Skip to main content

Children’s informal learning in the context of schools of the knowledge society


This paper builds on a key finding of a 5-year Danish research project con-cerning children in the 7 to 15 age group: children’s principal use of computers and the internet takes place in their spare time, and it is during their spare time that the majority of children really learn how to use interactive media. The project shows that in children’s spare-time use of ICT they employ informal forms of learning based to a large extent on their social interaction both in physical and virtual spaces. These informal learning forms can be identified as learning hierarchies, learning communities and learning networks; they are important contributions to the school of the knowledge society. The ICT in New Learning Environments project based on anthropologically inspired methods and social learning theories shows that students bring their informal forms of learning into the school context. This happens particularly when the school has undergone physical alterations and when its organisation of learning and teaching are also restructured, with project-based learning becoming an important part of the school work and with the media available in the learning environment. Using organisation theory, the school working with ICT and project-based learning is shown to simultaneously constitute a mixed mode between the school of the industrial and the knowledge society. The research shows that it is possible to tip the balance in the direction of the school of the knowledge society, and thus of the future, by comprehensively using ICT and project work in the day-to-day activities of the school, alongside and integrated with the traditional forms of learning, and not least by employing the informal learning processes children develop outside school. For teachers this will mean an extension of their function: no longer merely communicators of knowledge, they will have to become knowledge managers and overall leaders of projects, and this entails much more dialogue with the pupils.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. According to a Northern European survey, these figures correspond with only a few slight deviations to the access to computers and internet of children in the same age group in Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Ireland (Saft:

  2. The school referred to here is Maglegårdsskolen in the Municipality of Gentofte (near Copenhagen). In recent years it has been rebuilt to take part in the SKUB project, a school development project based on a future-oriented pedagogic design: above-mentioned architectural drawing of a home-area is an example taken from one of the school’s home-areas.

  3. These informal learning forms have been identified in connection with the project Children growing up with interactive media, in a future perspective, which was funded by The Danish Research Council. The project ran from 1997 to 2003.

  4. These communities may often be long-lasting, with the participants meeting several times a week to continue the same game in the same clan.


  • Bourdieu, P. (1990). The logic of practice. Cambridge: Policy.

    Google Scholar 

  • Christensen, P. H. (2002). Om vidensledelse—perspektiver til refleksion (On knowledge management—perspectives for reflection). Frederiksberg: Samfundslitteratur.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dirckinck-Holmfeld, L. (2000). Virtuelle læringsmiljøer på projektpædagogisk grundlag (Virtual learning environment based on project pedagogic). In S. Heilesen (Ed.), At undervise med IKT (To teach with ICT). Frederiksberg: RoskildeUniversitetsforlag/Samfundslitteratur.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fink, H., et al. (2004). Humanistisk viden I et vidensamfund. Report. Forskningsstyrelsen Ministeriet for Videnskab, Teknologi og Udvikling, Copenhagen (The humanities in a knowledge society. Report. The Research Board, Ministry of Science, Technology and Development).

  • Foucault, M. (1994). Self writing. In P. Rabinow (Ed.), Michel Foucault. Ethics. Essential works of Foucault 1954–1984, vol 1. London: Penguin Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hastrup, K. (Ed.) (2003). Ind i verden. En grundbog i Antropologisk metode (Into the world. A primer in anthropological method). Copenhagen: Hans Reitzels Forlag.

  • Hastrup, K., & Ramløv, K. (Eds.) (1989). Kulturanalyse. Fortolkningens forløb i antropologien (Cultural analysis. The interpretative trajectory in anthropology). Copenhagen: Akademisk Forlag.

  • Jessen, C., & Sørensen, B. H. (2003). Virtuel kommunikation og virtuelle fællesskaber—hvilke kompe-tencer? (Virtual communication and virtual communities) In H. Mathiasen (Ed.), IT og læringsperspektiver (IT and learning perspectives) Copenhagen: Alinea.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lave, J., & Wegner, E. (1991). Situated Learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. New York: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Leavitt, H. J. (1965). Applied organizational change in industry: Structural, technological and humanis-tic approaches. In J. March (Ed.), Handbook of organizations. Chicago: Rand McNolly.

    Google Scholar 

  • Qvortrup, L. (2004). Det vidende samfund.—mysteriet om viden, læring og dannelse (The knowledgable society: The mystery around knowledge, learning and education). Copenhagen: UP Forlag.

  • Saft (2003).

  • Scott, W. R. (2003). Organizations: Rational, natural and open systems (5th edn.). Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sørensen, B. H. (2005). ICT and the gap between school pedagogy and children’s culture. Journal Pedagogy, Culture and Society, 13(1), 43–57.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sørensen, B. H., & Audon, L. (2004). Nye læringsformer og rum-digitale medier i vidensamfundets skole (New forms of learning and space: Digital media in the knowledge society’s school). Copenhagen: The Danish University of Education.

  • Sørensen, B. H., Jessen, C., & Olesen, B. R. (Eds.) (2002). Børn på nettet. Kommunikation og læring (Children on the Internet. Communication and learning). Copenhagen: Gads Forlag.

  • Spradley, J. P. (1979). The ethnographic interview. Orlando: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich College.

    Google Scholar 

  • Trilling, B., & Hood, P. (2001). Learning, technology, and education reform in the knowledge age or ‘we’re wired, webbed, and windowed, now what?’ In Paechter, et al. (Eds.), Learning, space and identity. London: Paul Clapman. (Sørensen 2004).

  • van Krieken, R. (2002). Norbert Elias. Copenhagen: Hans Reitzels Forlag.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice. Learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Birgitte Holm Sørensen.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Sørensen, B.H., Danielsen, O. & Nielsen, J. Children’s informal learning in the context of schools of the knowledge society. Educ Inf Technol 12, 17–27 (2007).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: