From non-formal learning to casual learning

By Ismael Peña-López
ICTlogy (ISSN 1886-5208). Issue #85, October 2010


Education has two main purposes whose natures are very different.

On the one hand, education should train the people that are in the labour market, it should train people as workers (let us note here the surprising expression of “training the future employees”, which excludes all present workers from the need of further education).

Moreover, education should train people as people, If you’ll forgive the repetition. That is, it should train people as citizens responsible for their actions and free to do them upon the agreed social contract.

Both have been solved traditionally with a combination of school, professional training and universities. With a variable combination according to the needs, but all in all within a common set of possibilities.

In a future that is already present, the possibility of deinstitutionalizing education (especially in regard to educational institutions) is likely to enable a demand and supply of trained workers that would have its equivalent in a demand and supply for labour training more fit to the labour market needs. The historical claims of employers (“we want the universities to produce more specialists and fewer generalists”) will have a logical answer: “let yourselves also invest in human capital from which you will profit later on, as it is now easier than it was before”.

In the case of education as a builder of people as citizens, things get more complicated: because of its nature as a public good (we all want it but we have no incentive for bearing its cost), demand for it will probably not increase. And, as it is divorced from the demand for education as workforce training, it will be even more difficult — in this short-term- and economics-focussed world — justify the investment in training for citizenship.

To add up to this problem of underestimating the training for citizenship vs. the training of workforce, we find that the changing environment brought about by the digital revolution makes the need for training — as citizens, as workers — something that ceased to be part of a stage of life to become something that takes place all throughout life.

Before these challenges, we should start to consider how to get education to citizens anytime and anyplace.

It might well be that after a first step (or expansion) of formal education into formal education, be followed by a second stage that goes from non-formal to informal education, to casual education.

If museums, libraries, workplaces, communities of practice, etc. are now part of non-formal education, thanks to the technologies that enable the learner’s mobility, the ubiquity of content and experts, the possibility of an augmented reality, semantic contexts and artificial intelligence… it should be possible to anticipate the citizens’ training needs (and even training wills) and situate education where it is going to be required.

Strategies for product placement or contextual advertising have evidenced their power to sell products and services. Why not trying training, citizen training? Why not integrating it into the daily life, in the everyday life of citizens?

Article originally posted as Desinstitucionalizando la educación for a set of articles for the Mozilla Drumbeat Festival, taking place in Barcelona in 3-5 november 2010:

If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2010) “From non-formal learning to casual learning” In ICTlogy, #85, October 2010. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
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