to say the least, since we must address several factors which influence the type of learning: independent versus institutionalised, structured v unstructured, teacher-directed v learner-controlled, certificated v open, scheduled v time-unbounded, intentional v unintentional, purposeful v serendipitous.

Formal learning

Eraut1 (2000) identifies five features of formal learning:

  • a prescribed learning framework
  • an organised learning event or package
  • the presence of a designated teacher or trainer
  • the award of a qualification or credit
  • the external specification of outcomes

So here is where we would see YouTube videos created (by a teacher/tutor/lecturer) to support students undertaking a course of study leading to a specific qualification.

Non-formal learning

The EC2 (2001) Communication on Lifelong Learning defined non-formal learning as

learning that is not provided by an education or training institution and typically does not lead to certification.  It is, however, structured (in terms of learning objectives, learning time or learning support).  Non-formal learning is intentional from the learner’s perspective.

(Whilst producing similar features to Eraut’s characteristics formal learning, they also added the dimension of ‘intentionality.’)

This where we might see a learner taking an a non-credit art class for pleasure is directed to YouTube to learn more about a particular technique. Or perhaps an amateur astronomer attending a session at a local society on the techniques required to take a long-exposure photo, drops by YouTube to reinforce what she learned.

Informal learning

The EC2 also defined informal learning as:

resulting from daily life activities related to work, family or leisure. It is not structured (in terms of learning objectives, learning time or learning support) and typically does not lead to certification. Informal learning may be intentional but in most cases it is non-intentional (or “incidental”/ random)

These are the serendipitous moments where you set out with a specific goal, then were led down a completely different, perhaps even more stimulating path by the other videos YouTube offered you. You have no idea where these journeys might lead, or what riches of discovery they might offer, though we must also acknowledge that at times they may simply serve to distract or divert attention.

So perhaps we have to accept that using YouTube in a school-context, where formal learning is the dominant form, YouTube is to some extent a double-edged sword. Whilst it can be used in a structured programme for intentional outcomes, it also comes with the rabbit hole of opportunity. Do we use a tool like Quietube or ViewPure which filters out many of the distractions or choose to celebrate the potential richness and additionality that informal learning might bring? I guess it depends on your viewpoint … and your students?

Should you wish to explore further, Colley, Hodkinson and Malcolm3 discussed the field of formal, informal and non-formal learning in much greater depth, providing an excellent summary and overview; well worth a read.

1Eraut, M.R., 2000. Non-formal Learning and Tacit Knowledge in Professional Work. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 70(1), pp.113–136. Available at: http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/bpsoc/bjep/2000/00000070/00000001/art00008 [Accessed May 18, 2013].

2European Commission, 2001. Making a European Area of Lifelong Learning a Reality, Available at: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:52001DC0678:EN:NOT [Accessed May 18, 2013].

3Colley, H., Hodkinson, P. & Malcolm, J., 2002. Non-formal learning: mapping the conceptual terrain, a consultation report, Available at: http://www.infed.org/archives/e-texts/colley_informal_learning.htm [Accessed May 19, 2013].


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