Monday, October 1, 2012

Informal learning is everywhere

If you read this blog, you will quickly discover that I am a HUGE fan of informal learning. Informal learning is the learning that just happens while you are out living life. It's not the formal education you get when you go to school. It's not the nonformal education you get when you take a ballroom dancing class. Informal education is the learning that happens when you read the newspaper or watch the news. It's everywhere!

I thought about that kind of learning often during the month of September. You see, September is a big festival month in my world. It starts Labor Day weekend when I usually run off to a nearby powwow. So much informal learning happens at a powwow. You can read about powwow etiquette in the program. During the powwow, the MC describes the different dances and regalia to the spectators. The traders explain the history behind their offerings to a potential customer. My favorite informal learning at powwows is what happens at the campsites. Groups sit around in circles and just talk. Some are usually working on craft projects or regalia, while the group gives advice and teaches new skills to others. Often there will be a point where everyone shows off what they have been working on over the past year. Everyone helps everyone else learn how to honor tradition and live within the cultural norms of the powwow.

In Bloomington, Indiana, there has been an art installation throughout town called The Brain Extravaganza. You can learn more about it here. There are giant brains all over town. Each has a plaque with different brain facts, and the different artwork on the brains tells a different story about neuroscience. People who happen to walk by a brain and decide to read the plaque just experienced informal learning.

Also in Bloomington was the Lotus World Music and Art Festival. You can find more about this event here. Now, some serious informal learning takes place at this event! This year was my first immersion into the Lotus Festival. People are not only introduced to new music and art, but through the music and art they are introduced to new cultures and places. I remember at one point my friends and I were talking about which artist we wanted to see next. We started talking about a Malian singer and dancer that would be playing. One of us said, "Where's Mali"? The rest admitted we had heard of Mali but really had no idea where it was. So, another lady pulls out her smartphone and looks up all about Mali and reads it to all of us. Now, we not only know where Mali is but the population and culture of Mali, as well. That is informal learning, people!

Take a moment to bask in just how much information is easily available to you that was not available just a few decades ago. It is astounding how accessible learning is in this day and age. As you go about your week and find that you have learned something new, take a moment for gratitude.

Peace and learning to you all.

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