Towards a fusion of formal and informal learning environments: the impact of the Read/Write Web
The read/write web, or Web 2.0, offers ways for users to personalise their online existence, and to develop their own critical identities though their control of a range of tools. Exerting control enables those users to forge new contexts, profiles and content through which to represent themselves, based upon the user-centred, participative, social networking affordances of specific technologies. In turn these technologies enable learners to integrate their own contexts, profiles and content, in order to develop informal associations or communities of inquiry. Within educational contexts these tools enable spaces for learners to extend their own formal learning into more informal places though the fusion of web-based tools into a task-oriented personal learning environment. Where students are empowered to make decisions about the tools that support their personal approaches to learning, they are able develop further control over their learning experiences and move towards their own subject-based mastery. Critically, they are able to define with whom to share their personal approaches, and how they can best connect the informal learning that occurs across their life to their formal, academic work. The personal definition or fusion of tools and tasks is afforded through individual control over the learning environment. The flowering of personal learning aims, mediated by technologies and rules of engagement, occurs within task-specific loops where learners can interpret and process epistemological signals. In turn, where those loops are located within broader, personalised environments students can make contextual sense of their learning and extend their own educational opportunities. Moreover, they can extend their own academic decision-making through application in other contexts, and as a result manage their own academic uncertainties. This is evidenced through a thematic study of the voices of both learners and tutors, which highlights how the read/write web can be used proactively by educators, using specific tasks to enable learners to fuse their informal and formal learning spaces, and thereby enhance their decision-making confidence. The structuring of learning spaces that enable users and social networks to manage their educational processes is enhanced by read/write web approaches and tools, and in this paper is defined through a Fused Learner Integration model.
Citation:Hall, R. (2009) Towards a Fusion of Formal and Informal Learning Environments: the Impact of the Read/Write Web. Electronic Journal of e-Learning, 7 (1), pp 29-40