One of the areas that interests me is the point where informal and formal learning overlap in the digital domain. It's something I've been studying as part of my MA in Online Education at the Open University, and it's an area where there's plenty of scope for research and innovation.
With that in mind I was interested to read the findings of a report from the University of Hertfordshire, showing that there's been a slight shift in the attitudes of teenagers towards illegal music downloading using peer-to-peer services. You can read the full facts here.
What is relevant from my point of view is that teens are beginning to accept that there can be a value placed on content and intellectual property. If that change is beginning to occur then we might also see a shift in teens' approaches to greater learning and interaction taking place online.
When Berkhamsted had to shut for a week due to heavy snow in February, we used a Facebook group to keep parents and students in touch with what assignments needed to be done. I was interested to see the degree of antipathy this created - students felt that their space was being invaded by adults. This is one of the problems in bridging the divide between formal and informal learning. There are no explicit ground rules or guidelines for what language to use, which metaphors to apply to the process of online interactions and so on. Perhaps it is the vehicle or technology that's used that's created the tension we experienced?
This is something I'm reading up about at the moment for my MA - and in particular the ideas of social theorist Etienne Wenger. He proposed the idea of communities of practice and maybe what's needed is education for teachers and students alike into how online learning communities should function. Certainly, it's an area I intend to explore from a practical purpose when the new academic year begins in September.
There is a chasm at present between the walled gardens of Virtual Learning Environments, and the free-to-all Web 2.0 open source options that exist in the ever expanding online Cloud that the WWW has become. How educators span that space between what is taught in school and what is learnt elsewhere remains, I believe, one of the great challenges for the near future.