It’s funny where an image can take you and what associations pop into your head. Steve Wheeler @timbuckteeth, egged on by Amy Burvall @Amyburvall, have unleashed a bit of a blogging sensation this week #blimage. The idea is, you’re presented with an image and you have to craft a blog post based on the thoughts that it conjures up. Steve threw down the gauntlet with this image of old school desks.
The image immediately made me think of the school in Beamish Museum (the living museum of the north); I’ve always had a thing for the social history of ordinary folk. Any way, I couldn’t help thinking of how reading and writing was done back then. I thought of the evolution of writing on slates with chalk, to writing in your jotter with a fountain or ball point pen, to nowadays when keyboards process your words. I thought of how you were made to sit at your desk, in rows, and how learning is heavily associated with classrooms. I thought of how these experiences of reading and writing are powerful and how they come to mean things to people, to mean different things to different people, and that these meanings are dependent on their situatedness.
I remembered (gosh, I’m starting to sound old) when I was doing my teaching placement, when I was confronted by one young lad, a recent school leaver, who would hardly pick up a pen in class (who am I kidding, it wasn’t just one). Any way, in the jottings of my reflective practice, he would have been called a ‘reluctant writer’. That is, until I encountered him in the Student Services, or Guidance, office where he was flourishing his pen with gusto as he completed paperwork to join the Army. He was reluctant to write in class as the tasks being set were, in all honesty, not ‘authentic’ and not aligned with the identity that he wished for.
So now, with all the talk of digital literacy and digital skills, I think it’s important to remember this little tale as it’s not just a matter of prescribing a set of skills for individuals to acquire, but a matter of developing them in context, mindful of the fact that it’s an identity job.
The #blimage challenge can be taken up by anybody. Go check out the hashtag.
Tying into the topic of personal learning networks (PLNs), my previous post highlighted the fact that I was about to attend PELeCON, or rather the 8th Plymouth e-Learning Conference, where I was looking forward to meeting up with people whom I consider to be a significant part of my PLN. I attended the conference last year, where I’d experienced its friendly, energetic buzz so, in spite of a 9hr journey, there was never any question of me not returning again this year. And, I have to say that I wasn’t disappointed; not only did I meet familiar faces en route, Doug Belshaw and Steve Bunce, but I received a warm welcome from Catherine Cronin and Mary Loftus, part of the the Irish contingent who had sensibly travelled the evening before, and all of whom were congenial in making further introductions to what turned out to be another terrific conference. Equally, it seems that others who attended the conference share similar sentiments too.
#pelc13 fine 3 days at Pelecon – nice bunch of open, knowledgeable people there to debate discuss & drink thanks @timbuckteeth
The reason for such enthusiastic bonhomie, it seems to me, is that PELeCON is not just a conference. By combining networked and online presence with an annual physical event, PELeCON is more akin to what James Paul Gee would call a “passionate affinity space” than a common-or-garden conference.
A passionate affinity space, and the learning that goes on in it, requires some people associated with the space to have a deep passion for the common shared endeavour. It does not require everyone to have such a deep passion, but it does require them to recognize the value of that passion and respect it, in some sense.
Quite right. I’d like to think that not only have I developed a valuable personal learning network, but through PELeCON, I’ve found a great “passionate affinity space” in which to learn as well. The satisfied smiles on the journey back to Ireland would suggest that I’m not the only one who thinks this way.
Ok, but what did I learn?
After, attending a delightful first session in which Steve Bunce engagingly got everyone finger knitting in order to demonstrate possible approaches to involve children in computer programming, I made my way to listen Mike John’s presentation, “Talking with lecturers: What happened to Web 2.0?”. I was especially keen to hear of his observations in relation to the uptake of Web 2.0 amongst university lecturers as this chimes with my own interests and recent research. The thrust of the presentation was in terms of the gap that exists between the hype surrounding Web 2.0 and the actual take-up of such networked and participatory practices amongst lecturers. Citing examples of activity levels in everyday applications, he pointed out that Web 2.0 gets few ticks from lecturers in their professional practice, and concluded that within higher education, Web 2.0 “is a minority sport; it’s not a mainstream activity”. All very interesting observations, but as Donald Clark noted, the presentation relied largely on the presenter’s observations and not on actual data.
In her excellent presentation entitled “Enacting Digital Identity”, Catherine Cronin called attention to the fact that “different contexts have different legitimacy practices” and highlighted the dis-joint between academic learning practices and networked learning practices (see slide 44).
The theme of digital identity, or online presence, or personal online branding even, re-occurred on the final day of the conference in Joyce Seitzinger’s practical keynote, in which she referred to the term “cloud academics” and talked about her emerging role, akin to a “personal digital coach”, with its focus on instilling networked practice for personal learning, teaching and research amongst lecturers.
Then, giving the final keynote of the conference, Donald H Taylor, with his insight from industry, painted the big picture. Flagging the enormity of impending disruption and change soon to be wrought upon higher education as venture capital seeks optimum return, he plotted pace of change axes to locate those either too tardy, or just plain unwilling, to change and to mark them as being somewhere on the road to “comfortable extinction”. A memorable phrase indeed, and one that made me think back to the lecturers that Mike John observes on the other side of the gap, to the different identities that must be enacted within academic and networked practice and to the “cloud academics” that Joyce Seitzinger’s presentation brought forth.
All of the PELeCON keynotes captured something of this air of change, but more importantly, they all went some way to laying out ways in which education might effectively meet these future challenges, be it Grainne Conole’s advocacy of learning design, Doug Belshaw’s belief in open badges as a “trojan horse”, Steve Bunce’s knitting hypotheses or Karin George‘s hands-on leadership.
Finally though, the air of change came to PELeCON itself when Steve Wheeler announced in the closing session that the “passionate affinity space” that has become PELeCON will no longer be found in Plymouth, as the conference is looking for a handier location and is to henceforth become the Professional Enhanced Learning Conference. All of which can only be a good thing, if it allows more people to access the event and to share the passion. And I’m sure that wherever PELeCON lands, it will still be a unique friendly event with excellent keynotes speakers and ever topical presentations. 🙂
Gee, J. P. and Hayes, E. R. (2011). Language and Learning in the Digital Age. Taylor & Francis. Kindle Edition.
In order to balance things up from my last EDCMOOC post, I had intended to write something relating to post humanism, but I’m still coming to terms with the concept and with the fundamental changes that its related values of transhumanism will wreak, not just upon society and the planet, but upon the minds and bodies of human beings themselves. So, seeing as I’ve been running a week behind and the course comes to a close tomorrow, I’ve decided to forgo any attempt at putting my thoughts down about “redfining the human” and the implications for education of such a paradigm shift, instead, I’m going to take a look back over what, for me, have been the highlights.
I have to say that although I’ve engaged with pretty much all of the course material, what’s really left the greatest impression on me, apart from Bleecker’s article about blogjets, is some of the content that other learners on the MOOC have produced, and the things that I’ve learned from them. This point only really struck me when Ary Aranguiz @trendingteacher graciously replied to a tweet saying “it’s been wonderful learning with you!” Immediately I thought, you know what, she’s right; I”ve really learnt a lot from other people on the course. Although I haven’t always kept up, or indeed had any timely comments to make within our quadblogging group, I’ve actually learnt lots just by watching the learning of others.
@trendingteacher I seem to have encountered a time lag on #edcmooc & even in the FB group. I've become a "Vicarious Learner" with your help.
Vicarious learning (Bandura, 1962) is also known as observational learning, social learning, or modelling and is a type of learning that occurs as a function of observing, retaining and replicating behaviour observed in others, so here are my vicarious learning highlights from what’s been a very thought provoking and satisfying MOOC:
Fake Identity @HamishAMacleod – a spoof Twitter account for one of the course tutors, Hamish Macleod, created by Andy Mitchell. I thought the production of this as a digital artefact to represent learning from the course was at the same time both genius and risky. It certainly makes the point about identity and online security in the digital age. Click on the hyperlink “Fake Identity” in the tweet below to get the full effect of the spoof.
The Ecology of Yearning in a MOOC – a video by Ary Aranguiz, whose message “we all yearn for meaning, growth and connection” hit the spot for me as it seems to say a lot about why so many people showed up and played their part in what’s been a very special learning experience.
And finally, my thanks have to go to the EDCMOOC team
who did a great job in providing such a dynamic and thought provoking MASSIVE OPEN ONLINE COURSE. And like they say in their introduction, you can find out more about their work with the MSc in Digital Education here.