Demos (2007): four characteristics of informal learning

18 January 2007

The Demos report  identify groupings of young people. Those that regularly use instant messaging, text messaging and online spaces to interact with peers are classified as ‘everyday communicators’. Those that adopt new technologies and are comfortable with a wide range of technologies are known as ‘digital pioneers’. I have no problem with the latter although I wonder whether the first is a causal or effectual label. Are they ‘everyday communicators’ because the technology enables them to communicate everyday? Or are they using the technology for communication because communicate is what they do – with or without technology?

In other words  what is the driver – their need for communication or their ‘digital native’ ability to use technology?

Taking the digital pioneers, the report then identifies four characteristics of their informal learning: self-motivation ownership, purpose and peer-to-peer communication. The last  being common to the other group, who are not identified as pioneers.

Taking out of context of the report these are fairly unremarkable. We learn best when we are self motivated, take ownership and have a purpose. Maybe the difference here is in the ownership. Digital pioneers take ownership of the technology perhaps. They go beyond the everyday use, exploiting new techniques and resources. These are the ones who are comfortable in trying out new technological tools to develop their learning – often manifested through creative products such as multimedia. That, at least, would make a far more distinctive definition for me.

And how does this relate to assessment? Is there something in the notion of self-motivation and ownership that distinguishes the higher levels? In another guise this week I have been looking at final year undergraduate and first year postgraduate assessment criteria. Higher levels of achievement are marked by ‘autonomy’. What is this if it is not creativity borne out of self-motivation and ownership?