The latest comments on Jay's post: All or Nothing inspired me to clarify my alignment with Stephen's rant. (Thanks to Mark Berthelemy and Donald Taylor). I have yet to link Stephen's use to my own of: traversing a network, the insubstantial nature of concepts and the role of pattern recognition in learning. Yet there is considerable overlap between us.I've come to the conclusion that "free ranging learning" is a better name than "informal learning" for the kind of learning that cannot be mixed with formal learning. Free ranging learning is politically radical. Stephen addresses these political realities when he says:
Free range learning is also perfectly natural. It occur when its understood and supported, instead of devalued and opposed. Because it is politically radical approach, it cannot achieve academic respectability or commercial viability. Free range learning rules out key ingredients of either "marketable" approach in my understanding:
What is happening here is that an attempt is being made to made what is actually a fairly radical position seem moderate by saying something like, "Oh no, it's the same thing you were doing, it's just tweaking a few variables."
- Learning outcomes (comprehension, competency) exist as networks -- not as propositonal or linguistic structures. The combination of our internal and external networks comes up with "how to respond" without elaborate justifications or rationalizations. Chickens eat, digest and cluck without instructions.
- Delivered content, instructional designs and blended formal/informal approaches interfere with the ways learning occurs naturally and emergently. Chicken feed, additives and feed troughs mess up the natural balance home on the range.
- The premise of formal learning is not learning, but control. Informal learning is not different enough to change the underlying premise of control. Informal learning is a political compromise. Chickens can leave the chicken coup, but they have to stay in the barnyard.
- Free range learning happens when the learner is free to leave the classroom, opt out of the content, defy the control system and refuse to be fed. When freed of formality, they are free to learn naturally. Out on the range, chickens eat all they need when they need it without any professorial farmers in sight.
- Providing learners with this autonomous, discretionary, self directed terrain is similar to maintaining a network of resources and opportunities. Prairies are vast, inter-dependent ecosystems that maintain, repair and replicate themselves naturally.
- Slipping any amount of content, instruction or control corrupts the free range network (just like democracies falter with the loss of a few citizen rights). It cannot be combined or blended with any of those without signaling the learners that have been hoodwinked and betrayed. Put a feed trough out on the range and the chickens will know the barnyard is back.
- This terrain for natural learning (what Jay calls a learnscape) is more akin to wildlife ecology and game metaverses than gardens and landscaping. A garden overrun with weeds and invader species is more akin to the life of a free ranging chicken.