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It’s learning – but not as we know it

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The informal activities that we all do in our everyday lives can help us to learn, and this needs to be recognised and valued say education innovators Futurelab (www.futurelab.org.uk). In a new report, A review of the current landscape of adult informal learning using digital technologies, they go on to suggest that technologies such as television, mobile phones and the internet may have an important supporting role to play in learning.

The report offers insight into how playing a Wii Fit or joining an online community can support self-directed learning, and argues that this ‘informal adult learning’ can help us to respond to the challenges of a changing society.

The report includes data from a national survey in which 94 per cent of respondents said that they have engaged in some form of informal learning in the last three months and 79 per cent said that they use technology for learning in their leisure time, citing the internet, TV and DVDs as the most common technologies used.

Futurelab’s poster launched alongside the report, Possibilities for adult informal learning with technology, offers further information on how these everyday technologies can support learning, and includes examples such as studying another language through a mobile phone and taking inspiration from a TV programme and website to learn about family heritage. Government policy is increasingly focusing on the potentially important role of digital technology in 21st Century Britain, as reflected in recent reports.

The Digital Britain Report, released in June 2009, includes an action plan to secure the UK’s place at the forefront of innovation in the digital and communications industries and to develop digital participation, with significant implications for technology and learning.

Furthermore the former Department for Business, Innovation and Skills released a white paper in March 2009 called ‘The Learning Revolution’, which sets out a strategy to ‘sow the seeds of a new movement for learning’. The Futurelab report highlights some of the important challenges that this new movement will need to address.

Cassie Hague, Learning Researcher at Futurelab, commented “We need to recognise and support all the different ways that people learn, whether that learning takes place in traditional adult learning settings or in people’s leisure time. Whilst we certainly can’t ignore the challenges involved in using technology to enhance learning, it’s also really important that we work together to raise the profile of adult informal learning and to explore the benefits that technology might bring to that learning”.

The report (A review of the current landscape of adult informal learning using digital technologies) and its associated poster, Possibilities for adult informal learning with technology can both be downloaded for free fromwww.futurelab.org.uk/resources/publications-reports-articles/project-reports.

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