Archive for the ‘online communities’ Category

Four domains of learning

August 6th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

four development domaninspng

I came upon this text today when I was seeking to extend on an article I was writing that included the idea of learning in four domains. It was produced, I think, for the EmployID MOOC on the Changing World of Work and was probably written by Alan Brown and Jenny Bimrose.Sadly, I was so tied up with producing my own materials for the MOOC and didn’t get to read all of the other peoples. But at a time when there is a growing need to question to division between humanities and technical subjects, I think this offers a good way forward.

Relational development – learning with and from interacting with other people

A major route for relational development is learning through interactions at work, learning with and from others (in multiple contexts) and learning as participation in communities of practice (and communities of interest) while working with others. Socialisation at work, peer learning and identity work all contribute to individuals’ relational development. Many processes of relational development occur alongside other activities but more complex relationships requiring the use of influencing skills, engaging people for particular purposes, supporting the learning of others and exercising supervision, management or (team) leadership responsibilities may benefit from support through explicit education, training or development activities.

Jack from the UK had switched career and now who worked as a carer. From the outset Jack learned much about his work from engaging with residents in the care home as well as learning from other staff. He had received letters from residents expressing their gratitude, which had boosted his confidence. His manager encouraged him to become a trainer in the care home, and although nervous and unsure he delivered the training and his self-efficacy increased.

Cognitive development – acquiring knowledge and thinking skills

A major work-related route for cognitive development involves learning through mastery of an appropriate knowledge base and any subsequent technical updating. This form of development makes use of learning by acquisition and highlights the importance of subject or disciplinary knowledge and/or craft and technical knowledge, and it will be concerned with developing particular cognitive abilities, such as critical thinking; evaluating; synthesising etc.

Bernard, a Czech automotive worker, participated in a short internal company technical training programme which positively surprised him in terms of practical outcomes and motivated him to actively work on his vocational development. ‘You had to know your stuff, the trainer was extremely competent, he knew his field very well, but sometimes I had difficulties to follow him. Anyway, it was really done by professionals who knew their stuff, and I appreciated it very much. I was very satisfied. I learned lots of things that were later very useful for my work […] It was very interesting to meet people from a completely different and a rather specialised area. I learned a lot of things and I was proud of it. I think this was the moment that made me change my attitude towards learning. I became much more curious.’

Practical development – learning by doing, by experience, by taking on challenges

For practical development the major developmental route is often learning on the job, particularly learning through challenging work. Learning a practice is also about relationships, identity and cognitive development but there is value in drawing attention to this idea, even if conceptually it is a different order to the other forms of development highlighted in this representation of learning as a process of identity development. Practical development can encompass the importance of critical inquiry, innovation, new ideas, changing ways of working and (critical) reflection on practice. It may be facilitated by learning through experience, project work and/or by use of particular approaches to practice, such as planning and preparation, implementation (including problem-solving) and evaluation. The ultimate goal may be vocational mastery, with progressive inculcation into particular ways of thinking and practising, including acceptance of appropriate standards, ethics and values, and the development of particular skill sets and capabilities associated with developing expertise.

Davide, an Italian carpenter, saw learning as a practice-based process driven by curiosity, a spirit of observation, and trial and error. A major role was played by his passion for the transformation of matter, which he perceived as an almost sacred event: ‘It really struck me to see that from a piece of wood one can create a piece of furniture’.

Emotional development – making sense of your own feelings and how others feel 

For emotional development, the major developmental routes are learning through engagement,  reflexiveness that leads to greater self-understanding, and the development of particular personal qualities. Much emotional development may occur outside work, but the search for meaning in work, developing particular mind-sets, and mindfulness may be components of an individual’s emotional development. Particular avenues of development could include understanding the perspectives of others, respect for the views of others, empathy, anticipating the impact of your own words and actions, and a general reflexiveness, which includes exploring feelings. Identity development at work may also be influenced by changing ideas individuals have about their own well-being and changing definitions of career success (Brown & Bimrose 2014).

Henrik from Denmark switched career, moving into caring and developed a new relationship with his work, which he found much more emotionally engaging. While studying for his skilled worker qualification, Henrik immersed himself in individual assignments of his own choice. In one assignment, he developed a ‘product’ to help improve a pupil’s ability to communicate, an ability which was being lost due to a rare disease. When Henrik talked about the assignment he was very engaged and showed insight into the syndrome. Because the assignment was closely related to his experience and practice, he saw meaning in undertaking it: ‘It was as though there was a circle I could complete on my own.’ He received a top grade for the assignment, and it is evident that positive learning experiences and the perception of entering into learning processes that are meaningful to his life and work situation are strong motivating factors in his engagement in further learning.

Are we lost in online space?

February 14th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

Last November I was invited to give a presentation at a conference “Are we lost in online space?” organised by in Belgrade.

As the report on the conference web site says, the conference brought together 48 participants, most from east Europe, and 6 experts in the field of online learning. Participants had the opportunity to learn, experience and discuss about digital pedagogy, personal learning environment, online counseling for youth at risk, the possibility to educate youth workers in the online context, the ability of young people to use online tools when they are used for educational purposes, using games with young people, the potentials of using the virtual reality packages in youth work.

The web site also has video of all the presentations. I particularly liked the presentation on How to approach young people at risk to use the opportunities of online counseling by Anni Marquard, from the Centre for Digital Youth Care, Denmark and on Using games & gaming culture for educational purposes by Uroš Antić from Serbia)

It was a lively conference with a wide range of different experiences and views and some great participatory workshops and activities. It was apparent that at least from the countries represented in the conference, technology is a relatively new field in youth work, but also that many youth workers are ready to engage with young people through technology. However, tools and platforms such as Moodle seemed really not to support the pedagogy of youth work, nor to engage with young people. Youth work is more about informal learning – and ed-tech has tended to focus on formal learning.

There was a quick straw poll at the end of the conference on whether or not we were (still’ lost in online space. Participants were divided – some lost, some not and some not sure!

Places and Spaces – facilitating professional learning and identity transformation in European Public Employment Services

January 31st, 2018 by Graham Attwell

I have just submitted an abstract to the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER). This years conference is at the Free University Bolzano in Italy in September. The proposed paper is based on work we have been doing through the European Research programme Employ-ID project.

Abstract

The world of work is undergoing fundamental transformations. Bringing employees into the position of shaping change instead of merely reacting is one of the key challenges lifelong learning as well as learning and development faces.

A neglected, but crucial aspect here is the employees’ professional identity, which is a key factor developing resilience in a world characterized by uncertainty. It empowers individuals, and determines motivation and openness to new developments – and overcomes obstructionism and frustration often associated with change processes.

Towards that end, the focus of professional learning and human resource development needs to target “deeper learning” and to shift away from training skills towards facilitating the transformation of the professional identity of employees, both individually and collectively. Identities are often communicated and developed using stories: stories we tell about our jobs and ourselves, and stories others tell about us. But todays workplaces often do not provide opportunities for exchanging narratives. But they are particularly helping in uncovering experiential and affective components, which are hidden success factors and barriers.

The paper is based on a European Research Framework project, EmployID. The project brings together research partners and partners from Public Employment Services in Europe.

Public Employment Service Employees are facing pressures in their work with austerity providing increased demand of new services with less resources and digitalisation in the delivery of services.

In the context of Public Employment Services (PES), EmployID has investigated how a technology-enhanced learning approach can facilitate identity transformation through a series of interventions in the form of social learning programmes, complemented by labour market information tools as well as reflection, and peer coaching leading to the development of reflective communities. The understanding of reflective communities of practice is based on Wenger (Wenger, 1999), who sees communities of practice as groups of people who share a domain, who work on improving themselves and who share a common practice. The common domain and practice is in our case working in a public employment as a counsellor working to bring together job seekers and employers. Communities of practice are a proven concept to facilitate exchange knowledge and experiences in companies (Wenger, McDermott, & Snyder, 2002).

The technology assisted interventions have been co-designed together with managers and staff in the different Public Employment Services. They have been accompanied by the extensive programme of evaluation, designed not only as a formative tool for improvement, but to provide data for developing a deeper understanding of the concepts and ideas which underpin the approach and for developing frameworks for analysis of the use of technology for learning within communities of practice.

One focus for such understanding is the idea of places and spaces. “Place and space are both products of social practice, albeit different systems of practice. These new practices, then, transform existing spaces as sites of everyday action (Dourish, 2004). Dourish says: “The technologically mediated world does not stand apart from the physical world within which it is embedded; rather, it provides a new set of ways for that physical world to be understood and appropriated. Technological mediation supports and conditions the emergence of new cultural practices, not by creating a distinct sphere of practice but by opening up new forms of practice within the everyday world, reflecting and conditioning the emergence of new forms of environmental knowing.”

The paper will draw on the extensive evaluation data collected through the EmployId project to examine the ways in which the spaces created by the interventions from the EmployID project have led to new practices, facilitated learning and supported storytelling and professional identity transformation.

Methodology and Sources

The project partners initially worked with Public Employment Services at both European and country level in identifying problems faced along with priorities for development.

This lead to a co-design process with different PES services around a series of interventions including

  • Social learning programmes (or MOOCs) providing online courses typically of six weeks duration with 2-3 hours learning per week. The term ‘social’ reflects a pedagogic approach for participants facilitating the learning of others.
  • Peer coaching programmes have been developed and delivered both through face to face workshops and online activities
  • Reflective communities’ have been developed and launched in Public Employment services in three countries (Bunk & Prilla, 2017)
  • Systems and tools have been developed for providing access to Labour Market Information and Intelligence, also in two different countries

All the interventions have been extensively evaluating and analysis of the evaluation results is ongoing (the results are expected by May 2018).

Evaluation methods have included:

  • Interviews and focus groups with participants
  • Interviews with managers
  • Discourse analysis (from the social learning programmes and Reflective Communities)
  • Surveys and questionnaires
  • Analysis of log data

The ongoing analysis of the data is focusing on not just the success or otherwise of the interventions but what the data can tell us about identity transformation, professional development and the use and appropriation of online spaces for learning and knowledge sharing.

Conclusions

Our earlier work has led to interim findings regarding learning and identity transformation. We have identified three ways of learning (Kunzman, C. & Schmidt, A. 2017).

Learning as becoming

Stories, as identities themselves, have both a personal and an organisational dimension and could link to ideas about learning through self-understanding; sense-making; personal agency; motivation (determination); resilience; commitment to own learning and professional development; and career adaptability.

The second way ‘learning for identity development’ can be represented as occurring is across four domains: relational development; cognitive development; practical development; and emotional development. Learning may involve development in one or more domains and development in each domain can be achieved in a number of different ways, but development can be represented thematically, although the extent of development under particular themes can vary greatly across contexts and in individual cases.

Thirdly learning in opportunities structures within which individuals in the PES operate.

The key to understanding learning for identity development is to switch between the three representations in order to get a more rounded picture.

Our present ongoing work is focusing on how participants use and develop places and spaces, the opportunities for action that spaces afford and their relation to changing social, cultural and professional practices.

Key References

Blunk, O., & Prilla, M. (2015). Prompting users to facilitate support needs in collaborative reflection. In M. Kravcik, A. Mikroyannidis, V. Pammer, M. Prilla, & T. D. Ullmann (Eds.), Proceedings of the 5th International Workshop on Awareness and Reflection in Technology Enhanced Learning (AR℡ 2015) in conjunction with the EC℡ 2015 conference (Vol. 1465, pp. 43–57). CEUR-WS. Retrieved from http://ceur-ws.org/Vol-1465/

Blunk, O. & Prilla, M. “Supporting Communities of Practice in Public Administrations: Factors Influencing Adoption and Readiness.” In Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Communities and Technologies, 36–45. C&T ’17. New York, NY, USA

Brown, A. & Bimrose, J. (2015). Identity Development. In Hartung, P. J.; Savickas, M. L.; and Walsh, W. B. (Eds), (2015). APA handbook of career intervention, Volume 2: Applications. APA handbooks in psychology. (pp. 241-254). Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association.

Cressey, P., Boud, D., & Docherty, P. (2006a). Productive Reflection at Work. In D. Boud, P. Cressey, & P. Docherty (Eds.), Productive reflection at work: Learning for changing organizations (pp. 11–26). New York: Routledge.

Dillenbourg, P., Järvelä, S., & Fischer, F. (2009). The evolution of research on computer-supported collaborative learning. In Technology-enhanced learning (pp. 3–19). Springer.

Dourish, P. (2006) Re-space-ing place: “place” and “space” ten years on, CSCW ’06 Proceedings of the 2006 20th anniversary conference on Computer supported cooperative work, Pages 299-308

Eraut, M. (2004). Informal learning in the workplace. Studies in Continuing Education, 26(2), 247–273.

Hyland, N., Grant, J. M., Craig, A. C., Hudon, M., & Nethery, C. (2012). Exploring Facilitation Stages and Facilitator Actions in an Online/Blended Community of Practice of Elementary Teachers: Reflections on Practice (ROP) Anne Rodrigue Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario

Kunzman, C. & Schmidt, A. (2017) EmployID: EmployID Deliverables D[2-9].3, 2017

Wenger, E. (1999). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge University Press.

Wenger, E., McDermott, R. A., & Snyder, W. (2002). Cultivating Communities of Practice: A Guide to Managing Knowledge. Harvard Business School Press.

Conversational learning and evidence based education

September 12th, 2017 by Graham Attwell

I have missed out on this autumn’s conference circuit. I just DJg4lLdXUAAiqw8don’t have the money to pay for fees and travel (let alone beer) in attending these events. I am not sure that I actually miss the conferences themselves, but I do miss meeting friends and catching up with what is going on.

And of course, it is increasingly possible to at least dip in to conferences online these days. What with mobile phones and twitter you can almost watch the slides progressing in real time. This morning I noticed one presentation seemed to be getting a lot of my twitter feed. It was Mike Sharples speaking at the ALTALC tagged conference – it took me some time to suss out the ALC stood for the Active Learning Conference taking place at Anglia Ruskin University.

A couple of slides interested me.The slide above is based on the Open University FutureLearn platform. This sums up perfectly how we have used the platform in the EmployID project for running (sadly not open) courses on the Future of Work for employees from the UK Department for Works and Pensions (the UK Public Employment Service. The evaluation showed the courses to be a great success (more on this tomorrow). But I am not so convinced to what degree the FutureLearn platform helped our pedagogic approach – at best I would say it hindered us less than other MOOC platforms we have used.DJg2tuIXcAA5A_X

The second slide also rings true – at least to my experience in using technology for professional development. It is not always easy to link online professional development to practice. But I am ever more sure this is critical to effective learning. Learning spaced over time is an interesting idea in an age of quick bite learning. Of course it depends learning over how much time. Ideally the learning should evolve in line with the practice – but that is not easy to achieve.

Reflections on Communities of Practice

March 17th, 2016 by Graham Attwell


Chahira Nouira sent me an email asking if I could make a short podcast around Communities of Practice. ” I am writing,” she said “because I thought you might have 15 min of your precious time to help me compile an audio playlist where you are the stars! For a year, I have been involved in a project funded by the EU and one of its products is a Community of Practice for Lifelong Learning: DISCUSS. My idea is to get insights from you on CoPs based on how your experience and stories”.

I have been involved – and still am – in a number of projects seeking to support the emergence of communities of practice – defined as groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly – with varying success. In the podcast I try to explain why I think some have worked an others less so.

In early days, in the late 1990s, we mainly saw the idea of Communities of Practice as an analytic tool to understand how informal learning develops in Communities of practice and how knowledge is exchanged. In a later stage we moved on to try to develop or foster Communities of Practice, using IST to support the emergence of dispersed communities.

All to often we thought we could form communities ourselves, not totally understanding the emergent nature and the ownership of CoPs. Too often also, we have conflated organisations with communities. Probably more importantly, whilst we have fused on communities, we have failed to properly understand the nature of the practices which bind together those communities. According to Wenger, a community of practice defines itself along three dimensions

  • What it is about – its joint enterprise as understood and continually renegotiated by its members.
  • How it functions ‐ mutual engagement that bind members together into a social entity.
  • What capability it has produced – the shared repertoire of communal resources (routines, sensibilities, artefacts, vocabulary, styles, etc.) that members have developed over time. (Wenger, 1998)

In seeking to support facilitation a vital prerequisite is understanding the nature of the social practices within the workplace, both through observable patterns of individual practice and through developing an overall pattern language. This includes the use of objects. Objects are necessary components of many practices – just as indispensable as bodily and mental activities. (Reckwitz, 2002). Carrying out a practice very often means using particular things in a certain way. Electronic media itself is an object which can mold social practices and enable and limit certain bodily and mental activities, certain knowledge and understanding as elements of practices (Kittler, 1985; Gumbrecht, 1988).  One approach to choosing ways to develop particular objects is to focus on what Onstenk (1997) defines as core problems: the problems and dilemmas that are central to the practice of an occupation that have significance both for individual and organisational performance.

If understanding the nature of social practices and patterns is a necessary step to developing facilitation services, it is not in itself sufficient. Further understanding is needed of how learning, particularly informal learning, takes place in the workplace and how knowledge is shared and developed. Michael Eraut (2000) points put that “much uncodified cultural knowledge is acquired informally through participation in social activities; and much is often so ‘taken for granted’ that people are unaware of its influence on their behaviour. This phenomenon is much broader in scope than the implicit learning normally associated with the concept of socialisation. In addition to the cultural practices and discourses of different professions and their specialities, one has to consider the cultural knowledge that permeates the beliefs and behaviours of their co-workers, their clients and the general public.”

Eraut attempts to codify different elements of practice:

  • Assessing clients and/or situations (sometimes briefly, sometimes involving a long process of investigation) and continuing to monitor them;
  • Deciding what, if any, action to take, both immediately and over a longer period (either individually or as a leader or member of a team);
  • Pursuing an agreed course of action, modifying, consulting and reassessing as and when necessary;
  • Metacognitive monitoring of oneself, people needing attention and the general progress of the case, problem, project or situation.

He also draws attention to the importance of what he calls mediating objects and points out that while some artifacts are used mainly during learning processes, most artifacts used for working are also used for learning. Such artefacts play an important role in structuring work and sharing information and in mediating group learning about clients or projects in progress.

In general, when seeking to support online communities, we have developed web sites and web based tools which are separate form the work process. Possibly, we should be looking instead at how we can use artifacts from work processes to support learning and knowledge exchange.

Taccle2 on track

May 20th, 2013 by Jenny Hughes

We are really excited about the Taccle 2 project – 5 hard copy handbooks and a website bursting with practical ideas on how to use web 2.0 apps and other e-learning tools in your classroom.

The project has reached its half way mark and we are so far on target. The E-learning handbook for Primary Teachers has just come back from the layout artist and is in its final proof reading stage. (There is a temporary version available if you want to take a look)

The E-learning handbook for STEM teachers is waiting for the layout artist to make it look pretty and the E-learning for Humanities is in its draft version. This will be available on the site within the next week.

The next book, E-learning for Creative and Performing Arts has just been started – we are still at the stage of collecting ideas but they are coming in thick and fast. The final book, E-learnig for Core Skills 14-19 is at the planning stage. All books will be ready for printing by April 2014.

Meanwhile, check out Taccle2 website It has 280 posts at the moment and our rough estimate is that there are well over a thousand ideas that can be navigated by subject, age, software, language, format and more. Even better, judging from the number of visitors who return and the number of contributions and comments, there is a growing community around the Taccle2 site which will expand rapidly once the Taccle2 training starts next month.

Please come and join us and spread the word – tried and tested ideas for using technology in the classroom, created by teachers for teachers. No theory, no research just inspiration!

PS you can also follow us on Twitter #taccle or on the Taccle2  Diigo group or on Scoop.it – so no excuses!!

Presence and Engagement

April 3rd, 2013 by Graham Attwell


Great video, found thanks to Mr T. The video looks at the role of the teacher in creating and sustaining a learning community, developing presence and fostering engahement.

The participatory web in the context of academic research : landscapes of change and conflicts

February 5th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

A few weeks ago we reported that Cristina Costa had successfully completed her PhD. And now the thesis has been published on the web. You can access the document here. Below we reproduce the abstract.

“This thesis presents the results of a narrative inquiry study conducted in the context of Higher Education Institutions. The study aims to describe and foster understanding of the beliefs, perceptions, and felt constraints of ten academic researchers deeply involved in digital scholarship. Academic research, as one of the four categories of scholarship, is the focus of the analysis. The methods of data collection included in-depth online interviews, field notes, closed blog posts, and follow up dialogues via email and web-telephony. The literature review within this study presents a narrative on scholarship throughout the ages up to the current environment, highlighting the role of technology in assisting different forms of networking, communication, and dissemination of knowledge. It covers aspects of online participation and scholarship such as the open access movement, online networks and communities of practice that ultimately influence academic researchers’ sense of identity and their approaches to digital scholarship. The themes explored in the literature review had a crucial role in informing the interview guide that supported the narrative accounts of the research participants. However, the data collected uncovered a gap in knowledge not anticipated in the literature review, that of power relations between the individual and their institutions. Hence, an additional sociological research lens, that of Pierre Bourdieu, was adopted in order to complete the analysis of the data collected. There were three major stages of analysis: the construction of research narratives as a first pass analysis of the narrative inquiry, a thematic analysis of the interview transcripts, and a Bourdieuian analysis, supported by additional literature, that reveals the complexity of current academic practice in the context of the Participatory Web. This research set out to study the online practices of academic researchers in a changing environment and ended up examining the conflicts between modern and conservative approaches to research scholarship in the context of academic researchers’ practices. This study argues that the Participatory Web, in the context of academic research, can not only empower academic researchers but also place them in contention with traditional and persistent scholarly practice.”

 

Announcing Serennu ar sgeip

January 24th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

I seem to have spent the last two weeks in meetings. Breakfast meetings, slype meetings, FlashMeeting, pub meetings (my favourite). Anyway one of the best of the meetings was with a team of students at HsKa – the technical university of Karlsruhe in Germany. The students have been working with us over the last five months on a project to develop a new platform called Serennu ar sgeip for school teachers to manage virtual presentations form people in different occupations to students in their class.

Today we had the final review presentation with the students and their teachers. And it was awesomely good – both the presentation and the platform. This is a teaser post. Both the teachers and members of the team have promised ot right up their experiences of the project to post on this blog. We will also talk about our perceptions of the project in a mini series which we will be running here. And of course we will tell you more about the platform based on wordpress and available under an open source license.

Congratulations to the HsKa team. We are looking forward to your reflections.

Technology Enhanced Learning, Dialogicality and Practice

August 21st, 2012 by Graham Attwell

I like writing position papers! This is the second submission for the  Alpine Redezvous  workshop on the topic of TEL, the Crisis and the Response. This position paper is co-written with Dirk Stieglitz and Ilona Buchem.

We are aware of the increasing concerns about the commodification, monetarisation and privatization of education and academic labour. We also acknowledge the concern that the current mode of [neo-liberal] late-capitalism relies on “the continuous extension and validation of the infrastructure and the optimistic discourses of the new information technologies” (Hoofd, 2010)

However, rather than focus on concerns about the role of technology in the organisation and control of the educational infrastructure, in this position paper we which to examine the potential – and potential contradictions – of technology for learning. This in turn, leads to a focus on pedagogy, defined here as the theory and practice of teaching and learning. Technology is not pedagogically neutral – all technology enhances or hinders particular approaches to learning.

It is not hard to criticize the uses of educational technology in institutions. In its earlier phases technology was used to manage learners rather than facilitate learning. In its latter phase technology is being deployed both to commodify and monetarize knowledge (and the academic labour which produces such knowledge) and at the same time to sell education as just another consumer product (hence the present hype around so called learning analytics). Almost inevitably, attempts to develop an alternative ecology or milieu and an alternative pedagogy – such as MOOCs – are being absorbed by the dominant culture. Interestingly, in this regard, we can perceive the contradiction between an understanding of academic staff who wish to open up new horizons for learning to students with the concerns of the students who wish only to receive the necessary knowledge to achieve the credentials for which they believe they have paid. This in turn reinforces push technologies to support funnel delivery of learning objects to receivers (clients or customers). And despite the hype about the uses of technology by digital residents, repeated surveys have shown very limited use of social technologies by students to create, rather than consume digital artefacts and knowledge.

However, there is an alternative perspective. The almost indecent rush to commodify academic knowledge through the use of technology[1] may, to some extent, be driven by a realization that knowledge has escaped from the walled garden of the academy.

We would argue that the education systems grew in response to the needs of industrial capitalisms (in this respect it is informative to note that many Victorian schools in the UK were deigned to look like factories and were organised on a factory model). Despite the efforts of communities and organisations such as the Miners Hall, the Workers Educational Association and the Mechanics Institutes (and similar bodies and movements in other countries than the UK), access to education – and knowledge – was largely a monopoly of the education system, which in turn was ideologically driven by the needs of capitalist enterprises.

Despite the efforts of institutions and others – including publishers – to maintain control of knowledge, the internet allows an abundance of access to knowledge and learning, especially through informal and self managed learning. In a study we undertook of the use of information and communication for learning in Small and Medium Enterprises in six countries in Europe, in 106 case studies we found only one instance of the use of ICT for formal learning. Yet we found numerous uses of technology for informal learning (although often the users did not recognize this as learning themselves). We found:

–       the web was the platform for learning

–       in most cases the managers did not know such learning was happening

–       there was more likelihood of learning taking place where people had more control of work processes

–       learning was sometimes driven by just in time needs stemming from the work but was often driven by learners’ interests

–       learners had little interest in formal accreditation or credentials and no interest in assessment

Such learning often took place through contacting friends or through participating in informal, online communities of practice. Support for learning was through peers or those who Vygotsky called a More Knowledgeable Other and learning was largely self-directed.

Learning was heavily contextual, depending on both the subject and level of learning, the nature of the problem or the culture of the community.

Through a combination of the physical workplace and subject based culture and the culture of the online interactions, users were making new meanings for their own practice. This chimes with Bakhtin’s reasoning that others or other meanings are required for any cultural category to generate meaning and reveal its depths.

“Contextual meaning is potentially infinite, but it can only be actualized when accompanied by another (other’s) meaning, if only by a question in the inner speech of the one who understands. Each time it must be accompanied by another contextual meaning in order to reveal new aspects of its own infinite nature (just as the word reveals its meanings only in context). (Bakhtin, 1986, pp. 145–146).”

Akkerman and Bakker suggest that boundary crossing and the understanding of learning as a process that involves multiple perspectives and multiple parties is “different from most theories on learning that, first, often focus on a vertical process of progression in knowledge or capabilities (of an individual, group, or organization) within a specific domain and, second, often do not address aspects of heterogeneity or multiplicity within this learning process.”

Akkerman and Bakker advance “four dialogical learning mechanisms of boundaries:

  1. identification, which is about coming to know what the diverse practices are about in relation to one another;
  2. coordination, which is about creating cooperative and routinised exchanges between practices;
  3. reflection, which is about expanding one’s perspectives on the practices; and,
  4. transformation, which is about collaboration and co-development of (new) practices.”

The interesting point here is the relation to practices, and to dialogical learning processes, as opposed to the reified and top down nature of knowledge acquisition through institutional online learning and traditional TEL.

We suggest that if the TEL community is to contribute towards a response to the crisis, that response requires a move from a focus on formal knowledge transmission through educational technology controlled by institutions, to a perspective of supporting community knowledge acquisition and self directed learning focused on practice.  It equally requires a change in developmental approaches with technology co-developed with the communities of practice. Interestingly, it could be argued that such a change, although explicitly opposed to the use of TEL to commodify formal education, would provide a better social and economic use of technology in existing economies.

References

Akkerman, S. F., & Bakker, A. (2011). Boundary crossing and boundary objects. Review of Educational Research, 81, 132-169, http://rer.sagepub.com/cgi/reprint/0034654311404435v1?ijkey=4LKMx60v0wQzc&keytype=ref&siteid=sprer

Bakhtin, M. (1986). From notes made in 1970-71 (V. McGee, Trans.). In C. Emerson, & M. Holquist (Eds.), Speech genres & other late essays (pp. 132–158). Austin: University of Texas Press.

Hoofd, I. (2010), The accelerated university: Activist- academic alliances and the simulation of thought, in ephemera 2010 www.ephemeraweb.org volume 10(1): 7-24



[1] See for instance http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/coursera-hits-1-million-students-with-udacity-close-behind/38801 although it is notable that this trend differs in different countries and economies

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    According to Pew Internet 95% of teenagers in the USA now report they have a smartphone or access to one. These mobile connections are in turn fueling more-persistent online activities: 45% of teens now say they are online on a near-constant basis.

    Roughly half (51%) of 13 to 17 year olds say they use Facebook, notably lower than the shares who use YouTube, Instagram or Snapchat.

    The survey also finds there is no clear consensus among teens about the effect that social media has on the lives of young people today. Minorities of teens describe that effect as mostly positive (31%) or mostly negative (24%), but the largest share (45%) says that effect has been neither positive nor negative.


    Robots to help learning

    The TES reports on a project that uses robots to help children in hospital take part in lessons and return to school has received funding from the UK Department for Education.

    TES says “The robot-based project will be led by medical AP provider Hospital and Outreach Education, backed by £544,143 of government money.

    Under the scheme, 90 “tele-visual” robots will be placed in schools and AP providers around the country to allow virtual lessons.

    The robot, called AV1, acts as an avatar for children with long-term illnesses so they can take part in class and communicate with friends.

    Controlling the robot remotely via an iPad, the child can see and hear their teacher and classmates, rotating the robot’s head to get a 360-degree view of the class.

    It is hoped the scheme will help children in hospital to feel less isolated and return to school more smoothly.”


    Gutenburg

    According to developer Gary Pendergast, WordPress 5, Gutenberg, is nearing release.

    Pendergast says: “As the WordPress community, we have an extraordinary opportunity to shape the future of web development. By drawing on the past experiences of WordPress, the boundless variety and creativity found in the WordPress ecosystem, and modern practices that we can adopt from many different places in the wider software world, we can create a future defined by its simplicity, its user friendliness, and its diversity.”


    Adult Education in Wales

    Learning and Work Institute is organising this year’s adult learning conference in partnership with the Adult Learning Partnership Wales. It will take place on Wednesday, 16 May 2018 at the Cardiff City Stadium.

    They say “Changing demographics and a changing economy requires us to re-think our approach to the delivery of learning and skills for adults. What works and what needs to change in terms of policy and practice?

    The conference will seek to debate how can we respond to need, grow participation, improve and measure outcomes for citizens, and revitalise community education.”


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