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informal learning

Page history last edited by Jay Cross 17 years, 2 months ago


Putting Informal Learning to work


 "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe." John Muir






When faced with massive change, living things adapt or die. Darwinian evolution is one form of adaptation, but natural selection is glacially slow. Humans have another form of adaptation: learning.


Learning enables people to interact more effectively with the ecosystems in which they participate. Taking advantage of the double meaning of the word network, to learn is to optimize the quality of one’s networks.

Think of the Learner having Linkages to ecosystems that matter, what I’ll call a Learnscape.





Learning is that which enables one to participate successfully in life, work, and groups that matter. Informal learning is the unofficial, unscheduled, impromptu way people learn to do their jobs.



Fundamental sources

Seven Principles of Learning, Institute for Learning Research 

Informal Learning -- the Other 80%, Jay Cross, 2003 

Learn More Now, Marcia Conner, Fast Company, 2005 

Learning Development Cycle, George Siemens, 2005 

Learning in the Digital Age by John Seely Brown 

Informal Learning by Marcia Conner 

The Future of Education by Don Norman 

Out of Control by Kevin Kelly


 Ray Sims' list of 25 ways to support informal learning:


  1. Make collaboration easy. Employ the usual technology suspects such as discussionboards, wiki, web-conferencing solutions, IM, VOIP, etc. Facilitate physical meet-ups through architectural design and orchestrated face-to-face events. Support and encourage communities of practice and other community constructs. Identify and addresss roadblocks via organizational network analysis and other means.
  2. Teach critical thinking and “web / learning 2.0″ skills
  3. Help employees discover and refine their own personal learning environment
  4. Include desired learning behaviors in talent and performance management frameworks, programs and systems
  5. Improve content findability. Obsessive attention to enterprise federated search, cross-linking, social tagging, content reuse strategies, etc.
  6. Provide electronic performance support
  7. Improve people findability. Both expertise location applications and other means.
  8. Make outside connections easy. Funding for information and research services, conference attendance, guest speakers at company events, etc. A liberal blog policy and encouragement to blog
  9. For every new piece of formal learning, explore complementary informal learning opportunities — explicitly driving this exploration through process
  10. For every new piece of formal learning, answer: What can we do to increase the likelihood and depth of immediate practice in a safe environment; ideally where failure is not only expected, but created
  11. Through talent and performance management and other programs, provide guidance relative to where learning is called for
  12. Create time and space for reflection via flexible working hours and location and architectural design
  13. Culturally institutionalize After Action Reviews
  14. Provide incentives for teaching (both to internal and external audiences)
  15. Make contribution expected
  16. Make feedback expected
  17. Make the LMS maximally “informal learning friendly.” Suggest informal opportunities, support registering accomplishment, etc.
  18. Support and encourage non-traditional delivery methods such as podcasting
  19. Require personal learning plans
  20. Bring in the power of storytelling
  21. Virally move towards more visual, less text (thought of as I mentally recalled my 3 February post related to icons)
  22. Encourage and support coaching. Considering what a “learning coach” might look like.
  23. Market and advocate on behalf of informal learning opportunities
  24. Make it easy to share and recommend sources (including via tag clouds, subscription lists, etc.)
  25. Make it easy to declare and share successful informal learning strategies


 Getting people up to speed: 23 Things

Listed below are 23 Things (or small exercises) that you can do on the web to explore and expand your knowledge of the Internet and Web 2.0. Not the most sophisticated list, but not so bad either. Developed to train staff in the libraries of Charlotte, North Carolina.




Digital Literacy


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