I came across an excellent article reflecting data and conclusions about the study of the impact of e-learning and learner’s views on the physical places where they learn.  From my understanding, this study was intended to help organizations plan better learning spaces (buildings, centers, libraries, colleges, schools, etc…) but the information revealed some key components of digital learners that are helpful for children’s and family leaders.

First, let’s start with a definition of both terms.  Formal learning is education characterized by accreditation, trained leaders, and standards with a slated and prescribed curriculum with a specific end in sight.

Informal learning is education characterized by socialization in the “comings and goings of life” (see Deuteronomy 6).

The study tried to discover if there were patterns in informal learning, learning that was sought out by the learner (not introduced by the teacher or organization).  The researchers (obvious digital immigrants) had found little success with Twitter (a micro-blogging service where users answer the question, “What are you doing?” in 140 character bursts) on a personal level but they saw great potential in the tool for getting feedback on what students were learning informally.

“What if we could take Twitter’s “What are you doing?” prompt and instead ask “Where are you learning?” Could we get students to send tweets that would offer insights into their learning patterns, activities, and environmental triggers?”

First, this study gives a great example of how a digital social networking tool can be used informally to gain insight and have learning conversation informally.  Typically Twitter users are using Twitter on their cell-phone.  Cell-phone use for kids under the age of 12 has risen dramatically.  Thinking that the kids in your ministry context will be immune to increased digital use and social networking, you are mistaken

Here’s the stats:

In 2005, almost one in five kids ages 10-11 owned a cell phone.  (Source)

63% of teenagers age 12-17 have cell phones, with boys age 12-14 least likely to have cell phones (45 percent) and girls age 15-17 most likely to have them (79 percent).??

54% of kids age 8-12 are expected to have a cell phone by 2011.  Source (Pew Internet & American Life Project report “Teens and Social Media” and the Center on Media and Child Health)

Second, for the college students studied, the data collected showed an integration between learning, home, and social life.  This point is critical.  One of the most prevalent misconceptions about digital life is that it is somehow separate from a child or learner’s “real” life.  If a kid has friends on Facebook, those are not “real” friends and the friendships lack something “real.” For digital learners, there is no difference between a friend on Facbeook and a “real” friend.  Media does not only enhance relationships (as Johnny Rogers claims), for digitial learners media is relationships.  Increasingly we will find in the field of children’s and family ministry that the digital is integrated into the lives of kids and their parents.


I think this would be a really fun thing to have kids experiment with.  In fact, this weekend I’m going to check into which of my 4th-5th graders use Twitter.  It would be cool to set up a Twitter account for our children’s ministry that interacts directly with the kids within the ministry.  This way I could ask questions during the week related to what we’ve been learning, the stories we’ve been telling, and what the kids are investigating.  Twitter is also a great tool because you can post pictures (or twitpics).  Is anyone out there using Twitter with upper-elementary kids or cell-phone users in your ministry context?