Monday, March 03, 2008

Jay Cross about informal learning

I just finished reading informal learning, the book by Jay Cross

If you want to see two more videos where Jay Cross continues his explanation, you can go to his blog. In youtube the second video has half the amount of viewers as the first one, which can be an indication that it wasn't interesting enough for half of the people, or it can be explained by the fact that people like to watch a video for 3-4 minutes, but not longer. Personally I dislike watching long videos, it takes up too long, then I'd rather have the text to scan through.

In the video and his book, he explains that 80% of learning budgets in companies are spend on training, whereas most of the learning (also 80%) takes place outside training rooms. He sees human conversations as the mail technology for learning and estimates that training will become obsolete. Though later he adds that formal training can be good for novices, comparing it to driving on a buss, where you the buss driver is determining the direction for you. Informal learning, though, works better for experienced workers. This is compared to biclyces, riding a bike you can decide where to go. It makes me curious why he hasn't chosen a car, which goes as fast as a buss at least... A bicycles is much slower than a buss.

To be honest, the book did not give me a lot of new insights, but maybe my expectations were too high. I had hoped to find more detail about levels of learning. I'm a little frustrated that we use the word learning for someone who asks for whether you want coffee with milk and learns that you like milk in your coffee. But we also use it for the results of deep personal reflections that make you decide that you want a major shift in your life. You learn what to do with your life.
It's a different level of impact.

The positive side is that the book explains informal learning in very simple, convincing ways, and gives lots of examples methods to stimulate informal learning like World Cafe, Bar camps, etc. I've come to realize informal learning may be a good term in itself. And he has very good account of the developments in the field of elearning since he was one of the first people coining the term.

I feel that Jay is using a definition of training in a somehow sterotype way. The way I know training is much more participatory and experience-based and may therefore not be diametrically opposed to informal learning. For instance, a training may even use a World Cafe method, a method that Jay labels as perfect for informal learning. Therefore it seems too black and white to me to talk about formal and informal learning and labelling training as formal learning. I will try to capture my ideas about informal/formal in a diagram in a next post. (I'm just realizing that this is the second blogpost with a cliffhanger, maybe the example of Jay about a waiter who only remembers something while unfinished and forgets everything when it's finished has influenced me after all :).

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