Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Virtual technologies and university involvement

A report says universities' use of virtual technologies is 'patchy' | Education | The Guardian:

Worthwhile review of a report into universities' use of virtual learning in today's Guardian and there are some useful points made throughout about the boundaries between informal and formal online learning. However, it was the following quote which I noticed from Brian Kelly which got my 'questioning head' pinging:

"'Facebook is the equivalent of students chatting in the pub after a lecture, in which case it's not for universities to get involved in that informal learning,' he explains."

"the equivalent of students chatting in the pub after a lecture" - hmmmm... not sure on this one. I think there's more value in these informal systems than meets the eye. I've seen students from one of the Open University courses I work on (T189 - Digital Photography) take their studies way beyond the boundaries of the OU and continue developing their skills using what might be dismissed as 'informal learning'. You can find those students on Facebook. You can find them on Flickr. They set each other photographic challenges. They constructively critique each other's work. Share techniques. No, I'm not saying that the University should step into those locations to somehow make them 'official'. But it's not just chatter either. And it's certainly not a low-level informal piece of learning either. This is real, deep engagement with a subject. When are we going to recognise and value that? How are we going to recognise and value it? We don't create the definitions of what does or doesn't have value any more - students are carving out the places and spaces they want and need. We don't have to be directly involved to be involved... do we?
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