Wednesday, May 16, 2018

NL conference does NL

Ben Kehrwald presents on Cognitive Load Theory and NL
Who is doing 'Networked Learning' here?

It was such an honour to chair this morning's parallel session. We had some of that famous networked learning concept creep between Nina and Jens, David and Vivian's papers. To my mind, the conference has always permissively allowed even the likes of me (Johnson, 2008) to play with the standing conference definition of networked learning. In this post I draw attention back to the ancient csalt definition of NL quoted in full here: http://csalt.lancs.ac.uk/jisc/definition.htm
Networked Learning
We define 'networked learning' as:
learning in which C&IT is used to promote connections: between one learner and other learners, between learners and tutors; between a learning community and its learning resources.
Some of the richest examples of networked learning involve interaction with on-line materials and with other people. But use of on-line materials is not a sufficient characteristic to define networked learning.
The interactions between people in networked learning environments can be synchronous, asynchronous or both. The interactions can be through text, voice, graphics, video, shared workspaces or combinations of these forms. Consequently the space of possibilities for networked learning, and the space of potential student experiences, is vast. 
This definition makes it plain that the authors, for obvious reasons, stated that, for them, networked learning with 'on-line materials' was insufficient to be considered networked learning. They required 'interaction... with other people in networked learning environments'.
But this morning some are saying that this is also missing something.
The point was made, with approval, that the networked learning conference does networked learning. Further to the seminar, I want to play back Nina's thesis (today, and in 2012) that, to qualify, and even succeed for any amount of time worth the effort, NL depends, not just on interaction between people, but on the 'concrete' practice of what is being learnt via NL, i.e. to be deployed/practiced in actual contexts (like Nina's example of 'teachers in front of 5th Grade', or like us every 2nd year @NLConf for David and Vivian's paper). 
In other words, and with an eye to the neoliberalism killing off the very idea of a university, networked learning conference delegates, by definition, have to regularly meet up in person, physically co-located, to achieve networked learning worthy of the name.
This leads to another related point, and that is, that the original definition also asserts a focus on (digital) information technology.
As at least a sop to the csalt definition, we can run with the idea that the technology, especially digital information technology use, can be tacit, or remain understated... Partly because it makes a refreshing change to downplay tech. Of course IT is implicated - someone in the room will be tweeting or whatever, regardless of how that affects their ability to concentrate on what's really going on in the room.
If we put the definition up for an arguably timely refresh, what would we end up with if IT was dropped altogether from the definition, left implicit, and instead of it there was a requirement to 'meet up in person'...? How would such a definition read? What are the implications for the future of the nascent field as it moves towards life without the presence of its first generation scholars? 
Given the above, how does the networked learning conference, community and delegates, 'do' networked learning?
Put Denmark, May 2020 in your diary to find out because it seems like 'being at the conference' is important.

Nina:
Nina in 2012: http://www.networkedlearningconference.org.uk/past/nlc2012/abstracts/pdf/dohn.pdf 

PS. I foolishly determined to write this blog post on my phone. This went ok in evernote, even if the hyperlinks were not automatically being picked up so that gets a real faff to sort out on a phone. Then I copy/pasted the text into the blogger app which went ok apart from losing the links again - should have known better. The next gotcha was when I dared to add a picture to the post. This was possibly too high resolution for the app to cope with at some level so it failed to publish and I had to copy the text into another new post but by that time had lost the will to try and tidy up the hyperlinks etc. This morning, I have revised the text, added the hyperlinks, added a photo, tweaked formatting - so much easier than on my phone.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Mobent

Hot on the heels of mobilage, you could be forgiven for thinking I actually like making up new words for the sake of it but sometimes it does help my thinking... keeping it on track... So, here's another one... mobent... as in, to 'have a mobent'. This word attempts to describe the familiar experience of that moment when you are entangled, perhaps just staring, into your phone because it's not working as expected. I suppose a colloquial example would be 'buffer face', as in the celebrated adverts for a mobile network featuring Kevin Bacon. I'll save you any attempt to link networked learning and 'six degrees of separation'... Here's the back-story to mobent which I have been writing up today:
"Heidegger refers to two modes of relation between dasein and the tools at their disposal. His classic example is of a shoemaker’s hammer in use. Most of the time, the shoemaker is unaware of the hammer, it is ‘ready-to-hand’, zuhanden. If the hammer breaks, the ‘spell’ is also broken and the shoemaker becomes aware of the hammer in a different way, reflecting on it as an object ‘present-at-hand’, vorhanden. This dichotomy is sharply challenged when applied to a phone:
  • "The extensive and extending range of uses to which the phone may be put and ongoing innovation in mobile technologies and app development together with a society-wide growing awareness of the significance of mobile means that the phone can increasingly be incurred in almost any activity, regardless of whether that activity is shared on social media using the phone.
  • "The extended stack of technologies upon which use relies for its fulmination. For example, mobile phones are designed to accommodate variations in Internet connectivity. This is dependent on many factors, such access to effective infrastructure which is itself in constant need of maintenance, subject to ‘legacy effects’ (additional work required to sustain aging technologies, borrowed from ecology (Cuddington, 2011)), and the pressures of responding to industry-wide innovation.
  • "Industry has a commercial interest in encouraging greater uptake and use of their products and Internet connectivity enables smartphone companies to gather user data and use this to inform and target marketing communications into every handset.
  • "Phone notification systems are complex, with many apps offering reasons and means to alert users and thence hold their attention.
"At the least, we should note the phone’s greater propensity for oscillation, albeit of varying severity, between zuhanden and vorhanden. In another reference to Actor Network Theory, dasein can easily become entangled in this oscillation, to the extent that vorhanden becomes the ‘ordinary everyday’, as if the hammer were continually asserting itself into consciousness. To capture this idea of mobile entanglement, I have coined the blend word mobent which also chimes with the experience of hiatus such moments incur. I want to also make a cultural reference in the sense that ‘having a moment’ is a private affair between two individuals characterised by a raised, likely piqued, emotion. "
I'll get around to explaining myself at a better sound level now I've got a USB-C OTG cable for my phone. My next appearance is at the SOCSI education seminar 1pm 17/1/2018.

Cuddington, Kim. ‘Legacy Effects: The Persistent Impact of Ecological Interactions’. Biological Theory 6, no. 3 (1 September 2011): 203–10. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13752-012-0027-5.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Mobilage

I've been trying to prioritise my thesis... not easy part-time. It does force you to go back in and out of the same thing - a curse but also a crude, if not cruel, way of revisiting and reinitiating myself with this project - I'm trying to do phenomenology afterall... Yesterday I was mangled into doing some more to it having offered to give a presentation of my methods for my school at the monthly lunchtime seminar. One of the comments afterwards suggested that I needed to get the concept/phenomenon that I've coined 'out there'... so, here it is - make of it what you will. The audio is quiet - apologies for that!



Saturday, July 22, 2017

On unsophisticated document dumps

It is said that staff do not use expensive, sophisticated learning technologies in sophisticated ways. Repeated audits over many years show that the virtual learning environment (VLE) is used as a 'document dump' (noting pejorative metaphor). This view trivialises situated use of 'documents'. I just came across an example of how documents are used by students in my data and thought I would share here. Very simply, a student mentioned how they were about to access a learning task guideline in the VLE to check if they were following it properly in preparation for working on it the following day. I'll just make two points, neither with any claims to 'originality', before I go back to my coding:1. The 'document' is framing the plans of the student, not just while they are accessing it but when they are not using the VLE at all, shaping their planned engagement in learning activity, as well as afterwards. The document itself and the words in it constitute the substantial learning technology, the one that is having a deep effect on the students' trajectory, their life as a learner. I think I'm being sensitised to this 'historical' angle by Gadamer...
2. A lot of hot air and political capital is invested in the quest to make patent and profoundly effective use of learning technologies. It's a common enough rhetoric that frames academics as resisting opportunities to make the most of an institution's considerable investment in software licenses, hardware, support etc. With their specialist knowledge of the potential affordances of technology, learning technologists do learning itself potential harm by endorsing the 'academic as Luddite' line. This overlooks the need to attend to what the student is actually doing in terms of learning. As Goodyear and Carvalho (2014), when learning tasks are set for students, there is a 'loose coupling' between task and activity where the student interprets and engages with the task requirements. 'Teaching-as-design' should attain greater significance in people's minds than any given learning technology per se. A well-constructed reading list can be a powerful 'learning technology' but enacting this sort of view does not make headline-grabbing demands on an institution's infrastructure and attention. Indeed, it potentially dissolves the need for whole layers of management and support... which makes me wonder why higher education took this technologistic road in the first place...

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Fishbowl Seminar Instructions

Fishbowl seminars. I dont know who thought them up but I like them. I keep having to cook up a description of them, find images of the set-up etc. So I thought I'd put it here, partly to make things easy for myself - not because it necessarily has anything to do with networked learning... except that the first place I encountered it was in the Aalborg NLC.
So I've made this image (yes I am colourblind). 
And these are the instructions for my setting - tweak to suit :)

This is a way of a managing a group conversation. It needs at enough people to form a decent circle, plus three. So 10 is a good number but I have seen it done successfully with many more than this (see https://flic.kr/p/c8iyWj for example).

Preparation:
You will need to rearrange the room so that there is a circle of chairs around three chairs in the middle. In smaller fishbowl seminars, it's good to avoid someone sitting directly behind someone else, especially the 'main speaker'. 
You will need about 20 sheets of A4 paper and lots of post-it notes (the number of members, squared).
Divide the time available by the number of members to find out how long each round will be. Allow for a couple of minutes for 'handover'. 

Method:
Three people are in the middle of a circle of chairs. One is for the 'presenter', the other is a tutor, and  another 3rd person - the latter two kick off with questions.
If anyone wants to speak, they have to take one of the seats in the middle. They do this by rising from their seat and tapping the shoulder of the tutor or 3rd person to replace them in the middle. 
 
Notes: 
It is good to give the people sitting around the centre something significant to do so that they are actively listening and contributing even if they do not enter the centre. For example,
  1. Each round, appoint a different person to keep the time. They should announce when 2 minutes are left on the current round. 
  2. Ensure that each person around the outside has at least one postit note. They are asked to write some brief (it can only be brief!), anonymised feedback on the postit. Sharing email addresses can happen a different way! At the end of a round, the postits for that round are stuck to a single a4 sheet.
Probably you have suggestions which could enhance the above, if so, please share :)

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Formal learning too important to be left to...

Found this quote from Robin Goodfellow and had to share but even the highlighted bit is too long for twitter so, while I'm here... you get the context a bit too - Thanks Robin!
By the time the Internet, in the form of the World Wide Web, burst on the educational scene in the 1990s, however, I had discovered enough about distance education to realize that formal learning is too complex and too important for learners to be entrusted to engagement with materials or technologies, however ingeniously they may be designed. I had also begun to realize that this was not a view necessarily shared by governmental and corporate drivers of educational policy servicing the ‘knowledge economy’, and that debates were emerging, among students and between students and teachers on the courses I worked on, and among my teaching, research and development colleagues, over the proper role of electronically mediated practices in the shaping of the learning experience. My own research began to focus on an examination of the institutional realities behind pedagogical practices which were being constructed as ‘innovatlve’ and transformational’ by the e-learning community of which I was part, but which seemed to me to be as likely to involve their participants in struggles over status and voice almost as intense as those I had experienced as a secondary school teacher (Goodfellow 2001, 2004b, 2006; Goodfellow et al. 2001).
This is from the biographical sketch on page 3

Goodfellow, Robin, and Mary R. Lea 2007 Challenging E-Learning in the University: A Literacies Perspective. Berkshire: McGraw-Hill

Monday, August 22, 2016

Networked Learning metaphors #23432: The Synapse

It seems like a classic ivory tower pursuit.... a bunch of academics coming up with metaphors for networked learning, and especially getting whimsy about it. But this was one of the memorable aspects of the conference back in May. However, as ideas, metaphors can spawn insights, hone analysis or enhance practical organisation of learning and teaching. Perhaps it is something we need to do more of...
I want to publish some work I did last year but I have lost access to a book I need to refer to. It was an expensive library acquisition from Lancaster. I guess, for a small charge, they'd send it to me again as a distance learner. But I thought I would see if I could get it at home. Apparently not. This would be best done through an inter-library loan, so I was told. This conjures up the horrible chain of events that is the British Library's secure download system. It is the information management equivalent of traveling by slow-motion train crash.
At the networked learning conference I cheekily added some bits to my presentation that were not in the 'full' paper - especially the postscript:


I think I mentioned 'chain of weak links' back in 2008. In this slide though, I've likened the network in networked learning, to a neural network, especially the aspect of neural networks that sees a weaker messages fail to arrive due to synapses. In my 'resource' example, the library has proved to be a synapse too far, for now... In competition with everything else I have going on, the added hurdle to access the resource I need, although only requiring a small further push, is crowded out. I found time to write this instead of submitting the ILL request!
For me, motivation is one of the things that strengthen the signal, allowing it to traverse synapses. Motivation is a key aspect of learning, and the intentionality which actor-network theory is said to lack, by the way.

I should just add that the other two points on this slide refer to the following: