Literature Review in Informal Learning with Technology Outside School

Julian Sefton-Green

01 January 2004

Computers and other aspects of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) allow children and young people a wide variety of activities and experiences that can support learning, yet many of these transactions do not take place in traditional educational settings. In fact many of these may not be considered ‘educational’ according to our conventional understanding of that term. For most of us, discussion about learning is inextricably related to formal education systems (how schools should be organised, managed and run). However, any interest in the role of ICTs in children’s learning forces the recognition that many children are immersed in ICT-related activities in their homes and with their friends. This recognition requires us to acknowledge a wider ‘ecology’ of education where schools, homes, playtime, the library and the museum all play their part. This review, then, is an attempt to map out the different approaches to understanding how young people may be learning with ICTs in a range of settings outside the school.

The particular focus in this report is children and young people’s use of digital resources that are primarily viewed as leisure activities and which, often, are viewed by formal educational establishments as outside the realm of valued educational experience. This comprises, for example, children’s playing of computer games, their use of chat rooms, their exploitation of digital media and digital television and so on, in other words, all the activities that are now mediated by digital technologies as part of young people’s social and cultural lives.