Detailed Program of the Conference

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Overall view of the program
Parallel sessions - L.6 Beyond Formal Education? Young People and Alternative Non-Formal and Informal Learning Times and Places
Friday, 04/June/2021:
5:15pm - 7:30pm

Session Chair: Maria Manuel Vieira
Session Chair: Lia Pappámikail
Location: Room 8

Session Panels:
L.6. Beyond Formal Education? Young People and Alternative Non-Formal And Informal Learning Times and Places

External Resource:


Alessandro Soriani1, Elena Pacetti1, Paolo Bonafede2

1University of Bologna, Department of Education Studies "G.M. Bertin"; 2University of Trento, Italy


Social media have long been considered both a strong driver of peer-to-peer social relationships (Caron & Caronia, 2007) and an important ground for the constitution of participatory cultures that promote informal learnings and opportunities for the construction and negotiation of one's identity path (boyd, 2014; Ito et al., 2010; Jenkins, Ito, & boyd, 2016). Particularly in the last decade, the infosphere (Floridi, 2017) has been traversed by a development that, while expected, has surprised in terms of rapidity and profound transformation of teenagers’ online practices (Riva, 2012). If the phenomenon has been largely investigated for childhood, especially when considering the cognitive impacts on learning dynamics, local and specific studies on relational dynamics in adolescence are limited (Bissaca, Cerulo, & Scarcelli, 2021). Therefore, there is a need to analyze the ways in which young users of digital technologies stage themselves as a function of a multifaceted social paradigm and of the opportunities offered by the communicative environment generated by ICTs.

The research, which involved 1657 students (14-19 y.o.) from ten secondary schools of different curricula in the metropolitan city of Bologna, intends to investigate, from an exploratory-phenomenological point of view, the influence that adolescents’ online practices (video-social platforms, gaming, etc.) have on the development and negotiation of their identity. Has the transversal and pervasive change generated by digital tools and environments affected the ways in which adolescents perceive themselves, negotiate their identity and their role in the peer group? What challenges and critical issues arise for identity development from digital consumption?

What emerges is a picture in which technologies are mediators of fundamental importance in the relationships of young adolescents; a situation that has been further emphasized by more than a year of health emergency with consequent lockdown and closure of schools. The figure of peers, even those known and frequented exclusively online, as well as that of influencers, play a very important role in the negotiation of the identity of young people and in the construction of their relational dynamics.


Bissaca, E., Cerulo, M., & Scarcelli, C. M. (2021). Giovani e social network. Emozioni, costruzione dell’identità, media digitali. Milano: Carrocci.

boyd, d. (2014). It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. New Heaven and London: Yale University Press.

Caron, A. H., & Caronia, L. (2007). Moving cultures: Mobile communication in everyday life. Social Science Computer Review.

Floridi, L. (2017). La quarta rivoluzione. Come l’infosfera sta trasformando il mondo. Milano: Raffaello Cortina.

Ito, M., Baumer, S., Bittanti, M., boyd, d., Herr-Stephenson, B., Horst, H. A., Tripp, L. (2010). Hanging Out, Messing Around and Geeking Around. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.

Jenkins, H., Ito, M., & boyd, d. (2016). Participatory culture in a networked era: a conversation on youth, learning, commerce, and politics. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Riva, G. (2012). Psicologia dei nuovi media. Azione, presenza, identità e relazioni nei media digitali e nei social media. Bologna: Il Mulino.


Pina Lalli, Claudia Capelli

Università di Bologna, Dipartimento Scienze Politiche e Sociali, Italia

Serious games, research has shown, have proved to be an effective alternative tool for educators in a wide range of different learning contexts (de Freitas 2006; Carvalho 2017; Zhonggen 2019). Educational elements become part of the gameplay and players are engaged in learning activities through entertainment. Easiness in use, surprises in the story-script, and open ended situations have been found to be influencing factors for the learning outcomes, especially among young players (Iten & Petko 2016; Wouters et al. 2017). Although they could be classified as a non-formal, ICT-based learning activity (Colardyn & Bjørnåvold 2005), serious games can be easily integrated into the structured learning that takes place in middle and high school.

This paper presents the results of a two-year participatory research conducted in 7 Italian schools with the goal of developing a new educational tool about occupational safety for the work-based learning program that is currently mandatory in Italian high schools. The research was conducted as part of a project that saw the collaboration of the University of Bologna with INAIL (Italian National Institute for Insurance against Accidents at the Workplace) and local health authorities from 3 different Italian regions. Feedback from different groups of high-school students and teachers was collected and analysed before, during and after the development of the tool, in order to co-create a product that was promoting a “skills-based” learning through experience, and was connected to the resources that are part of young people’s everyday life.

This insight helped the researchers, supported by a team of developers, create a serious game titled Sicuri si diventa (Becoming Safe), a management simulation game set in a 3D environment. As an RPG (role-playing game), it provides players with an empathetic experience, where they are transported into the role of a junior safety manager, initially guided by a senior manager who explains the basic rules and regulations that have to be followed to guarantee the workers’ safety. The senior manager then leaves, entrusting the player with the responsibility of keeping the company productive and safe at the same time. The video game is not designed to replace the settings and contents of formal knowledge. While it can be used in the classroom to promote awareness, curiosity and desire to learn, the game keeps its original character: an informal, enjoyable opportunity to practice one’s performance in the competition for simulated occupational safety. Aware of the fictional dimension but driven by the context, identifying with the role they are given and going down wrong and right paths, the players learn that safety and profit are not conflicting objectives.

The experience gained from the process of development and testing of Sicuri si diventa is used here to explore the role and potential of non-formal, ICT-based educational tools in a formal teaching environment. We argue that the high levels of satisfaction shown by the students who tested the game prove that this kind of non-formal learning experiences provide a valid support to formal training and a useful addition to structured school programs.


Fabio Togni

University of Florence, Italy


Twitch is currently the largest live streaming platform (Social Live Streaming Service, SLSS), with over 2 million viewers and over 90,000 broadcast/day. Twitch offers a personalized entertainment experience that is as enjoyable as possible (T. Wulf et al. 2018). It mainly involves males (81.5%), and 55% has an average age of 21 (J. de Wit et al. 2020). It is a form of para-social interaction (Horton, Wohl 1956), which fosters long-term involvement with streamers, comparable to a sort of friendship (Payne, Keith, Schuetzler, Giboney 2017). Twitch is intended as a combination of "hot" an “cold” media (Luhman) and, today, could be considered as a digital learning paradigm, based on digital co-presence, partly different from physical co-presence (V. Diwanji et al. 2020). Its use is favored by what has been studied by the Theory of Uses and Gratifications (UTG): people actively seek, consume and participate in media that meet their individual needs (Z. Hilvert-Bruce et al. 2018). Twitch has grown a lot during the Pandemic period. Streamers have represented ‘resilience trainers’ through entertainment. We want to explore: How Twitch change the future life/job planning look? How Twitch develops resilience skills? How do streamers shape future job skills?


Our research is based on the resumption of a research done in Germany (D. Gros et al. 2017). We adapted the survey to our situation and administered it to a random sample (opportunistic) of 870 subjects. The subjects were recruited directly into Twitch Social Groups or in linked Social Groups (Instagram, in particular). The ‘good questionnaires’ are equal to 73% and far exceed the data collected by German colleagues. The questionnaires consist of closed questions with a Likert scale of 5 (completely agree, completely disagree; very strong impact, very weak impact) and some open questions.


The study demonstrated the informal educational potential of SLSS, showing the impact of leisure on formal activities. In particular, it highlighted how the concepts of interaction, immersion, interactivity will be increasingly important in everyday experiences. This will also have repercussions on future job experiences, which will be increasingly characterized by para-social and not just social relationships. This shows that the model that opposes ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ activity is not correct. It also shows that the new media professions (Influencers, youtubers, streamers, ecc.) represent very powerful indirect-social-training- models and have the power to influence and modify many other professions.


T. Wulf, F. M. Schneider, S. Beckert. Sage journals. 2018

J. de Wit, A. van der Kraan, J. Theeuwes. Frontiers in psychology. 2020

Horton, D.; Wohl, R. Psychiatry. 1956

K. Payne, M.J. Keith, R. M. Schuetzler, J. S. Giboney, 2017.

V. Diwanji, A. Reed, A. Ferchaud, J. Seibert, V. Weinbrecht, N. Sellers. Elsevier. 2020

Z. Hilvert-Bruce, J. T. Neill, M. Sjöblom, J. Hamari. Elsevier. 2018

D. Gros, B. Wanner, A. Hackenholt, P. Zawadzki, K. Knautz. International conference on social computing and social media. 2017


Giambattista Bufalino1, Gabriella D'Aprile2, Cristina Lo Presti3

1University of Catania, Italy; 2University of Catania, Italy; 3University of Catania, Italy

The urban space provides numerous opportunities for project-based learning, by fostering civic awareness and encouraging participation through nonformal and informal learning opportunities. The local community becomes a space of deep learning as a result of cultural affinities, the transmission of implicit and explicit values, and the generation of meanings and symbols that emerge and spread over time (Ellerani, 2013). In this sense, the goal of our work is not only to demonstrate competencies acquired through non-formal and informal learning processes, but also to describe the contexts and generative challenges of those processes so that we can better understand how learning occurs. Such generative contests have the potential to influence the construction and redefinition of the social community while also improving professional autonomy, motivation, and re-activation, as well as civic rights protection.
On these premises, our work presents the case study of the Tessere Cultura project (, which was realized in the city of Ragusa (Sicily, Italy) with the support of the local municipality and local associations. Our goal was to highlight Ragusa’s public assets as well as the efforts of local youth organizations in order to provide young people aged 20 to 35 with new opportunities for civic engagement and cultural expression. Through an auto-ethnographic analysis (Ellis & Bochner, 2000; Roth, 2005) conducted over a year (November 2019 - November 2020), we identified numerous positionings in the study’s context, including those of a researcher, participant-observer, designer, and activist, all while working in a continuous field of research and total immersion. What processes of activation and transformation have occurred in young people? How has urban space evolved as a formative space?
The Tessere Cultura project had a formative and transformative impact on the participants and the local community. Knowledge of material and immaterial cultural heritage has become a means of bringing young people closer to their city through the implementation of workshops, formative activities, and interviews. The young participants encountered marginal urban spaces and developed a relationship with the commons good that goes beyond mere enjoyment (Ruggiero & Graziano, 2018). This project was able to elicit collaborative and cooperative processes of participation from the local residents, as well as to activate practices of continuous care for the city. In light of the recent debate on civic education and the promotion of inclusive processes in the pursuit of active citizenship, this project is significant for ethical and political implications.

Ellerani, P. (2013). I contesti sociali e culturali come opportunità di apprendimento continuo. Co-progettare co-costruire nuovi spazi formativi nel territorio. Formazione & Insegnamento, 11(2), 63-74.

Ellis, C., & Bochner, A. P. (2000). Autoethnography, Personal Narrative, Reflexivity: Researcher as Subject. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds), Handbook of qualitative research, 733-768. (2nd ed.). Thousand Oacks, CA: Sage

Roth, W. M. (Ed.). (2005). Auto/Biography and Auto/Ethnography: Praxis of Research Method. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

Ruggiero L. Graziano T. (2018) Cultura bene comune? Strategie di resistenza e riappropriazione dal basso nella città creativa, ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 17(2), 292-324 293


Lucija Karnelutti

Organising Bureau of European School Student Unions, Slovenia

Nowadays, especially in the time of the global pandemics, learning and education can take place anytime and anywhere, with the spaces where learning occurs being incredibly and increasingly diverse, yet deeply and surprisingly interconnected. Even before the pandemics, we were able to observe a drastic struggle of schools and formal environments to meet the needs of students and other learners in the society that is rapidly changing from a technological, demographic, societal and environmental perspective. Educational systems, which are way too often rigid, non-flexible and obsolete fail to meet those needs of learners and do not provide them with skills to keep them relevant actors in current issues of our society. Offering a rich diversity of learning environments, and recognising the importance of the latter, is therefore of great value and event greater significance to learners in today’s world.

One of the main issues that we observe when talking about equal recognition of the three types of learning is that outcomes of learning outside formal settings (non-formal and informal learning) are a way to often not regarded in the same way as those produced within them. If we wish to encourage learners to shape and adapt to the world around them, we must designate equal value to all learning environments and work towards building cooperation and seamless transitions between them. We should explore possibilities of using non-formal techniques in formal education (innovative pedagogies such as problem-based learning, project-based learning, and co-working with peers are some non-formal methods that can be used in a formal context by educators in order to learn content faster and create connections between students), building synergies between teachers and non-formal educators and providing spaces for the exchange of tools and methodologies between learning environments. Building cooperation between the two sectors is especially crucial because research shows that young people acquire the majority of their skills (such as critical thinking, digital literacy, citizenship skills, etc.) through engagement in youth movements or other forms of activism, labeled as non-formal and informal learning. Should formal education fail to recognise those efforts, students could be left overburdened with work, lacking motivation, and apathetic towards informal and life-long learning.

That NGO sector truly is an important learning environment that teaches students how they can participate as positive actors in society, shows the case of student activism in the global movement Fridays for Future. By taking the streets to demonstrate for the climate, school students all over the world managed to include the issue of climate change and environmental awareness in the school curriculum. This shows that informal learning environments are capable of responding to present-day challenges better and faster than traditional formal schooling contexts and that synergies between the systems are possible and very much effective.


Andrea Horta Herranz1, Andreas Karsten1, Ashley Pitschmann1, Cara Lee Roth1, Sümeyra Akarçeşme2, Tanja Conni Strecker1

1RAY Network/Youth Policy Labs, Spain; 2RAY Network/Genesis Institute


Youth work is known as an ideal space for non-formal education and informal learning. International youth work is expected to offer additional advantages for young participants, for instance opportunities to acquire and improve language skills and intercultural learning. Transnational research analysing the assets, but also the challenges and potential for improvement of international youth work in different settings is, however, scarce. This lack of research explains, in part, the continuing lack of recognition of non-formal education and learning in the youth field and when it comes to international youth work and learning mobility.The RAY (Research-based analysis of European youth programmes) Network is an open and self-governed European research network of National Agencies of the European youth programmes and their research partners, counting currently with 36 partners in 34 countries. The network conducts mixed-method research on international youth work and the European non-formal education programmes 'Erasmus+´/´Youth in Action' and 'European Solidarity Corps'. These programmes focus not only on youth learning mobilities but also on cooperation for innovation among youth work organisations, on support for youth policy and for sports, among others. This paper presents findings from different RAY research projects monitoring and analysing the European programmes. It also gathers findings of projects focused on the programmes’ effects on participation and citizenship of European youth, capacity building of European youth workers, citizenship education and learning made available for the youth, and the effect of the corona pandemic on European youth work.Main results show that International youth work offers prolific ground for informal learning processes and competence development, related but not limited to active citizenship and multiculturalism. However, it is also shown how non-formal education has largely ignored digitalization and currently faces a major challenge in adapting its methodological approaches to face-to-screen situations. It has, in other words, confined itself largely to physical, face-to-face formats – leading to additional difficulties in the context of the corona pandemic.