Informal learning: A study of advocacy groups and their use of technologies
Fahrni, Patricia M.
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Informal learning, now greatly supported by information and communication technology, is an area of interest for research. Researchers examine learning outside of formal structures; examples include workplace learning, communities of practice, and social communities. However, there is little research on social justice learning. Having been swept from formal institutions by the “neo-liberal broom,” social justice learning takes shape among groups of adults coming together in the community. This study explored the informal, participatory learning of such groups. A qualitative approach using interview, document, and observational data was chosen to explore how five informal advocacy groups used information and communication technology to come together, build knowledge on their issues, and make their voices heard. Grounded theory was used to interpret study results and generate theory describing informal learning in loose, lateral, changing networks. Advocacy groups and their use of technologies in informal learning are described. Study findings underline the importance of access to information and communication technology and recommend strategies for learning informally and for sustaining informal learning groups. The heart of the theory, “Water Flowing around Rock” provides a metaphor for the advocates’ task of making their voices heard despite barriers. Study findings constitute a hopeful demonstration of widespread, informal participation in democracy through the use of information and communication technology.