An overdue update – A teacher’s role in non-formal education

I was finally able to get caught up on viewing the Elluminate recording of this week’s EC&I 831 session that I had to miss due to previous commitments. Yes, another wild and woolly Saturday night, but it was good to get one more item checked off the ever expanding to-do list. The fact that I have come to view learning opportunities such as this as items on my to-do list is disconcerting, but I guess that is a topic to address at another time…

Alec presented us with a key question based on this week’s session: what is our role in non-formal learning? This is an interesting question for me to attempt to address. I am gainfully employed in the world of formal education and I am provided with professional development and other learning opportunities as a result. I am investing a lot of money in the world of formal education as I struggle to keep my head above water in year two of my graduate studies.  Yet I learn more about teaching through the people I follow on Twitter than I have in ten years of pro-d workshops and a year of graduate courses. I think this is largely due to the fact that I can pick and choose who I want to learn from and what I want to learn about. I can’t say for sure, but I would imagine many of my students feel the same way about non-formal vs. formal learning. If students are able to expand their knowledge by following their true interests through non-formal learning they should be encouraged to do so. While I am not aware of sites such as this in my subject areas, I would be thrilled with my students using resources such as the Khan Academy if I was a science or math teacher. I know many teachers would feel threatened by seeing their students rely on non-formal learning opportunities such as this, but I would feel like a hypocrite to not encourage my students to learn in a way that has served me so well.


5 responses to “An overdue update – A teacher’s role in non-formal education

  1. Hi Dan!

    I agree with you – my main goal is have students learn. I want to make as many resources as possible available for those who want to take advantage of them. I thinking of having a version of the site of the week (or day) from which students can explore different areas of interest or get help for class work. I’m with you – let’s not be threatened by informal learning, but encourage effective use of it!

  2. Dan!! I could KISS you!! (Don’t worry though, I won’t.. I’m at a distance after all.) Thank you for the Khan website! I am in the middle of trying to create an engaging Physics 30 course for online delivery and these videos on this website will be soooo invaluable to me. I really appreciate you passing along this resource. I’ve already favorited the site in a dozen places!!

    As far as the rest of your post goes, I absolutely agree with you 100% and I could really kick myself for not encouraging my students to blog in my courses. It’s a change I’m going to make for sure for the future. The trouble with my situation is that the learning is completely asynchronous in the online classes I teach so it can be difficult for the first students to get feedback (other than from me that is) on posts they make in a blog or forum and any comments future students make on previous posts may not be read or answered by the original author because s/he may no longer be enrolled in the course. I’m not sure what the solution to such a situation would be. Do you have any thoughts for me? 😀

  3. Obviously I’m biased towards bloggigng but I see amazing informal learning happening with student blogging; that poses no threat to formal learning. Instead it supplements it and provides skills that help the students.

    However you do need to slowly structure it so they gain these skills.

  4. Dan- I am thinking about what you said in regards to students having the ability to “expand their knowledge by following their true interests through non-formal learning they should be encouraged to do so”… and wouldn’t it be great if there was an open ended credit course that allowed for a really indepth inquiry into a topic of their own choosing that allowed for this? I know in SK students can take up to 3 credits in “special projects” but these are usually very defined and approved – such as conservatory piano, or elite sport training or something. In a time of a focus on inquiry, it would be really awesome to see broad based, inter-disciplinary study at a much deeper level into a subject that a student was really passionate about. The teacher or advisor could help model what an informal learning community might look like and make suggestions about places and people to connect with – but ulitmately, they would find that interesting and unique insights come from the places and people you least epxect them, sometimes not at all directly connected to the topic, but in loosely related areas.

    Don’t feel bad about how often you contribute to your blog – we are all doing what we can given our professional and family committments and are adding to the richness of the learning just by being present and being an audience for those who have the time that week to be able to contribute more 🙂 After all, if all of us were creating, and no one was reading and responding to each other, it would be kind of lonely.

  5. I think it would be great to let students choose their learning paths. It would really provide some great experiences. I think some day it may get to that, unfortunately, not soon enough!

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