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Connected Media and Competence

March 5th, 2007 by Graham Attwell

I am much taken by a comment by Scott last week: “…we have entered an era of connected media. Connected media does not contain interaction; instead content items are nodes in a network of connections that are the focus of interaction. The content is inside-out. The hot content today is not interactive – Flickr/Photobucket, YouTube, iTunes, RSS feeds all feature non-interactive content, yet the content is highly connected via layers of interlinked metadata (, technorati, recommendations, hyperlinks, comments…).”

Of course he is right. And it is pretty easy to understand the implications in terms of how we work and learn and in how we develop e-learning content. It is less easy to work out how it effects how we report on our work. On the one hand our work will not be in one place – it will be scattered across different media and on different web sites. Last year we started looking at some of the implications of this in a seminar called ‘How Dude, where’s my Data‘. NB I have finally got together a wiki documenting at least some of the outcomes of that seminar.

But students are still assessed largely on the outcome of their learning and in terms of their competence. Not – here are my connections – but here is something I have done and here is something I claim I can do. This is far less easy to document in terms of network nodes.

It may be that the e-Portfolios of the future will have to be based far more on process than merely outcomes – more here is something I claim I am competent to do and here is the interactions I have made which allows me to say this – rather than here is a thing I have made which allows me to claim I am competent.

I still feel that competence is a difficult concept pedagogically and am worried that educational technologists will see competence as a mere unproblematic taxonomy. This matters. If we are to develop and implement e-Portfolios – let alone Personal Learning environments – we have to get clear on these issues.

In the discussions I am having over e-Portfolios there is increasing agreement of the use of blogging type applications as a way of recording learning progress. There is also an awareness of the power of personal networks for peer feedback as an aid to reflection. BUT – and it is a big but – institutions and e-Portfolio providers still (naturally) want some way of representing achievement. How can we do this dynamically? Perhaps competence looks more like a tag cloud or a mind map than a ‘skills journal’.

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