I am having trouble getting my comments to appear on Teemu’s blog, so I’ll post them here and perhaps drag other’s into the debate kicking and screaming πŸ™‚

Teemu Leinonen posts an interesting summary of an idea for a presentation at the next Future of Learning in a Networked World non-conference. As an aside, I really like the connection between criminals and FLNW people πŸ™‚ I like that alot in a strange type of way…

In it Teemu re-enters the networks and groups debate positing that networks form groups and that groups learn non formally as apposed to informally and therefore networked learning equals non formal learning. I might have got this wrong, so you better read Teemu’s post and set me straight if I have.. Harold Jarche come’s in on it as well.

If I have the right end of the stick then I wonder, does it follow that networked learning be non-formal? If we take Teemu’s analogy of people who identify as criminals πŸ™‚ They are networked by virtue of their occupation or cultural setting, they network by way of the legal system, the places they frequent, or the people they harass. They group based on common interests and complimentary perspectives within this cultural setting. Some might form a small group around the idea of drug production, others around a robbery, others around gang violence.. etc. It is in this group setting that they form within the network that they learn non formally. It is no longer at this point, networked learning.. The network part is separate to the group part and so is separate from the non formal learning part that Teemu tries to connect with networked learning. Networked learning and non formal learning can appear to be connected if we look at networking . grouping and learning as a sequence, but they are not necessarily… networked learning (and so the informal learning) is more like the hidden curriculum Teemu and others refer to elsewhere. It is the intangibles that emerge from the network or cultural setting. The formation of groups. The grouped, non formal learning is different.

So, for example – the edublogasphere.. is a network of bloggers writing about education. They are networked by virtue of their common use of the Internet and blogs to communicate.. but they are not grouped at this point. They learn from each other still, but it is more distant than in a group or non formal learning process. FLNW is a group that emerged when nodes within that network connected and more strongly bonded to a point where they wanted to meet around a common objective. But the learning that goes on in that group is different to the informal or hidden learning that goes on in the networks. So to imply that networked learning is the same as group or non formal learning is not recognising the difference between a network and a group.

Ah…! here we go again πŸ™‚ it is an interesting discussion and I hope we are all willing to have another belt at it.

I reckon it rests on what we find acceptable to call a network πŸ™‚ I am happy with a network being a largely ungrouped, informal and mostly distant connection between individuals, information, media, groups and other nodes. I suspect that Teemu is not happy with this. I wouldn’t call my group of friends a network, and I recognise the people in FLNW less as a network and more as a group with a different set of benefits to me, mostly friendship!

The pub is another interesting analogy that Teemu makes in the comments to his post. I might go to the pub as an individual for the chance to be around other people and talk about what ever.. the quality of Finnish beer perhaps.. for me at this point as an individual entering the pub, this is a type of networked learning and is very much informal. Later, and maybe after quite a few rounds of Finnish beer I might find myself in a group, learning in a whole different way. Likely (being a Finnish pub, I will find I am with a group if criminals! πŸ™‚

It is the same as if I go to the blogasphere and set up my own blog to talk about education. I don’t really mind who I meet and talk with, all I hope to do is connect nodes of information, ideas, media and even persons for some obscure benefit to something ill-defined.. curiosity. I could happily exist like this for the rest of my time on the blogasphere, or I could reach in further and attempt to make stronger connections and even join or form a group such as FLNW. Through such a group we might develop shared objectives and learning, but at this point the group exists where before it did not. I think this is where the two forms of learning are very different (but equally valid) in one hand we have a networked learning and largely being informal, in the other we have a group learning and largely being non formal.

I think it is important to make this distinction because we are all very used to forms of group and non formal learning like classes and schools, families, and group identities, and very few of us learn how to exist and benefit in a network, and perhaps at times needlessly look for a group to join. I think our lack of appreciation of networked and informal learning is a blind spot in common understandings of learning and education.