"It's called MySpace for a reason": Formal and nonformal education in contact/flict

In a recent meeting somebody quoted a saying by a teacher: "It's called MySpace for a reason" meaning that students may not be particularly keen on inviting the teachers into their own social-networking world. However, on the other hand, a significant amount of non-formal learning takes place in these social environments. From my recent project proposal:

Personalised learning aims to make education better respond to individual needs of all learners. One of the educational philosophies that overlap with the agenda is non-formal learning. It could be argued that much of what students do online includes learning and constitutes genuine educational achievement. Designing a MySpace theme, starting a BeBo group, moderating a forum, resolving a dispute between friends, all of these contribute to a students' transferable skills yet they remain separate from formal education. New technologies such as electronic portfolios seem to offer a possibility of integrating non-formal learning online into formal educational processes.

But how we make it count without alienating the learners and forcing them to find other spaces where they are free to learn without the formal restrictions of curricula and assessments? And, perhaps, even more importantly, without realizing that they are learning in the first place!

There seem to be several separate models for this that I experienced during three recent interviews:

  • Social networks are the students own space and we shouldn't intrude. In fact, such an intrusion raises a number of questions of ethics and law, quite apart from issues of education.
  • Social networks should serve as a model for the educational environment (Moodle, Pebblepad, Elgg) but should be largely separate from the students' own social world.
  • Social networks should be included in the curriculum in one way or another.

Both students and teachers seem to be distributed along this matrix and navigating a path between these models will be a delicate process with many cul-de-sacs explored along the way.

[Edited to add the following:]

I have since been pointed to  this interesting Demos report including a recorded discussion. I'm hoping to add more on the subject in separate posts!

Demos | Digital Curriculum - Their Space | Blog | Their Space Podcast

The way young people use technology outside school is changing and so are the ways they learn. This project, funded by the NCSL, aims to explore how schools should respond to children's informal learning with digital media such as games consoles, the internet and mobile phones.