I have chosen ‘incidental learning’ because I believe that incidental learning is all around us everyday in the classroom and around the school as a workplace.
Incidental learning can occur from informal learning and experiences and often occur when using computers to complete tasks. Incidental learning may come through watching, talking to colleagues or experts (van Tillaart et al. 1998), making mistakes, assumptions, beliefs and attributions (Cseh, Watkins and Marsick 1999). Learners in primary schools are now being exposed to digital technologies to support and enhance their learning experiences. Teachers too, make more use of technology to enhance their planning for teaching and learning and for finding resources to support their learning activities.
Children use Chromebooks in class to help with their learning (research), for presentations, storing photographs, videos etc and access the App store to access games and educational apps to support their learning. Incidental learning happens when working in small groups and the interactivity of and mobility of the Chromebooks means that they can work together to support each other’s learning. Incidental learning would happen when assignments or projects are flexible and allow for creativity and innovation (personalisations and choice) of how and where completed. For teachers incidental learning occurs while working with and learning from peers and instructors and it can be seen to apply to their work their own social reality. Teachers may also learn incidently through observation of their learners.
Incidental learning is often not recognised or labelled as learning making it difficult to measure. There are a variety of ways in which incidental learning can be captured or harnessed to ensure that learners are being challenged and are progressing. Using formative assessment strategies with the learners during and after activities encourages them to reflect on their learning, evaluate and set next steps in using their new learning and/or where they go next. After ‘Learning through Play’ sessions in class learners complete a ‘Play Diary’ to record and reflect on their learning activities that day. Higher Order questioning (Blooms Taxonomy related) can be used to ensure depth of learning and also encourages sharing of learning with their peers which in turn influences their learning. Teachers will need to provide new contexts for learning within the establishment which allows access to and/or use of technologies.
When it is evident that there is incidental learning occuring teachers will need to act as facilitators and observe this learning and not intervene. This is a difficult concept for teachers who use their observations to support or scaffold learning perhaps within a future lesson.
Incidental learning can lead to improved compentence, changed attitudes and growth in interpersonal skills, self confidence and self awareness. All of these skills are needed to support our learners as they journey towards becoming our Young Workforce.
Finding technology to capture incidental learning and to use contextual learning experiences to promote this approach to learning will involve teachers re-designing their approaches to planning for teaching and learning and making it more technology based and interactive which will allow their learners to feed into their own learning. Tools such as SamEx have been shown to motivate learners and offers rewards along their learning journey. Learners use their mobile devices to record information and make comments and this is linked with other learners and collaboration and sharing evolves. Teachers have access through this tool to become involved and support learning and it also provides qualitative data and assessment information about the learning. SamEx is similar to TinCan/XAP1, both of which will incur considerable costs to a school or local authority education service if they choose to use this form of analytical resource.
At this point in our digital transformation it would be more cost effective to look for ways of adapting the use of Chromebooks and the use of Google Apps such as Google Docs, Google Classroom, Google+ and Blogger as a means of recording incidents of incidental learning. Other social media tools such as Pinterest could also be adapted for this purpose.
Kerka, S (2000). Incidental Learning. Trends and Issues Alert No. 18: Center on Education and Training for Employment. http://www.calpro-online.com/eric/docs/tia0086.pdf (Last accessed on 19 March 2016)
Marsick, V, J., and Watkins, K, E.(2001) Informal and Incidental Learning in New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, No. 89, Spring 2001. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com.libezproxy.open.ac.uk/doi/10.1002/ace.5/abstract (Last accessed on 19 March 2016)
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