Demos (2007): Making the most of informal learning

15 January 2007

The Demos report I posted about includes a section on the systemic changes needed to recognise the learning of students in the application of ICT. In this extract they conclude that school needs to provide meta-learning opportunites for reflection. To this might be added the peer review that came out as a strong feature of the eVIVA project I worked on at Ultralab. Peer to peer networking is one of the phenomena recognised as in the report as providing a different learning landscaoe for today’s students compared to adults (see page 48 for example).

The model suggested by Demos seems to be – informal learning, formal meta-learning. With, presumably, the latter validating and (to use the language of assessment) standardising the former.

But it is not enough to simply listen to children and orient lessons around their out-of-school practices. Schools need to do more than this in order to recognise the value of, as well as build on, the new kinds of learning that are taking place. They need to create spaces for students to reflect on their learning and articulate their thoughts about it, which will enable them to transfer their skills. This is about:

recognising the new kinds of learning they are undertaking outside school and accepting that some of those emerging skills, knowledge and understanding need to be developed further in an educational environment. (61)

There has been significant research into how this can take place. (62) Meta-cognition is at the heart of it: the capacity to monitor, evaluate, control and change how one thinks and learns. In less formal terms this means reflecting on one’s learning and intentionally applying the results of one’s reflection to further learning. In this context it means reflecting on the kinds of skills young people are developing outside the formal environment. The rise of online, multiplayer gaming and web 2.0 has created a generation that feels comfortable with collaborating on a continuous, casual basis. From contributing to a Wikipedia entry, devoting hours to World of Warcraft or building a website dedicated to expressing their political frustrations there are a multitude of skills that are currently failing to transfer across to

Young people often struggle to explain why they like technology or to articulate what they are learning – this reflection could happen within formal education. (63)

From Demos (2007) Their Space, pp56-57

References (with original Demos numbering)

61 See J Marsh et al, Digital Beginnings: Young children’s use of popular culture, media and new technologies (Sheffield: University of Sheffield, 2005), see (accessed 15 Jan 2007).
62 See About Learning: Report of the Learning Working Group (London: Demos, 2005) for a comprehensive summary and analysis of the research.
63 Interview for this (Demos) project with Valerie Thompson, e-Learning Foundation, 15 Jun 2006.