I received an invitation recently to a Becta conference on ‘Harnessing Technology’ and was asked to talk in advance to some learners and friends about how they use technology in their own lives. It got me thinking about the relationship between the ways we use technology for informal and formal learning and about how best to take forward the debate about transforming learning.

Changing organisational culture and attitudes to technology is a battle for hearts and minds. “What’s in it for me?” is the unspoken response from many tutors to any suggestion about using some kit or software to improve quality, performance or efficiency. So if you can discover when and why people adopt technology to suit their own needs and purposes, you have probably found a useful key. Here are a few examples of what people had to say, when I asked them:

    Registering with jajah.com to enable free mobile to mobile calling
    Checking via Google for the words of ‘Sweet Sir Galahad’, a Joan Baez song
    Use of mobile phone for wake up alarm, diary alert and texting to friends
    Searching on PC for train times, book reviews and product specifications
    Transporting files from work/school to home on a memory stick
    Satnavs in the car and a GIS device for orienteering & moorland walking
    Publishing photos to the web for friends and general viewing

I’m keen on the last one myself and need to take the plunge with a new camera-installed mobile. The photo below of mist clearing on the moors outside Appleby in Cumbria was taken on my way to work one morning in October. It took my breath away and reminded me of Albert Camus’ description in The Desert of a landscape in Florence as “like the first smile of the sky”. Yet inertia has taken me a month to get it published!

Mist rising from the valley floor in Cumbria.

With Nokia’s new N-series I could publish it straight to my flickr.com photo gallery or to this blog for anyone to see immediately. Hasn’t this tie up just announced between Nokia and flickr – all part of the growing Web 2.0 movement for user generated content (UGC) – got potential for adult learning too?

Harrow Adult Education and London WEA have set up websites with good collections of learners’ art materials and work displayed, which have impressed ALI inspectors. But there is no reason why any adult education or workplace provider should not set up a flickr photo gallery (or galleries for specific courses) and encourage their learners to submit their photos themselves. Good for demonstrating achievements for an Inspection visit, but equally valuable for building the informal learning skills, which can give people the confidence to learn more new IT skills. It would be good to hear what people are doing in this area. Let me have your comments.